Thursday, February 14, 2008

A lesson in humility on Valentine's Day

About 10 years ago, when I was a lot snottier than I am now, my then boyfriend, Don drove up from San Diego to meet me on a weeknight for Valentine's Day. He was horribly late, dressed badly, and like an idiot, didn't even book a reservation in a restaurant.

So here we are, it's like 9 pm, I'm grouchy and starving, my blood sugar has bottomed out so low that I'm almost dizzy, and we're driving all over Santa Monica trying to find a restaurant that will let us in. One after another, we're turned away.

This goes on for an hour and I'm getting increasingly annoyed with my boyfriend. We finally are allowed to sit at the bar in this cheezy, not terribly romantic seafood grill. The stools are packed up against each other. The guy next to me is eating alone, and nd is flagrantly hitting on me. The service is terrible and we wait again, 30 more minutes, just to catch the waiter's attention. When the food finally arrives, it's sloppily prepared -- the chef no doubt is in a bad mood himself by 11 pm on Valentine's Day.

Just then, I see this gorgeous, radiant couple walking out of the restaurant -- his hair is long and blonde. His smile is angelic. She has transparent, luminous skin, and long flowing golden hair. He's wearing jeans. She's in a simple, almost frumpy navy blue sundress. They're holding hands and shyly exiting.

It's at that moment I suddenly realize it's Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow.
At first my inner snob was thinking: "Wait a minute. These people are wealthy celebrities. They can go anywhere. Why aren't they eating at a five star restaurant, or the Hotel Bel Air, or perhaps the Beverly Hills Hotel on Valentine's Day?

But then the beauty of this moment hit me: "If it's good enough for Brad Pitt to take Gwyneth Paltrow here on Valentine's Day, it's certainly good enough for me." It was one of life's great humbling moments.

That experience taught me a lot about how it's the experience that matters, the thought and the caring, and not the material frills. Where you are is not as important as who you're with. Every year since then, I've been grateful if I even have a boyfriend on Valentine's Day, if he gives me a simple card with a heartfelt inscription, that expression of love alone is enough to make me happy.

Though I am quite sure of one thing: Reservation or not, Brad and Gwynneth certainly got a table that night.

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