Here we are again. February 14th, and every drug store is puking pink, red, and chocolate. Where, you ask, does my overwhelming hatred of this greeting card-inspired holiday come from? Middle school. Let's all take a journey back in time. Valentine's Day, as a young child, was always fun.
The day began with a pink dress and stacks of valentine cards in your backpack. The school activity involved decorating your cards and distributing your sparkle-tastrophe to everyone in the class. When you returned home with sticky hands, thanks to those Necco hearts you kept shoving in your face, there would be a million valentine-themed cartoons, movies, and tv shows waiting to greet you. It was a nice, safe time in childhood that, unfortunately, does not last forever. Did anyone stop that little girl and warn her what was coming? Nope, she was completely unaware of the dangers that were in store. For the lucky few of you who have never experienced this, let me give you a brief rundown of this torment.
A few weeks before the day, your homeroom teacher announces that the school is participating in a local charity event. For $1, you can send a carnation to a classmate and it will be delivered to the person of your choice on the big day. Now here you are, bouncing in your seat, and because you are a silly 12-year-old girl, a romantic scenario pops into your head. The boy you have had a crush on for the past month looked in your general direction after this was announced. Your heart starts racing, and from this moment on, you are convinced that a carnation with the words “I like you” will be waiting for you on your desk on February 14th.
The entire week goes by with bated anticipation of what V-Day will bring. While you're on your daily excursion from your locker to catch a glimpse of your crush walking into his 3rd-period science class, your imagination kicks into high gear with even more ideas. After you receive your flower from your secret admirer, he will probably have the whole afternoon planned. Beginning with his mom dropping you guys at the mall, then going to see a movie—preferably something starring Drew Barrymore—followed by a stolen kiss to seal the night. Sigh. You have so much to look forward to!
On the morning of the fateful day, you finally get to wear the outfit you’ve been saving for this special occasion. Your bus ride to school involves applying your mother’s stolen mascara, blush, and lip gloss. (She won't know it's missing, and you’ll be sure to sneak it back when you get home.) As you approach the classroom door, your heart pounds and you can feel your face getting red as you hope no one notices. In the corner of the teacher's desk, you see a healthy stack of flowers. Your confidence rises. It's gonna happen.
The class quiets down. The teacher's holding the list in her hands, reading off names one by one. And so it begins. The first flower goes to that really loud girl, you know, the skinny one with the tight, low-cut shirts that support at least a B cup already. Number two goes to the studious nerd, but come on, you know one of her geeky friends sent that one. Another one goes to the drama queen, the girl with all the “emotional” issues who goes through boyfriends like toilet paper. Probably from one of her exes trying to get back in the game. Oh, look, another one for the slut. No wait, that’s three more for her. Honestly, she’s really not that pretty. And now we are onto the classic variety of popular girls who each have a flower from their robotic, popular boyfriends. Clichéd much?
Now, the pile has dwindled, only a few flowers left. Suddenly, it's down to the very last carnation. For a second, the shape of the sound your teacher begins to utter almost makes you leap out of your seat and fly across the room to claim your prize! You dare to look over at your crush and see his eyes are on that harlot who now has a grand total of twelve flowers. Your hope dwindles now, too, and you start to pray to anything that exists that the last syllables the teacher utters belong to you. It's only when she completely pronounces the name of the classmate sitting in front of that you realize you're not getting any flower at all. It hits you like a ton of bricks and all you feel like doing is running away. In the background you can hear that tramp cackling away at all the different flowers she received and your heart begins to hurt.
As the day goes on, you watch all the girls in the hallway—armed with teddy bears and balloons—while you cling tightly to your books, wishing they would magically become some red-stuffed creature with a heart. Hand-holding, kissing on the cheek seems to take place in every nook and corner of the school. How it is possible for everyone to have a valentine except you?! In your mind, you're surveying all the remaining boys in the class without a girl attached to their hip, cursing them all for their laziness and unwillingness. By the end of the day, you're practically dragging your feet to class, somehow managing to bypass the urge to trip the prostitute in the hallway twice.
It's a hard realization to deal with, but your Prince Charming has failed to arrive, to sweep you off your feet, and to fulfill your well-thought-out (and age-appropriate, I might add!) fantasy. A solemn oath is made on that day.
[cue dramatic music]
You vow never to celebrate this wretched excuse for a holiday as long as you live.
Looking back now, what lesson was this carnation supposed to teach? Let's see: If you're a bimbo, popular, an emotional wreck, or all of the above, you too can have multiple admirers. Scary how when you get older, the same remains true, but you at least have a little more control over your emotions. Still, who's to blame in this situation? Is it the romantic comedies, movies, and books telling us we will all experience true love? Is it Hallmark? Is it the public school system for deploying this ritualistic cruelty?!
To this day, I will stomp on any carnation that I receive. I hate anything that has to do with Valentine's Day. Besides, it's one of those holidays that not everyone gets to celebrate anyway. On St. Patrick’s Day, “everyone’s Irish,” and on Thanksgiving, you're forced to stuff your face for four hours, trapped with your family. But this is the one day when if you don’t have someone special in your life, then you're basically an outcast doomed to roam the planet alone. Sure, you can grab your single friends and make plans to have a girls' night, but it's not the same as having a “valentine.” The day is supposed to be about all about romance and love, not a barrel of Haagen-Dazs paired with an Audrey Hepburn movie marathon.
Instead of putting myself through that heartbreak, and following along with the masses, I choose not to. I take a stand against Cupid. There's no need to seek my redemption with buckets of carnations in hand, screaming to the mountain tops “I AM NOT ALONE.” I simply appreciate that person in my life and am happy.
That’s the message we should be teaching impressionable little girls. To keep on dreaming, keep on reading, and keep on believing that romance does exist outside of February 14th. Superficial displays are not the way to show your feelings, and you shouldn't be dependent on someone else to complete your happiness.
I'm proud to have kept my promise to that 12-year-old girl.
Stephanie Treanor lives in New York, absolutely hates egg salad sandwiches, and finds romance squee-worthy.