If you knew me in first, second, or third grade, chances are good that you received a Valentine from me that looked just like this one (without all the digital pizzazz). Valentine’s Day used to be a BIG DEAL for me in elementary school. I went to a private school where we were asked to bring in decorated shoeboxes to serve as our personal mailboxes for Valentines, and after lunch (usually soggy hot dogs and cartons of milk), all of my class mates would sheepishly creep around the classroom, shoving envelopes into the slits we had cut in the tops of our shoeboxes.
The whole affair lacked anonymity, which was critical in dealing with crushes in elementary school, and quite frankly, lacked romance overall. I remember with clarity carrying my precious Valentines home with me on the school bus, dying, seriously, sweating with anticipation, to open them as soon as I got home to the privacy of my bedroom. Even as little as I was at the time, I recall so clearly how important it was to have gotten a special Valentine from Ryan McMahon (coincidentally, if I remember correctly, he was somehow related to Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears, and at the time I thought that was also a Big Deal). A special Valentine meant one that had something written on it other than the giver’s name. Or a sticker. Or simply that it seemed like the boy had spent some time picking out a good Valentine out of the box from the drug store. If the theme was Snoopy, the Peppermint Patty Valentine was the kiss of death. If the theme was Rainbow Brite, I presumed that any Valentine that didn’t have Rainbow Brite or her horse, Starlite, on it was a clear indication that a boy wanted to be “just friends.” He-Man and not She-Ra? Forget it, girl, he’s just not that into you.
Obviously, I read a lot into the meaning of Valentines I received. It’s fair to say that even today I perhaps read way too much into the behaviors of others.
I was also very strategic in which Valentines I gave out. I spent a lot of time determining each year which gem would be dedicated to the boy(s) who had caught my eye that year. It was serious business, signing all those Valentines on February 13th in preparation for the day ahead at school. Usually I wanted to find the Valentine for my crush that suggested – but not totally overstated – my affection. I would usually then just sign my name in my best penmanship rather than write any cryptic messages. Hand-drawn hearts and cat face illustrations would be saved for my best girlfriends.
Why is it so hard sometimes for girls (including me) to be forthright about our crushes? Why are girls always taught to act coy and shy and hope that boys will notice us, instead of to boldly hand our dream boys the best Valentine and write upon it, “I like you and you’d be an idiot not to like me back.” All of my adult research into romantic encounters indicates that boys like knowing they’re the object of a girl’s affection. So, if there’s a boy out there you’ve been crushing on, I triple-dog-dare you to find a way to flirt with him just a little today to make him wonder.
I hope all of you have a very Happy Valentine’s Day!