Be My “Steady” Valentine

My fourth grade Valentine's Day was hell. Looking back at it now I realize there's something that's "just not right" about how kids are taught to celebrate Valentine's Day. Fortunately, I got over it and now I actually like the yearly "extra" excuse to show special attention to my sweetheart (love you, Honey). But my Valentine experience sure got off on the wrong foot.

My lesson began with a crush on a girl. Let's call her "Kim" (I'm protecting her identity despite what she did to "us"). I thought Kim was the most gorgeous girl in fourth grade. The other boys didn't like girls yet but it turns out that I was prematurely attracted to girls even though I knew of neither birds nor bees. Boys at that age insist that girls have cooties. So to fit in I pretended to fear the supposed cooties but secretly I wanted to know what it felt like to catch a cootie from a girl. Would it tingle? What would it look like? And could I take it off and give it back to her when I was finished with it?

One day Kim and I got in trouble for talking to one another during "silent time." Our teacher, Ms. Hanson, sent us to the principal's office. On the way out of the room some of the kids started singing "Geoff and Kim sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G..." See? Even our classmates knew we were meant to be together. Fate was smiling. Our love wouldn't be denied. Indeed, her cooties were to be mine.

Our courtship continued. I sometimes pushed her on the swing. One day I let her get away while playing Tag when I was "it" (a pure, innate, male "I help you, not harm you" gesture). She seemed to like me too. We sometimes sat together in the cafeteria -of course there were 8 other kids at the table but I was beside her and that was what counted. It was special.

Penning the best alphabet letters I could produce, I made a Valentine card for Kim. The next day I gathered up my courage and handed it to her. She said "thank you" and handed me a card asking to me to be her Valentine.(Our fingers may have even touched in the exchange). That was it. We were practically married. To me, the card she gave me was confirmation of her commitment to "Valentimony" with me. Perhaps that pleasant tingling I felt was a cootie -at last!

Later I discovered that Kim had given a Valentine "proposal" to every guy in class and some of the girls [cringe] too. Ouch. It was worse than a cruel Jerry Springer show surprise. I felt so cheap. How could she have used me like this? And now I surely had full-blown cooties with no exclusive title of "Kim's Valentine" to show for it. What a bummer. I painfully learned that "Be my Valentine" can have a casual implication.

I looked up Valentine in the American Heritage Dictionary where it's defined as "a person singled out especially as one's sweetheart on Saint Valentine's Day." In the following years I remember that many friends would give everyone in class a "Be My Valentine" card. But wait just a minute! Who decided that this "Valentinian polygamy" is OK? And to be honest, I must say it was typically the girls that had multiple Valentines. Most guys can have only one.

So when you ask someone to be your Valentine and he/she says yes, it seems to me that should pretty much wrap up your current year's Valentine's activities. Yet apparently it is fine to pass out signed Valentine's cards to many "singled out sweethearts!" And Valentine's Day is named for a saint -for goodness sake! While we're at it why not pick up a multi-pack of marriage licenses?

I suppose I'm presenting this issue a bit more seriously than I actually take it. But the fact that people buy Valentine's Day cards by the box still perplexes me. I'm sure they're just having fun, and hooray to them for showing "love" to everyone they know. But I can't seem to get past the emotional promiscuity I'd feel by doing it.

Do me a favor: If you are going to send a Valentine to everyone you know this year, write "Be my Valentine -as a friend" on all but one of the cards. It just makes things so much clearer.

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