Okay, Cupid—So What’s the Big Deal About Love, Anyway?

In Sacred & Profane by Donna Johnsonleave a COMMENT

After yet another fight with my alleged husband, and at the urging of a friend, I reluctantly signed up for a free dating site called OkCupid. With the impending doom of Valentine’s Day approaching and Market Square being swathed in red and pink to a sickening degree, I didn’t want to experience another Valentine’s Day like last year’s. As I stalked the Square in my customary black clothing, a woman carrying a dozen red roses had whispered to her companion: “Look at that poor woman. She’s alone. Alone!” I had bowed my head in shame and soldiered on.

So it was with great reluctance I logged into OkCupid. The choices were many and varied: men looking for women, women looking for men. People who had 16 photographs of themselves—surely anyone that narcissistic didn’t need anyone else—and people who didn’t have any. People who had three pages about themselves and people whose profile stated only: “I’m just me!”

After my friend, Magdalena, took pictures of me that looked far better than I actually could in real life, I put myself on display. (It’s a bit like cattle being scrutinized for their worth right before they go to be slaughtered.) I got a few bites: a man who told me I was “the pure essence of beauty,” and some people who sent messages that said only “hi”—as if anyone could be lured into a relationship like that. 

There are romance candidates who write two-page, florid letters about how wonderful they are, and pathetic, woebegone types who pretty much say in their listless way that they have nothing at all to offer, either to themselves or another, and seem to indicate that they don’t think life is worth living and that this is their last shot at happiness. And then there are a few profiles where a blank face is shown and nothing at all is disclosed. Just a faceless name in a crowd.

Fascinating. Big turn on. Click, reject.

After one or two pitiful dates, which I paid for, sitting at Sassy Annie’s with both of us wishing we could escape, I did. Escape, I mean. Out the door, through the parking lot, into the alley, and home. Home.

“I’ll be right back,” I had told my relieved date, and really intended to at the time, but instead crawled inside my blankets and wrapped my arms around my sleeping dog, Mallory, who just growled and turned over. A few minutes later Magdalena walked into my open door and said: “Get up, Donna. Get up! Your date is over there waiting for you.”

“Go away!” I screamed, then turned over and fell into a deep sleep where I dreamed of cows being judged, tagged, and sent to the slaughterhouse.


OkCupid, you are not doing a very good job. Here it is, almost Valentine’s Day, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be another dismal one.

I recall my childhood in the ’50s—now those were magical Valentine’s Day celebrations. At school, all the children would take boxes of little valentines in bright red, perhaps a valentine candy or two, and leave them on each other’s desks. “Be Mine.”“I’m Yours,” or perhaps, “We Belong Together.” When I got home, my father would offer a large box of Valentine’s candy in sickening colors like magenta, maroon, or Pepto-Bismol pink (plus a larger, redder box of chocolates for my mother), after which we would fall upon our beds in a near-comatose state.

I walk into the bathroom and look at my reflection: disheveled hair, circles under my eyes, an altogether unsavory mess. Michael Jackson’s song “Man in the Mirror” comes on and I think to myself, well why don’t you quit mourning things from the past and improbabilities of the future and do something for someone else?

Putting a hasty dash of blush and lipstick on, I go to the dollar store and buy a box of valentines. Is it my imagination that when I open them, the colors are just a little less vivid? I then march on to the Goodwill and buy a bright coat, red shoes that glitter in the dark, and a white scarf with pink hearts on it. I proceed to Raddy’s liquor store on Broadway and purchase a bottle of Black Velvet whiskey. Three or four packs of Pall Malls and I am ready to do my job.

When I arrive at the mission, people are outside rolling cigarettes and selling them, a couple of people are making a drug deal, and clusters of people stand around in jackets that cannot be very warm. I hold up the bottle of whiskey. On my arm is a basket with three cigarette packs wrapped in pink velvet ribbons.

“Anybody want a shot?” I ask.

“Excuse me?” a man asks.

“Want some whiskey?” I ask, and hand him the bottle. He takes a swig and passes it on. Everyone is surprisingly considerate and takes only a moderate shot so that there is enough to go around. Each gets a shot or two. Thank you, thank you, and my efforts are rewarded by radiant smiles all around. Let’s face it, all you well-intentioned do-gooders: What most of them want is not a stale baloney sandwich—they want something to lift their spirits. Their lives are hard and they want to forget that, if only for a little while.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” I yell, and soon they are all screaming it out. There is joy and hilarity all around. All puffed up, I am a goddess, the premature Valentine Fairy. All I need is a wand and a velvet gown. I drink a shot myself, as it is getting very cold and the residents are getting ready to go in. As I trudge home, head down against the wind, a pretty young woman with perfect skin pulls over in an ostentatious, white SUV.

“Here, honey,” she says, handing me a small plastic bag. “Just take it, sweetie.”

When I open the bag there is a plastic comb, two peppermint candies, and a small bottle of lotion.

“What I really need is a ride,” I say and she speeds off, as though I might pull out a switchblade and stab her any moment.

Inside my house is a note from my estranged husband written in his Hungarian hand, with mostly misspelled words. It’s hard to be mad at someone who spells like that, for there is an innocence and purity in it. “I’m here to say, Donna do not want anithing to do with me animore. Karl B. sincerely 01-29-16.” We have said so many times that we are through with each other, but there are people as close to you as your own skin, as necessary as the air you breathe, so you must keep them around, for good or ill.

Just then there is a knock at the door and there he stands with a box of chocolates. They are not expensive, nor even very good. But as we lay down in the darkness with the two cats, our hands touching, my favorite valentine—Mallory—rolls over and kicks her legs together for joy that we are together again. I hum “My Funny Valentine” as we fall asleep huddled in the darkness, our midget family, as Karl likes to call us.

Donna Johnson describes herself as a person who thrives on breaking the rules other people have made while also creating rules for herself that do make sense. “My rules do not necessarily follow the law set out by the government and law-abiding citizens,” she says. “They follow an inner law, one unto myself, and when I attempt to go outside this, to conform, disaster follows.” Her stories are often about people who are not recognized by others, who may even seem invisible, but “they often have a great truth to share if one but listens.”

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