Yesterday was Valentines’ day for most people at school. Not for me (or so I wanted to believe).

The faculty room was abuzz the afternoon of Feb 13. Everyone was planning which color to wear on the so-called Hearts’ Day (which also happened to be Ash Wednesday). There was this color-code thing going around Facebook–apparently, a memo from the local government of Bukidnon–that encouraged teachers to wear colors that expressed the status of their love life: red means “in love,” blue is “broken hearted,” brown is “friend-zoned,” grey is “single and contented,” yellow is “moving on,” green is “it’s complicated.” You get the picture.

As much as I wanted not to care…well, I did. I did not want anyone to look at me funny because I am single, like they want to give me a pity cookie or something. So I stayed up that night, rummaging through the clean clothes I have left, which wasn’t much because I wasn’t in the mood to do the laundry last weekend, and settled for a mint green dress (or was it teal?) and a cardigan with blue and orange flowers. I wanted to confuse the rules, so I would not fit into any of the categories.

The next day, my students kept asking me what the color of my outfit meant. It was fun answering at first (floral cardigan means I’m blooming), but as they day wore on, it became a bit exhausting. Everyone seemed to care a little more than usual about their looks, waiting for a card, or a brownie, a piece of chocolate, a flower, maybe a surprise proposal, or even just a compliment. It was reverse-Halloween. You get more sweets if you look prettier or brighter.

Afternoon came, and people left one by one, some holding huge bouquets of flowers, some hugging life-size teddy bears, others held another’s hand.

As for me, I sat there at the faculty room, listening to Ben&Ben’s “Ride Home” while reading the English translation of one of my all-time favorite Filipino books. I was alone. And I was happy.

I realized we put so much meaning on things that don’t usually matter to us, on this one day. We try so hard to tell the world we are happy, and we feel compelled to tell our stories through relationships, as if “love life” is equal to life itself. But in the end, the colors are all just costumes, the greetings and gifts, just obligatory niceties as part of tradition, and being single just another part of life.

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