The 14th of February is universally known as Valentine’s Day and in this particular year I had a prospective Valentine. I was coming of age, just approaching sweet 16 and Valentine’s Day had only just started to have meaning for me. There was a certain boy in my neighbourhood who had taken a keen eye on me and I was also giving him the time of day. He was a couple of years older and very charming.
Since I could remember my mother always made a fuss about Valentine’s Day by always getting us a card and little gift. I was happy in this bubble that she created and didn’t want for anything when it came to the day of love.
I realised there’s more to Valentine’s Day when my friends started to place so much of their energy in making sure they had a Valentine for the day. If you didn’t have one, you would be the topic of neighbourhood shaming and gossip. In the same breath, people questioned the frenzy of having one day to celebrate love because surely love should be celebrated every day.
My Valentine had asked to take me out for a movie and supper, my friends were very excited for me. I kept thinking what was going to happen, how should I behave and if there are strings that are going to be attached. I had heard so many stories of my peers’ experiences where they felt pressured to have sex with the boy because he paid for everything on the date. I was not ready for that, I doubted he was too. The consequences of sex are something that we hadn’t had a conversation about. My Mom is a nurse and always tried to educate me on sexual relationships, wherever she lacked on knowledge she referred me to the clinic. At the clinic, there were so many contraception options to consider to prevent pregnancy. Guidance on correct usage of the condom is provided so that both of us are protected from an unplanned pregnancy, HIV and any sexually transmitted infections. I didn’t want to go into any situation with my eyes closed, I thought it was cool to play open cards and have the difficult conversations with my Valentine.
We decided that we will not go all the way on our date night by avoiding sexual activity – except for holding hands and kissing. At the time, I had more knowledge than him, we headed to the clinic together to get more information about having a healthy sexual relationship for the day we decide to engage in sex. We were both excited and proud of this decision.
Written by Azola Lujiza at 32 years old (reflections on her 16-year-old self)