Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bite my Valentine

Most people know it as Valentine’s Day.
But when I was in elementary school I referred to it as the Anguishing Day From Hell That Reminded Me of What a Loser I Really Was.
That fateful February day was as unavoidable as a trip to the dentist and it was far more stressing.
At least the dentist would put in freezing, but Valentine’s Day had to be taken straight up with no anesthetics at all. There was not even a shot of whisky to take the edge off.
I would loathe the approach of the Hallmark mainstay and would wish for some sickness to befall be so I would not have to go to school – a cold, the flu, scurvy – whatever it took.
But, as usual when you really want to get sick you don’t. The bout of scurvy is saved for birthdays or summer holidays.
In case you haven’t noticed, Valentine’s Day was not my favourite event of the year.
Looking back, I guess it wasn’t that bad – if you consider repeated mental scarring a good thing.
I was a shy kid and was somewhat withdrawn. I was a loner in school.
Not in a clock-tower-with-a-rifle sort of way, but in a he’s-a-quiet-kind-of-kid sort of way.
Come to think of it, that’s usually how people describe someone who flipped out and ate half of his home town.
“He was a quiet lad, very polite. Except for that whole cannibalism thing he was a nice guy. He would host the most wonderful backyard barbecues.”
Because of my shyness, I was also somewhat socially stunted.
Not like the jocks or the so-called ‘cool kids’ who seemed to be at every event and on everybody’s social ‘A’ list.
In those days, teachers devised an ingenious system of magnifying the social standing of all the kids in school by providing us time to give Valentine’s cards to who ever we wanted.
I don’t know who thought of this unique form of social torture, but the person had a nasty streak that would make Attila the Hun giddy.
During the frenzy of romantic slop, the ‘cool kids’ ran around to each other’s desks stuffing cards and envelopes into bags taped to the front of their desks.
Some kids needed big, black garbage bags to hold all the cards while other kids – I am not mentioning anyone specifically here – could have gotten away with a sandwich bag.
When the allotted time was up, the students returned to their desks and dove into the bags to read the lovely things other had said about them.
Reaching into my lunch, er, um, I mean garbage bag, I pulled the cards out and spent the next 20 to 30 seconds reading them. Some of the ‘cool kids’ would have to book extra time at lunch to get through theirs.
I did get a few cards and had some close friends in school, but it just never measured up to the mountain of heart-shaped cards the ‘cool kids’ lugged home.
The annual day of torture ended when I entered high school because teens are just too darn cool to run around handing out cards. Thank God.
These days, Valentine’s is far less brutal for socially challenged students. Each kid gives a card to every other kid and teachers even go so far as to send home class lists to make sure everyone is included.
What a great idea. No more are outcasts banished to having lunch bags hang limp and empty on their desks.
No longer are the ‘cool kids’ ruling the day.
The new-and-improved system has been around for many years and I say keep it up. The ‘uncool kids’ have enough problems without an annual “Look-at-the-losers” day.
As for me, I have dealt with the emotional wedgie Valentine’s Day used to represent and have grown to become a well-adjusted adult.
At least that’s what my therapist keeps telling me.

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