Valentine’s Day Musings

Another Valentine’s Day is behind us and men everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. I got tulips from Gelson’s and chocolates from Hawaii. All in all, a lovely day.

Traditionally, that’s the kind of holiday Valentine’s Day is supposed to be: flowers or candy and a card, just like we learned in elementary school. All this pressure to buy diamond pendants and custom-made teddy bears is new, and also unfortunate because it says the value of your expression is measured by the value of your gift, which is not what St. Valentine had in mind.

Not that anyone really knows what St. Valentine had in mind or even which St. Valentine we’re talking about, as it appears there were three of them and all of them were martyred. What kind of message that sends about love is a little disconcerting, but apparently the jewelry industry is all over it.

I told my fiancé a week before Valentine’s Day not to get me jewelry. That’s the kind of thing women do these days: tell the men in our lives what to get us, what not to get us, the maximum to spend on the things they get us, and where to go to get them.

It must take a lot of the fun out of it for men, if feeling pressured to buy something is considered fun, but someone has to help them. I am not the only one who thinks so. One floral website even gives suggestions on “creative messages for your floral enclosure cards.”

They include:

     Today’s a special day for sending all my love your way!

     With you, it’s Valentine’s Day 365 days a year.

     Couldn’t wait another day to say I Love You! (for flowers delivered on February 13th)

Just remember, the above creative messages are not for everyone, especially teachers. Teachers, you may be surprised to learn, receive more Valentine’s Day cards than anyone, followed by children, then mothers, and then wives. Regular old sweethearts are way down at the bottom of the list, after postmen and hairdressers. It’s an odd order, really, since Valentine’s Day is all about sweethearts and wives. Still, it’s a numbers game and you never get more cards than when you’re in elementary school, whether you’re teaching it or attending it.

The Valentine’s Day Party is the highlight of the February elementary school calendar. I remember bits and pieces of those parties: the handmade paper bag mailboxes (a school art project from the previous week), the punch and cookie rations, and lots and lots of Valentine’s Day cards.

The parties are completely innocent, but still it’s strange. Why is a holiday with ties to the Roman festival of fertility celebrated in grade school? Valentine’s Day isn’t a day for friends or teachers, or even parents. It’s a day for lovers, sweethearts, husbands and wives. It celebrates romantic love. Power Rangers and SpongeBob SquarePants may veil the message, but the message is the same: Will you be my Valentine (translated: Can I get into your squarepants)?

You hear a lot about how kids are oversexed these days and who’s to blame. The entertainment industry takes the easy rap, followed by the disintegration of the family unit, and now the internet with its billion pages of internet porn. But I say we’ve missed the boat. I point the finger at elementary school teachers and those smutty Valentine’s Day parties they throw. Is it any surprise kids are having sex in middle school? They’ve been primed for it since grade school. Even if the parties are nothing more than cards, cookies and punch, they push the notion of romantic love on children.

There’s an old wives tale about marriage and Valentine’s Day. It says if a woman sees a robin fly overhead on Valentine’s Day, it means she’ll marry a sailor. If she sees a sparrow, she’ll marry a poor man and be happy. And if she sees a goldfinch, she’ll marry a millionaire. That means you shouldn’t go outside on Valentine’s Day until you know your birds.

So that’s what grade school teachers can do on Valentine’s Day. Have some punch and cookies, skip the Valentine sentiments and give a lesson on birds. If you’re going to play this adult game of love, you better know what you’re looking for.