I call them "The Perfects." I see them often because they live nearby. They happen to be really thin, exceptionally good-looking, and blessed with hair that never seems to have bad days. But that's not the worst of it.
The Perfects look at each other with a certain "I can't live without you" look. They suggest through their body language that they can barely stand to be apart, and always have wild and passionate sex, making the rest of us feel fresh out of marital bliss.
I know it's bad form to admit to jealousy, but in Valentine's season, it's especially galling to be around The Perfects.
Let me give it to you straight: My husband and I do not look deeply into each other's eyes anymore. Not when we're frantically seeking our eye drops and wondering whether we're overdue for a visit with the ophthalmologist.
Nor do we breathlessly greet each other with wild and passionate kisses after a brief or even long absence. More likely, one of us will comment that the house feels a little chilly and that it's trash day tomorrow, and ours isn't out.
We are undeniably imperfect valentines who argue. Often over dumb things …
We also are valentines who know that, like it or not, we are sometimes — OK, often — petty.
l don't let him forget that while he thinks he has a certain God-given talent for loading the dishwasher, he always jams too much on the top rack. He reminds me daily that no self-respecting person would lose her glasses every 15 minutes.
So petty. But there it is.
The Perfects would never ever spend an entire car ride arguing about why I want Barry Manilow on the stereo, and why my husband, the self-proclaimed music critic, finds Manilow smarmy?
We do not make loving toasts over our wine at restaurants, leaning across the table for a quick peck. More typically, each of us will be aiming our forks at each other's plates, promising "just a nibble." That's a vow seldom kept.
The Perfects are spending a long Valentine's weekend — a day is just not enough for them — in a remote mountain getaway where they hint of fireside cuddling — and … and then you are invited to take it from there …
If Valentine's Days past are a guide to the present, we will have forgotten to make a reservation, and will settle for my tried-and-true chicken-with-mushrooms recipe, with Jeopardy! on the TV and Alex Trebek as our Cupid.
So what is it that keeps us together?
I always know that when we're on a plane and it's taking off, Vic will hold my hand tightly because he knows that I am a neurotic flier.
On nights when he has fallen asleep with his glasses falling down on his nose, I'll tiptoe over to his side of the bed and gently take them off, and pause for a minute to look at that face that I know as well as I know my own.
We both know that when one of our kids or grandkids is hurting, we are too.
No, we're not magazine-perfect valentines. Too old. Too plain. Too ordinary.
But we do know that something has kept us together through bouts of the flu, trips to the hardware store, worries about money, and parenthood.
We have stood at the graves of our parents and held on to each other. We have known sorrows — and so many joys. We have greeted seven spectacular grandchildren together — and wept in gratitude at such a miracle each time.
And our arguments — nasty as some have been — have somehow always left us closer.
Yes, we are very imperfect valentines. But perfect enough for us.
Even after decades together, we realize we still have more to learn about each other, and about marriage.
But this we know for sure: Loving can cost a lot. But not loving can cost far more.