In elementary school, I had no idea what Valentine’s Day meant. As I got older, I found out it was actually a day that a massacre occurred, so that sucks. All I knew as a kid was it was the really awkward and forced celebration of choosing the box of Valentine cards that didn’t sound too sappy that I was to give to each student in my class. Snoopy was usually my go-to of choice because a dog is pretty neutral in the love department. I’d always get a bag of Conversation Hearts and carefully choose the candies which couldn’t be read into too much (listen, I was VERY concerned about this in 2nd grade) and stuff them into the tiny envelope each Valentine came with. I’d go through my whole class list to make sure I had a Valentine for every student (required) and double check my list to envelope count multiple times before heading to school that day.
Every year, we would decorate a large envelope (two pieces of construction paper stapled together around three sides, lots of glitter and doily cut-outs) and would tape it to the front of our desk on the morning of Valentine’s Day. Then, just before the first recess, the teacher would call out the names of five students at a time to go around the room and distribute their Valentine’s into each hand-crafted recipients envelope. Even as a seven year old, I felt like this holiday was pushed on people, and it always made me REALLY uncomfortable to sit there as we took turns passing out Valentine’s from a class list our teacher gave us. Sure, from the teacher’s point of view, she wanted everyone to receive one, but to me it was weird.
From second grade until I moved away from Oregon to California in eighth grade, I would get a special gift from one boy. One of his parents worked for the Chapstick company, so on Valentine’s Day each year, he would give me a new flavor of Chapstick, and at Christmas, he would always give me the Lifesaver Storybook AND a new flavor of Chapstick. At the time, I thought he was just being nice, and I always thanked him for the gift before heading off to play with my friends on the playground. It wasn’t until that first Valentine’s Day when I moved that I realized he was probably doing all of that because he liked me. He didn’t give Chapstick or Lifesaver Storybooks to anyone else, only me. And I was clueless to his admirations. Bravo, Anne.
Once I was in high school, Valentine’s Day wasn’t forced upon us by teachers. It had now become a stressful day of “Should I send a Candy-gram to someone? Is someone going to send a Candy-gram to me?” That was the worst. I did read a story this week about a high school senior boy who bought something like 900 carnations and had people help him pass them out to every girl at school because he wanted each girl to feel special. I thought that was so sweet and it totally makes me cry just typing this out.
As an adult, I decided I wasn’t going to celebrate Valentine’s Day with anyone because seriously, this stupid “holiday” is made up for the card, flower, and candy industry. Thankfully, I married someone who feels the same way. However, I did cave a couple of years ago and got Wil something (full story about that here). He loved that gift so much he ended up getting it tattooed on the inside of his left forearm. But we have gone back to the tradition of NOT getting each other anything because we don’t need some silly holiday to profess our love for each other.
Whether you’re in a relationship with someone or enjoying life on your own, remember that this “holiday” does not mark any sort of achievement or failure in love. We all have friends and family in our lives that we love and who love us every day and that’s what’s important. And if you’re feeling like you want something special to celebrate the day, go get a flavored Chapstick for yourself and someone you care about. I bet that would make little Vincent from my class very happy.