Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Valentine's Day Memories

I started working on a Valentine's Day soap the other day and it got me thinking about Valentine's Days of the past.

In elementary school, Valentine's Day was cool. During the days leading up to V-Day, we kids would make decorations for our big party. We'd draw hearts that looked much like the one above (my artisitic ability has not progressed much beyond the age of five). We'd make streamers and cut-outs and cards for our parents. I also remember making heart-shaped pouches out of two paper plates stapled together to hold all of the cards we would get from our classmates, and we'd color all over those, too, and hang them on the edges of our desks.

And then the big day came. Someone's mom would make cupcakes for the entire class, and we'd all have a party and exchange Valentine's cards. And everyone gave everyone a card. No one was left out. That would be rude. Even the girl who punched you in the stomach because you said that she sorta looked like Michael Douglas gave you a card. And if you didn't get a card from someone (rare), you just figure they accidentally overlooked you, no hard feelings.

And those silly cards were so awesome. You were a rock star if you gave out cards with the newest trend as its theme. If you gave everyone cards with Alf or Care Bears or Pee-Wee Herman all over them, you got to advance a rung or two up the coolness ladder. Also, those kinds of cards were more expensive, so you also got credit for having parents that were made of money.

In the fifth grade, something new came along that revolutionized Valentine's Day. That was the year that whatever photography studio that took our school photos offered V-Day cards with little stickers of your school photo that you stuck on the card. I was excited about this not because I look great in photos (I don't), but it meant that I might get a photo of that boy I liked without having to be stalker-camera girl. (True, I didn't have to try to be all stealth taking a boy's picture -- I could have just asked him if I could take his picture, but then he would have known that I liked him. Horrors!) So, anyway, taking pictures wasn't as easy back then as it is now. These days, you hold up your cell phone, hit a button, and quietly take a picture (or a video!) without anyone even knowing. In 1987, you either had to use a big, clunky old-school camera (the kind with film) or you used a disposable camera. Either way, the camera was very obvious, as was the nuclear blast of light emitted by the flash. And a video? Forget about being discreet. Back then, video cameras were the size of boom boxes. Modern technology has made it much easier to be intrusive incognito.

Parents bought those cards, too. Yes, they cost way more than Alf cards, but they had photos on them! And parents are generally supportive of anything photographic, as it preserves memories. And where are those cards now? I don't know. And did I get a photo-card of the boy I liked in fifth grade? I don't remember. But maybe I did. And if I did, I'm sure it was great.

Ah, memories ...

And then middle school happened. Suddenly, Valentine's Day took a freakish turn for the worse. No more getting cards just for showing up. No more class parties with cupcakes. No more everyone loving everybody.

In middle school, Valentine's Day is only for couples. You know, those twelve- and thirteen-year-old folks deep in the throes of a serious, meaningful relationship. In other words, not me. And yet, each Valentine's Day I would hold out hope that maybe this would be the day that what's-his-name will realize he's crazy about me and buy me one of those singing candygrams that the student council was selling, or maybe a long-stemmed rose or a BMW. But no. At least my mom still bought me a heart-shaped box of candy or something on Valentine's Day (thanks, Mom!).

In high school it just got worse. Because now that we were so much more mature, we weren't in love anymore -- we were IN LOVE. Like, in all caps. And when you're IN LOVE, everything is more urgent, particularly if the person lucky enough to be the object of your LOVE is not IN LOVE with you (talking about me again). I am thinking about the time when I was a junior in high school and the Ren & Stimpy Valentine card that I gave a guy I was IN LOVE with didn't suddenly make him realize that every moment in his life had been leading up to that one.

Ah, well.

And now none of it matters. I don't care that I-can't-even-remember-his-name-anymore didn't like me. Gee whiz, all of that angst. Thing is, I didn't know back then that you can't force it. I look back and it seems like I used to think that if I just wore a guy down enough, he'd like me. I wish I could go back in time and talk to my thirteen-year-old self. And my 16-year-old self. And my nineteen-year-old self. And twenty-one. I'd tell her to take it easy and to just hang out and be cool. I'd tell her that he's coming.

I have been with my husband for ten years, married for more than eight, and I didn't have to wear him down to get us there. And Valentine's Day is nice, but not a huge deal because we try to live like everyday is Valentine's Day. (Don't throw up -- fight it!)

Have a happy Valentine's Day, everyone! And if you don't have a Valentine, be one to yourself, you beautiful thing, you!