I played the childhood game well. I was an active participant in all the fun that could possibly be had. I finger painted with pudding. I sang “I’m A Little Teapot” and did all the motions. I hunted for eggs like a boss. I ate my Happy Meal and I liked it.
I bought it all. I didn’t question much. That is, until Valentines Day rolled around. That’s when my skepticism was piqued.
For all holidays in elementary school, there was a party. The Halloween party was always fun. The room mothers would come in and let us stick our fingers into bowls of cold spaghetti and tell us it was brains while we wore store-bought costumes. I didn’t mind that there were always several Cinderellas or Supermans. I was in the spirit. My public school was so white bread that we could have a flat-out “Christmas” party and no one would question whether that title was exclusionary. We probably would have sung “Away In A Manger” if Ashleigh’s mom had remembered to bring the portable cassette player.
Come February, the Valentines Day party rolled around, right when the sugar highs that we had experienced from Christmas were starting to wear off. The thing about the Valentines party was that there was homework involved. You had to prepare Valentines for everyone in your class, making sure that “Andrea K.” was differentiated from “Andrea V.” I got a bit of a rise the night before the party when I thought about my crush Kevin P. making a card out for me. For the 10 seconds it took for him to write my name across the bottom of the card, I was in his head and heart.
I was always skeptical of these cards, though. They were the third grade equivalent of phoning it in. As good a sport as I always was in all things of Kiddom, Valentines cards could not fool me into believing that they actually meant something.
First of all, you couldn’t even fold them. Everyone knows that in order for a card to be legit, you have to be able to fold it in half. The entire point of a card is to read the outside and get your attention with a clever pun or at least a picture of a cute cat, and then open it up to see what the punchline/ real message is. Children’s Valentines cards have absolutely no merit in this respect. You just take it out of the unsealable envelope and boom! There is the message. Where is the romance? Where is the finesse? Where is the use of our highly evolved opposable thumbs?
The messages themselves are real winners too.
Why, yes. Yes it is, Garfield Valentine card. It is Valentines Day. I can tell by all these Palmer’s candies being passed off as chocolate and by Mrs. Buchanan’s giant pink and red sweater with cupids making out on the back.
This one isn’t even trying:
Well, since you spelled out “Whooosh!” with hearts for o’s, then love MUST be in the air. Look at Batman: he is running away from a giant heart! Affection is the literal nemesis in the milieu of this card.
Another reason I never bought into the charade of a Valentines card is that they all had some dumb theme that only appealed to the giver of said card. The point of giving a gift or a note is to tailor it to the recipient, not the giver. Tell that to an eight-year-old boy, who selects the box of Optimus Prime Valentines for his whole class:
Yeah, something tells me that Beth the Pageant Participant isn’t going to love her Transformers card unless there’s a tube of watermelon LipSmackers taped to the back. No worries; Billy will get a compulsive Barbie Valentine in return. He’s a free-thinking lad. He will for sure get the sentiment, right?
The smart kids were aware of the lameness of Valentines and would insist on including a piece of candy within the tiny envelope. However, when you’re six and without a refined palate, you don’t yet appreciate the premium offerings of Godiva or even Ghirardelli. Instead, you go to what you know: heart-shaped antacids, the Valentines day equivalent of circus peanuts candy. Um, thanks?
I realized I had finally come of age yesterday when I logged into Facebook. A notification indicated that my husband had posted a picture to my wall. I clicked over and this is what I found:
The man knows me and loves me. All that time he spent on Tumblr, he was actually just searching for the perfect card for me.
Happy V-Day to you all! May your day be full of chocolate-covered strawberries or full-strength Makers Mark.