Friday, February 11, 2011

Have a Heart

Valentine's Day.  I've never been a fan.  Even as a child, I never understood the appeal.  In Mrs. Bain's first grade classroom we decorated white paper bags with red and pink construction paper hearts and glitter.  We scrawled our names in magic marker on the bags in our meandering 7-year old penmanship.  We hung them from the bottom of the chalkboard so the other kids could give us a Valentine.  My Valentines were Garfield and they were really cool.  I chose who in the class I wanted to give one to.  I was sort-of excited.  But, then I wasn't because there was a catch.  You had to give one to everyone, even that Darren kid who wiped his boogers under his desk.  Stupid stupid.  What was special about a Garfield card if everyone got one?

I guess I've always been a pissy little thing, not the sort of person the holiday was designed for.  When my sister and I got Care Bears, she got Tenderheart Bear and I got Grumpy Bear.  I was not what you would call an outgoing or loving child.  I was introspective and not prone to public displays (or any displays) of affection.  The overly cheerful aspect of the holiday freaked me out a little bit.  I felt like people were trying too hard; their syrupy proclamations of love made me uncomfortable.

Then there's the candy message hearts.  Has there ever been a grosser, more pathetic candy?  Barring circus peanuts, I can't think of a more offensive assault to my taste buds than message hearts.  If you made candy out of chalk and desperation, that's exactly what it would taste like.

By high school, I'd gotten no better.  One year, a boy I was dating picked me up on Valentine's Day.  In the front seat of his car was a gigantic bear wearing a red bow around his neck like a noose.  It smiled up at me from the passenger seat, the mouth a bright red line under white fuzz.  The guy had put a seat belt around the thing.  All I could think was, what am I supposed to do with this?  It's so huge he'll know if I get rid of it.  So, I broke up with him.  He left me no other choice.

As an adult, I've tried to embrace the holiday.  It's true that I have someone I love to share it with now.  But, he hates Valentine's Day too.  Maybe even more than I do if that's possible.  We usually use it as an excuse to eat at a fancy restaurant the day before or the day after.  I do not wear red or pink.  He does not get me flowers.  I do not expect jewelry.

But, even though I'm a hater, I have a confession.  I love heart-shaped boxes of candy.  I loved them even before the Nirvana song.  As soon as they hit the shelves in mid-January, I'll walk down that aisle of the grocery store just to look at them.  They make me smile.  I like the gaudy ones, too.  The one pictured above is much too plain for me.  I want ribbons and glitter and fake flowers and hearts and bows.  I want that box to look like Cupid puked all over it.  I want it to resemble something a grandmother in a puffy-paint heart sweatshirt would pick out.  I can't help it.

I'm not sure if my Dad gave me a heart like that just one year or every year, such is my lame thirty-something memory these days, but I remember one in particular.  It was pink and it had white lace and a dark pink silk flower on top.  It was filled with so much candy that I barely finished it before Easter.  I thought that heart was the coolest, most adult thing ever and I left it on the shelf in my room long after the candy was gone.  When I finally took it down, the flower was dusty and the box was faded. It looked more Miss Havisham than Audrey Hepburn, as I'd first imagined but I still loved it.

So, when I see guys selling balloons and pink stuffed bears holding plastic flowers by the side of the freeway, I try to remind myself that somebody likes that shit.  I try not to be too annoyed by guys in suits and girls in red dresses acting like they're on an adult prom date every February 14th.  Maybe it's just their heart-shaped box.

Happy Valentine's Day.

*Photo by Danakochan.