Joanne Palmer: Bag lady |

Joanne Palmer: Bag lady

On Valentine’s Day I plan to stay home with my head inside a paper bag. I refuse to see the florist trucks delivering red roses to their destinations. If an emergency forces me out, I’ll wear a mask so the thick “l’air du love” doesn’t choke me. I’ll pop in my iPod so I can’t listen to dozens of people trumpet their plans for candlelit dinners, limo rides, stamping “I love you” in the snow or placing poetry underneath their sweetheart’s pillow.

I have never had this effect on a man.

I am, as the late Molly Ivins wrote, “a Clydesdale among thoroughbreds.” Almost 6 feet tall with hands that can practically palm a basketball, I am not a frail flower type of gal who inspires men to come galloping over the hill on a white horse. I can always reach things on the top shelf. No one is going to carry me into the bedroom without injuring his back. Permanently.

I look good in Sorels, laughable in lingerie. Give me a steak instead of stilettos, a powder day over perfume, Carhartt’s rather than cleavage.

I was, believe it or not, raised to be a debutante. I grew up on the north shore of Chicago where every eighth-grade girl and boy attended social dancing lessons. I learned how to put my white-gloved hand through the arm of a sweaty, embarrassed eighth-grade boy and glide across a waxed ballroom floor without falling. I sat daintily on a cold metal chair, with my ankles primly crossed and waited while sweaty embarrassed boy went to the refreshment table to retrieve cookies and tea. When it was time for the girl-ask-boy dance, I learned how to discreetly elbow other girls out of the way to ask Scott Gibson to lead me in the fox trot, two-step or waltz. At the end of the tortuous hour, they let us rock out to the 1968 hit “Boogaloo down Broadway,” by the fantastic Johnny C.

I wore coordinated Villager skirts and blouses to middle school and was sent home on the day I breached the dress code by wearing culottes. (This, by the way, was the exact same day Scott Gibson gave me his silver I.D. bracelet to wear. Joy!)

I am in love. I just don’t need a Hallmark holiday to express it. My boyfriend is not a hearts-and-flowers type of guy. When I badgered him for a candlelit dinner, he fired up two dozen birthday candles and put them on his coffee table. He is, however, the type of guy who stayed up all night with me in the ICU making shadow puppets on the wall until I laughed. When I complain about a bad day, he’ll offer something like, “Eggs are on sale for 50 cents a dozen. Let’s buy $10 worth. I’ll drive, you throw.” He remembers the color of the sweater I wore on our first date and the restaurant table we sat at on our third.

He’s not going to whisk me off to Paris or read poetry to me in front of a roaring fireplace. I’ll never knit him a sweater, flambe banana fosters or greet him at the door wearing nothing but a red ribbon.

We’ll define Valentine’s Day on our terms, not Hallmark’s and Hershey’s. He already knows he has my heart. I just hope he can find my head inside the paper bag.

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