I do not know one person who really likes Valentine’s Day (well, except for one — the guy I’m married to; more on that in Part III). The most common comment — and you’ve heard it/said it, too, with varying tones of bitterness: “It’s such a Hallmark holiday.”
When I was in grade school, I was the tallest person in my class in grades one through six. Well, except for Rick Hidd*. He was both taller and thinner than I, and he was a redhead to boot (I was a redhead as a child — well, auburn-head. Now I have to get my color out of a box).
About the time that the idea boys had cooties was starting to phase out in my peer group (between grades four and six), I started getting teased about being Rich’s ‘girlfriend’. Because we looked so much alike, natch. (Grade schoolers are not known for their discerning intellects.) Quite to the contrary, I harbored a crush on Rich’s best friend, Dave Boore, who, fortunately for me, had had a growth spurt in 5th grade, so was now taller than I was.
Let me also add here: I was not a looker in grade school. I know that everyone talks about how awkward the teen years are, but for me? Grade school was the pits. I got glasses in second grade and braces in fifth. I was tall and skinny to the point of emaciation. To this day I look at pictures of me as a 12-year-old and wonder how Social Services was not called to my home. Because it truly looked like I was being starved.
In sixth grade, it finally happened: Rick walked up to me after class. If memory serves (and, admittedly in my case, it may not — N, feel free to correct any details in the comments), it was after Social Studies (dear Lord, remember Social Studies?). He was blushing like crazy, and on a tall pale redhead, this is not an enhancement. He looked like a sunburned stork.
“I have a question,” I think he said. I stood there with my glasses and my braces and I could not breathe.
“Uh, Dave wants to know if you’ll go with him.”
What? Who? Go with?
Was I about to have a boyfriend?
“Okay,” I’m sure I stammered. Out of the corner of my eye, I realized that Dave was actually standing there, behind and to the side of Rick. “I mean, sure. I’ll go with him.”
Who knows what actually transpired? (N probably does.) ‘Going with’ seemed to mean a lot of sweaty hand holding and note passing and stupid grins across classrooms. Remember when ‘copping a feel’ meant squeezing your boyfriend’s hand? Was I naive or what? Innocent, I guess you would say. Or I would. I don’t even recall if Dave and I ate lunch together. I know we did not kiss, because I recall my first kiss. It was not with Dave, and it was not in grade school. It was exceedingly sloppy with a lot more tongue than I thought should be involved.
Shoot ahead a few … months? I don’t remember exchanging Christmas gifts or birthday gifts with Dave, so it may have been mere weeks. Although in the horror I am about to reveal, any other gift giving would have been burned out of my memory.
On February 14, 1983? 1984? (You would think the date of this final humiliation would be seared into my brain. It may be, but I can’t see my brain.), I was scheduled to get my braces off. After a year, I would finally be free! And I had a boyfriend! It was going to be perfect. I would turn into the beautiful swan (with really, really smooth teeth).
I know I bought Dave a card — my first Valentine’s Day card for a male not related to me! And I would be getting a card, too. I agonized over a gift, and settled on a little heart-shaped box of chocolates. Everyone likes chocolate.
My orthodontist appointment was early in the day. I was looking forward to math class, because that would be the first time I would see Dave. (Hmm, Dave Boore may also be the reason I am so bad at math… mmmm, probably not.)
I walked up to him and gave him the card. “H—” I started.
He looked uncomfortable. “Oh, listen, I wanted to talk to you.”
This is probably not how this was supposed to go.
“I just think we shouldn’t go with each other any more.”
What? Who? Who the heck breaks up with someone on Valentine’s Day? Especially a girl who just got her braces off?
“Oh, well,” I stuttered. “Okay. Well, that’s a card. You can keep it.”
I probably gave the chocolates to N.
* Names have been changed to protect the innocent — and the guilty.