I remember back in elementary school days, when Valentine’s Day was a day of social pressure and candy and cool-looking homemade mailboxes. They were lined up in the hallway outside the classroom and we walked down the line and dropped a valentine in each box. If you waited too long to buy your valentines, the only ones left would be lame ones covered in generic hearts. My favorites that I ever gave out were shiny foiled PowerPuff Girl valentines. I always saved the two big ones for the teacher and for whoever was my bestest friend at the time. There was lots of candy, and pink was worn by all, and a big deal was made if someone didn’t get a valentine from every classmate. The best mail box I ever ever made was like a pirate ship. My mom and I spent hours cutting and re-structuring a shoebox to the exact right shape and papering it with brown craft paper. The deck was carefully laid with popsicle sticks. My dad cut a dowel rod and mounted it securely on the box, and it became the mast to a paper sail with a big pink heart. I remember whining to my mom that her idea of re-structuring the box with strips of paper with glue on them, instead of with tape, wouldn’t work. She asked me what tape was. It was paper with sticky stuff on it. Which is exactly what she was doing. And then she went back to work on my ship. This is my first recollection of perfect, calm logic. I stopped whining after that. And she was right.
In high school, there were no more boxes, but people still gave valentines and wore red and pink. Mostly just the girls. I could never remember to buy the valentines ahead of time, or if I did I never remembered to give them out. I still have that problem. People around me spent the day with boyfriends and girlfriends, I presume, or moping. I remember one year watching a sappy romantic comedy and pretending to be sad and mopey and feeling satisfied with experiencing what was supposed to be normal. I laughed about it, like I was playing some weird game. I wondered if that’s why everyone else did this, because it was kind of fun. My brother scoffed at me.
My first year of college, I got together with my first serious boyfriend on Valentines Day. We’d been best friends, and he walked me back to my dorm from movie night with a bunch of friends. And then he kissed me. We figured out later that we’d both done little dances on either side of the door after I closed it.
A year later, I watched a sappy romantic comedy and ate chocolate in yoga pants and a sweatshirt. It wasn’t a game this time.
Last year I completely forgot it was Valentines Day.
Today, I’ve been spending all my energy telling all my friends how much I love them. I forgot to get valentines again. But I wore an appropriately colored skirt and have enjoyed telling everyone I love just how special they are. Because really, that’s all that matters. I also filled my pockets with chocolate.