valentine's day Archives - The Jose Vilson

valentine’s day


I started off the morning with a heavy dose of Stevie Wonder and Aventura, a random sampling of love songs I have on my iPod just to pass the time on the train. The building is super-silent at the time I get in there, perfect for getting my mind and papers ready for the 8am start. About 55 minutes later, the din grows into a chatter, then a squeal and sneaker screeches. School begins with adults ushering children into classes. When I step out in the hallway, the pinks and reds worn by children and teachers dominate the blue and green paint pervasive in our hallways. Girls with heart-patterned gift bags and roses, and boys secretly tucking their chocolate boxes in the bags, all try to find their pseudo-paramours before they get into their first period class.

As I walk down this hallway, one of my student ambassadors walks by with a bouquet of roses. When I noticed her, I immediately joked, “Oh, for me? You shouldn’t have!” Kids usually reply to that with a tucking away and stiff arm about two feet in front of them just to make sure we don’t get any ideas about touching their gift. Today was different.

“Actually, one of them is for you, but I gotta find a way to get this one out.”

“You know I was just kidding right?”

“Yeah, but seriously, one of them is for you. Actually, it’s this one right here.”

Um, what? I blinked rapidly for a second, then said, “Take care of all your other people first.”

When I went back to my office, I got back to work on a few things when, true to her word, she handed me a dark pinkish rose. I said, “Thank you.” She said, “You’re welcome,” and went on her merry way.

Now, I don’t normally show emotion during school to be honest. Having a professional manner and attire more than makes up for my occasional disorganization ["I know where everything is, but you might not."], and keeping a little bit of extra distance from the students you serve assures that we clearly delineates the roles we play in school. [READ MORE]

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Whitney Houston

This is part of the OccupyVDay movement, sponsored by Samhita Mukhopadhyay. I found out about it via Jennifer Pozner and didn’t think I would, but Ms. Houston inspired this. Rest in peace.

Until a few years ago, Valentine’s Day worsened everything I knew about love.

My first crush was this girl named Barbara in the second grade. Whether it was her low key demeanor, cherubic face, or her dulcet voice, I knew I had to send her a card and a small box of chocolates to let her know my feelings towards her. Sure enough, the other Jose in the classroom (Jose L, because namesakes have to take on their last initials) felt the same way. We didn’t compete for long because she disappeared to another school soon after.

My second crush happened in the fifth grade with a girl who, by all measures, people considered way out of my league. When Valentine’s Day came, instead of actually asking her to be my Valentine directly, I sent her a copy of The Bodyguard Soundtrack on tape. This endeavor was a fail of epic proportions: not only did the tape come on too strong, but I didn’t learn my lesson in the least.

My third crush didn’t come until sixth grade. I missed Valentine’s Day, so I waited until way after graduation to talk to her. The problem is, I gave her a mixtape of songs that reminded me of our elementary school years together, and a flower … then ran away. The present me watches the movie of the kid me screaming “NOOO!!!!!” Not only did I not even give her a chance to respond, I didn’t even talk to her until her graduation. By then, she had already developed the most frigid of shoulders.

During my middle school years, I went to an all-boys school, normally a safe haven from the pressures of relationships with the opposite sex, but the school had a sister school a few blocks away. We also had a school counselor who I had a bit of a crush on. After asking my mom for a spike in my allowance, I bought gifts for a good four people, none of whom had that mutual interest in building a romantic relationship. They wanted to go steady … as friends.


During my high school years, I had a Valentine then, too. I crossed the barrier of actually speaking to Ana about dating. I thought I did everything right: I called her, I wrote up a card in my chicken scratch handwriting, and even gave it to her face-to-face without running away. Just one problem: I never followed through. I thought the gift would have sufficed for a few chances at getting to know her better. Alas, I only got one, and I missed it. We remained friends, but I never learned how to take it from there.

Thus, Valentine’s Day became this enigma where I stubbornly believed that, if I make a monetary investment and depreciate my self-worth, I would do the right thing by the girl / woman of my dreams. I didn’t have someone to teach me the rules of courtship, and my parents preoccupied themselves with making sure I stuck to more scholarly pursuits with lines like, “Be careful! You might get her pregnant and you don’t want that!” Add this to the social pressures from my friends who had a new girl to date every week or so, and it was enough to make me quit this relationship business completely.

It’s a psychological castration that does no favors to a young man trying to understand how all the pieces fit.

With frustrations building, I started developing the nice-guy mantra in college, a sexist idea that states “If a woman doesn’t want me specifically, then the guy she’s currently dating must be a jerk, so I must be a jerk to get her.” I didn’t know how I had turned into this monster. I had so many women around me in college who inspired me, led me, and pushed my thinking. I also knew I needed to find a solution.

Sure enough, I turned to music. I remembered this one song I used to love back in elementary school by Whitney Houston. For those who grew up in the 80s and 90s, listening to the song signaled a change of the channel because gruesome images of starving children and adults would mess with our scheduled programming. After revisiting the song, I realized it spoke to an element of spirituality and love I never understood.

Throughout our entire lives, we’re asked to show off, compete, and do for others so long as we can something in return. Our daily interactions are a commodity, the things we do an investment on some personal gain. Valentine’s Day promotions encourage those of us with no root to cling onto hopes unfounded. What might have once been an innocent  day to demonstrate and celebrate appreciate each other’s existence has turned into a billion dollar industry feeding off the insecurities and cultural neurosis of the social collective.

How often do people wonder if this holiday has become less about love and more about outbidding competitors?

Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” asks us to invest more in ourselves. The lyrics started to crack a shovel at my lack of self-love. Before we go spending hundreds of dollars for flowers that last a week if you’re lucky, we ought to spend our time and energies growing ourselves as spiritual beings. Only then can we really develop profound, meaningful relationships with others. Even if the person has neither the desire or capacity to reciprocate your love for them, your love of self carries you forward.

Compulsory gifts to our paramours and significant others can’t change that.

After learning this lesson (the hard way), I began to restructure my wayward ideas on this day. As a work in progress, I continue to find ways to spread the love throughout the year rather than this specific day. With a newborn on my lap every afternoon, I now have a responsibility to teach him about this story long before I find a book bag full of heart-shaped boxes and mixtapes.

Jose, who normally wouldn’t write about love, especially on the first day after launching my brand new website design.


How To Heal A Broken Heart

How To Heal A Broken Heart

Before my days in college (man, I loved college), I really didn’t much success with the ladies. And by not that much, I mean there was a recession of immense proportions. I looked around and watch my friends talk about female orifices and their indexes feeling on the softest, roundest female bottoms ever. Me? Not quite. I had a chance encounter in Dominican Republic back when I was 10 (I’ve never forgetten it). From then ’till college, contrary to popular beliefs (even my own) I barely got any.

But the couple of things that I always had going for me were hope and optimism. Certainly being nice didn’t work too well nor did the other passive characteristics I took on as a result of my upbringing. I don’t wish to blame the parents (even if it is their fault), but it’s also because society taught me that I was fat, Black, and ugly. No, seriously. Thank G-d for goatees and age. Otherwise, I still would have been that frustrated chump who, in a rather quixotic moment, considered asexuality.

Back to the point, Valentine’s Day was where I laid all my hopes of finding someone to kiss (I had little space for much else). I wanted that romantic love, that movie love, that Corey and Topanga kind of love. And of course, it wasn’t to be. I mean, I went all out for Valentine’s Day, sometimes spending my weekly allowance … with zero returns. There were also the ones where something might have happened if I was less chicken-shit and more Neil Strauss about things. Or the nights when my single friend and I would just have a Lonely Person’s Day, eating fries and ice cream at McD’s. It ranged anywhere from “You’re nice, but can we be friends?” to “I’m your counselor. I may be hot, but I’m at least 3 times your age.” I even got “Ummm … no.”


Nevertheless, all those wasted Valentine’s Days taught me something later on that I probably wouldn’t have learned:

Valentine’s Day is expensive as a motherfucker.

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

If you don’t consider yourself an attractive and loveable person, how do you expect someone else to love you? If you don’t consider yourself worthy of someone, will you ever be? There are times when you do think you’re worthy and things fail, but the chances of reciprocity are much greater than we have a belief in an idea than when we don’t.

Fortunately, for this Valentine’s Day, I have one person who’s been my 3-peat Valentine (it’s the first time ever, I promise you). Yet, I also know there are those of you who are booing Cupid to no end, and I have to respect that (the grass is definitely greener on this side). Then again, I feel like after all that depravity, I’ve earned love.

Yes, I’ve earned love.

Jose, who assembled his first bed tonight …