Giving Valentine’s Day cards in elementary school was always a delicate matter. I remember being given a list of all the names of the students in my class. We were required to give a valentine to every kid, if we gave valentines at all.
Each valentine’s packet contains about 6 repeating cards, and choosing which card to give whom was always very stressful. I remember carefully perusing the aisles of Fred Meyer for the packages of cards with a signature place designated by the word “from” rather than “love.” My mother, being a 3rd grade teacher, understood this process and gave me extra time.
I don’t mean to get on a nature vs. nurture rant, but it was pretty obvious that there were unwritten rules about Valentine’s Day cards that most elementary kids somehow just knew. For boys these cards were always okay: monster trucks, ninja turtles, Transformers and WWF. I never felt there was any homophobic undertone when boys exchanged these sorts of cards.
Girls could choose from the following: Barbie, My Little Pony, Care Bears and just general hearts and kisses. Female friendship is all about that lovey-dovey crap anyway, so these sorts of cards were acceptable.
I wonder if the makers of children’s valentines realize the situation they put kids in.
The difficulty came when there was the cross-gender exchange of cards. The cards that were suitable for both boys and girls were: Smurfs, Gummi Bears, Looney Toons and Disney. In giving cards to boy friends, I had to be careful. If we were really good friends a card with a droopy-eyed puppy would be safe. But hearts? Flowers? Xs and Os? Slow down, there! Unless you’re thinking of getting married soon, leave the Minnie hugging Mickey cards at home. If the boy was either not popular, or too popular, or the card had too many hearts, the taunts would begin: “Erin loooves him!” The high-pitched squeals would crack the huge windows that overlooked the playground of Ewing Young Elementary School. I would shrug and attempt to dig myself out, “No I don’t, that’s just the only card I had left. I did that one last.” I bit down on the powdery green heart that said, “ASK ME.”
I guess exchanging valentines in elementary school just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not like anyone would take a 3rd grade relationship seriously (except perhaps the 3rd graders.) At middle school dances, teachers always made sure they could “see daylight between the two bodies” of opposite sex dancing. So in elementary school, you are required to show every kid in the class just how much they mean to you by scribbling their name on a tiny slip of cardboard. By middle school, be careful. You can’t show too much affection, or you’ll risk going to detention.
Oh, the horrors of elementary school. And as if Valentine’s Day wasn’t bad enough, there was also Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas (called “the holiday party”- who were they kidding?), and St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate. Where was the time to learn? I want my multiplication tables! Remember: You must wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, but don’t wear green on Thursdays, or you’re gay (oops).
Maybe deep down I miss getting the pseudo-attention from all my classmates. Here at PSU, I’m lucky if my classmates know my name. And then if someone does know my name I think maybe they’re stalking me and where did I put my mace? Maybe I would really like to get some valentines. My mailbox at home is certainly not as fun as a red construction-papered shoe box, but it can still hold quite a few valentines (hint, hint).