When I was young, I had fun cutting paper hearts from red and pink paper then decorating them with lace doilies.
The great years for me were when Valentine’s Day simply meant decorating cards for my friends, everyone got a Valentine from everyone else in the class, there was a class party and everyone ate cupcakes together.
I remember those elementary school days fondly—decorating a box to save my valentines in, pouring over them again and again, but by the awkward early days of middle school, when only the favorites got cards, Valentine’s Day became an exclusionary holiday, I was left on the outside looking in.
By high school, February 14th was a horrible reminder of what was missing in my life, what the popular girls had that I didn’t.
I didn’t have a perfect body nor did I have an adoring boyfriend. I was not one of the cheerleader-types who spent the whole day carrying around flowers and boxes of chocolate. If I got a Valentine, it was from a friend who felt sorry for me (or at least that’s the way I perceived it).
Later in life, Valentine’s Day simply became a commercial holiday that served to throw my shortcomings in my face. For years I somehow thought something magical would happen and it never did.
Even when I found the love of my life, the man I eventually married, Valentine’s Day was still a disappointment—like we were supposed to prove something to each other by spending money.
Even now that I’m 50 years old and I feel like I’ve got it handled, Valentine’s Day still makes me feel like an awkward teenager—perpetually inadequate.
There’s something tragic about having to demonstrate one’s love with material objects on a specific day where everyone watches. I always feel like my relationship of 30 years is being judged by others.
Fortunately my partner and I decided many years ago that we would not bend to this holiday. He knows I love him every single day. We both choose when and where to show and share our love. We do not need to announce it to the world; but somehow every year this rant builds up inside of me and this year I simply decided to write it down.
As a High School teacher, I can tell you that the High School world hasn’t changed. Every year when flowers are delivered to my classroom, only two or three girls receive flowers—and at least one of them receives multiple flowers.
This year however, it’s going to be different. I’m going to plan ahead.
I’m going to talk to my classes about the hurtful parts of this holiday of love and we are going to plan our own party and create our own fun. We’re going to decorate my classroom and make cards for everyone.
We’re going to acknowledge all the different ways love manifests itself and dispel the myth of perfect love.
We’re going to have so much fun that when the flowers are delivered for only one or two kids in the class, we’ll laugh and it’ll be no big deal.
I invite you to do the same this year.
Forget about big love. Forget about perfect love and forget about happily ever after.
Let’s make Valentines for our friends and our co-workers, our children and our mentors. Let’s buy flowers for our neighbors.
Let’s steal back this commercialized holiday and make it as joyful as it was when we were children.
For me that means bright construction paper, scissors and glue, with a box of crayons by my side.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Pameladell Hillestad
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock