Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is once again upon us.  A lot of people get really gushy around this time of year.  There tends to be general excitement about the cards, the candy, the flowers and, if you're a really lucky girl, the jewlery.  A lot of people go out for fancy dinners, movies, or some other sort of nice time out with their significant other.

I, for one, have found Valentine's Day to be an anxiety driven nightmare from a very early age.  It started in grammar school.  As soon as February 1st hit, the classrooms and hallways would be filled with red and pink heart decorations pasted onto giant white doilies.  Images of the diaper-clad Cupid with his love-tainted arrows pulled tight in his bow ready to shoot some poor, unsuspecting dolt causing him to fall madly in love haunted my dreams.  The concept of either a small, but fully grown man wearing diapers, or a baby armed with deadly weaponry is disturbing to me.

In grammar school, the anxiety was caused mostly by the Valentine cards.  A day or two before Valentine's Day all the kids would bring in a small shoe box that we would decorate during class with red and pink construction paper, white doilies, stickers, and, depending on how easy-going the teacher was, glitter.  LOTS of glitter.  The pretty little boxes served as mailboxes for the rest of the students to drop valentines into.  Seems harmless enough, right?  But sadly, I suffer from what I call Charlie Brown Syndrome.  What if I don't get any valentines?  What if, while everyone else is going through their piles of tiny red cards with suckers, pencils, stickers, or candies attached, I wind up sitting at my desk with an empty box?  What if NOBODY loves me?  Or what if I give a card to the smelly kid and everyone thinks I love the smelly kid?  Or what if the only card I get is from the smelly kid?  Fortunately, my children will never wonder if they'll have valentines in their box because now it's mandatory that you give valentines to every kid in the class.  Even the smelly ones.  Even the neurotic ones.

My neurosis grew worse beginning in seventh grade when the school system threw yet another visible social status symbol into the mix.  Beginning in junior high, boys could buy carnations for girls that they liked at various times of the year for $1 to raise money for the class.  Some girls would walk around with handfuls of little flowers in a variety of colors.  They would balance them across their desks in class with the buds sticking out into the aisle so that everyone could see that they were loved.  I would simultaneously pray that someone, anyone, would buy me a flower while hoping that I wouldn't get one from the weird kid. 

The absolute worst part was the school dance.  It was usually labeled "The Semi-Formal."  To this day I have no idea what that really means. (It's such a vague term, like business casual.  I never know if I'm appropriately dressed.  But that's a topic for another blog.)  The Semi-Formal was a time to really see how the school was divided into two groups; those who were well into puberty and those of us who were still on the cusp.  The kids who were already a raging ball of hormones would dance with their boyfriend/girlfriend and make out in the middle of the gym, not caring who saw them until the chaperones would break up the love fest.  The rest of us would stand against the walls, wanting a boy to ask us to dance, but at the same time not wanting to catch boy cooties.  Cooties is a very real concern. 

I had a crush on a boy in 7th grade.  I only told one person about it, my best friend.  She swore an oath of secrecy, which lasted about 12 seconds.  The next thing I knew she was standing in front of the boy talking to him... about me!  She turned back towards me with a pleased smile on her face and trotted over to me.  "I told him to ask you to dance because you like him,"  she said.  She was hell-bent on pushing me full force and joining her in the a world of boyfriends.  Her parents wouldn't let her date and she needed more people to go out with her boyfriend.  "Why..." I stammered, "Why do you hate me?"  The boy started towards me and I made a b-line to the girl's bathroom where I hid in a stall and dry-heaved.

Eventually, I came out of the bathroom and the boy did end up asking me to dance.  It was the most awkward minute and 22 seconds I have ever experienced and I am grateful that pop songs from the 80s are generally short.  I got away from him the second the song ended, said "Thanks for the dance," and, after washing the cooties off my hands (just in case), went to go play checkers with the nerds in the cafeteria until the Semi-Formal was over.  Checkers was a relief and it was a great comfort to be around equally socially awkward people who had no interest in being pushed too quickly into the inevitability of boy/girl dancing.

I'm now married with three kids and my husband and I generally don't do anything on Valentine's Day.  He isn't really the romantic type, and if I don't make a big deal about it the day will slide past unnoticed.  The February before we got married he sent two dozen Fire and Ice roses to me at work.  They were beautiful and it was the most romantic thing he or anyone has ever done for me.

When I saw the bill from the florist later that week I told him never to spend that kind of money on something like that again. 

He hasn't. 

And I'm okay with that.

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