Valentine’s Day in childhood is a lot like Facebook birthdays. In a gathering of kids – school, day care, church class – the adults in the room usually initiate a Valentine’s Day project. It begins with a shoe box; each kid rounds up a shoe box and decorates it however they like, and then cut a slot into the top. This becomes your valentine box. You and every other kid then sign and address valentines to all the other kids in the class, even the ones you don’t like. On Valentine’s Day, each child would distribute valentines to everyone’s shoe box.
It seems like a simple enough exercise — something different for the youngsters — but it’s fraught with danger. What if someone left out a kid accidentally? Or deliberately? You know how kids are — yeah, just like adults, except without the subterfuge.
I was pretty good at elementary school Valentine’s Days. I enjoyed decorating my box, probably because I liked the glue.
And you’d wind up with a valentine for every kid, which would make one feel good in the same way that birthday wishes from scores of people on Facebook create the illusion that all those folks remembered. We ignore the reality that Facebook alerts users to the birthdays of friends, and the teachers made us give a valentine to every kid, even the one who hit you with a dirt clod on the playground at recess that day.
Adulthood Valentine’s Day is another story altogether. I’ve struggled with it. Do you give a card? Do you give gifts? Are there rules, guidelines, or instructions? It depends.
If you’re looking for guidance from Madison Avenue, then unless you’re pairing a diamond tennis bracelet with champagne, caviar, and chocolate dipped strawberries, you’re doing it wrong. Seems like a Hallmark holiday, but its roots go far, far back to a couple of religious martyrs named Valentine, and evolved from there.
I don’t know that I am an expert on anything, but I do have some experience with what not to do on Valentine’s Day.
For instance, your significant other might desire or even have a pressing need for a power tool.
That doesn’t mean they want it as a Valentine’s Day present.
I was very proud the year I turned up for Valentine’s with the latest model of Black & Decker cordless drill with a keyless chuck. It showed that I had been listening when she said she’d like to have a drill.
She was gracious, but her response was subdued.
“I thought I heard you say you wanted one,” I protested.
“I do,” she replied. “Just not for Valentine’s Day.”
These days, we may have organically returned to the origins of Valentine’s Day, at least the martyrdom aspect. We’re planning to celebrate with a Valentine’s Day dinner. We were working out the menu, which is usually easy. For “special” meals, she loves seafood while I lean toward beef.
“I thought I’d go by and get some crab cakes.” I said. I envisioned sautéed crab cakes with rice pilaf and asparagus.
“I figured we’d have steaks,” she said.
It’s not quite The Gift of the Magi, but the same idea. She would forego her favorite for mine, and vice-versa. If that’s not at the heart of Valentine’s Day, I don’t know what is.
The likely result for the weekend is win-win. Crab cakes one night, steaks the next.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle and can be reached at email@example.com or 334-712-7901. Support the work of Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.