What was the worst Valentine’s Day you were forced to experience? I’ll go first: THE WORST I was in Fifth Grade and the class project for February was to create a “Valentine’s Day Train” where we each would create our own “coal car” out of colored construction paper so everyone in the class could put valentines in our hopper.

The train cars were taped together and placed on an oval railroad track in the middle of the classroom. Our teacher created a giant engine with a bigger hopper than ours for the bigger cards she expected us to make her.

At the age of 10 you would go to the store, buy a giant bag of valentines, write the person’s name on the card where it said “Name Here: ____________” and you were done. Everyone bought the same cards. Everyone wrote a name. That was it. There was no heartfelt feeling. There was no joy in the process.

It was a forced penmanship exercise. When the school day was over we all grabbed our coal cars, took them home, and dumped the entire thing in the trash unread. I decided to create one special card for one special young woman in my class even though I had never spoken to her and she did not know I was alive. Her blonde hair glowed. Her blue eyes pierced you from across the room.

I purchased a Hallmark card for $2.00 at the local drugstore and I decorated the envelope with special red foil hearts and I drew several Cupids with bow and arrows on the inside of the card. I wrote my true feelings of love and of a divine future together and I signed my name
— in cursive! — to make it perfectly clear to her I was of serious intent. I was able to enter the classroom early and I forced my giant card into her coal car without anyone seeing me.

If I had been caught in the act of expressing my love I would never have lived down the day. When class started, we all lined up and traveled around the train in a circle and dropped our cards in the appropriate cars. Then my heartfelt day became a heart attack in progress. When the young woman saw my card sitting in her coal car, she broke protocol and pulled it out to look at it in front of everyone.

All the boys in the class booed her and all the girls cheered her. I became dazed and confused. She took the envelope and played with it back-and-forth in her hands as she made the light reflect on and off the foil hearts. “This must be from Mark!” She squealed and bounced the red foil light reflection into his eyes.

All the other girls squealed with her. Mark, dim, but attractive, I suppose, in a horsy kind of way, squinted away the reflecting red foil in his eyes and immediately defended his manhood and rightly said, “I didn’t give you that.” All the guys took turns winking at him and groaning and punching him in the arm.

“Oh, I think you did!” The girls screamed again as she dangled the valentine in front of Mark’s nose. “Why don’t you open it and find out?” Mark said, glaring at her while continuing to take punches to the back of his head and gut. “Only if you insist!” Before I could shout “Noooooo! You’re violaaaating protocolllll…” she dramatically, and in slow motion, ripped open the valentine and the glitter hearts I stuffed inside the card cascaded out and floated in the air like a fiery snowfall from the depths of Fifth Grade Hell.

She yanked the card from its sleeve with great flourish and the pop-up of two lovers kissing became erect in front of her as all the girls in the class crowded around her to read the card out loud in unison. It was then my vision slowly began to dim. My ears closed. The blood left my head. I leaned on a desk to keep me semi-upright on rubbery legs. I remember the girls crying and the boys pointing at me and guffawing. The young woman I adored cried out, “Nooo, not HIM!”

A great tidal wave of hatred and heartache I had unwittingly created cascaded over me as I stumbled my legs into a run from the room. I faintly heard Mark and his gang thundering behind me. I tumbled into the hallway and down the stairs with Mark yelling… “That’s MY girl! MY GIRL!”… and I was running and running and running… I didn’t go back to class for a week. Fifth grade memories and love affairs are notoriously intense, but brief, and my valentine card quickly became the ridiculous old news of the year as new love blossomed and old loves died on the vine.

I was ultimately able to brush it off with the class by explaining it as a practical joke gone awry. The young woman I adored never spoke to me or pierced my direction again with her eyes. I, of course, would never forget the embarrassment still ringing in my ears today. I still cannot understand how I so wholly miscalculated the interpretation of the card along with the lack of sensing a two-way reciprocity in adoration.

The fact that, for some reason, the entire Fifth Grade class moved on to the Sixth Grade together with the same teacher — always a bad idea
— meant I had to relive the event a year later in the second coming of “The Valentine’s Day Train.”

THE BEST I wasn’t planning on sharing the best Valentine’s Day Ever with you — because they’re never as interesting as the worst — but the best happened five minutes ago when Janna gave me my gift of a bleeding-red t-shirt with the following written across it in scripts from antiquity in the color of bone:

LOYALTY
vertve
temperance
Honor
NOBILITY

With her thoughtful gift she put her finger on all the major pressure points that pulse through this blog every day. What a wonderful and appropriate memento of Passion and Magnitude as well as intent and purpose.

I guess I better go find some fresh-cut flowers to anonymously put in her coal car.

19 Comments

  1. My worst Valentine’s Day would have to be that of 1997. My then girlfriend had just broken up with me a few days beforehand, and on the day itself I presented her with the card I had gotten her for the day. About an hour or so later I went to ask her something and I saw the card was in the trash.
    Yep, that was a fun day. Lots of crying then.

  2. Hmmm, not sure about the worst since I try to avoid this holiday, but you did remind me of my 5th grade Valentine’s Day party. I got special chocolates from a boy I liked, he too snuck it in before everyone else was there. This time the like was reciprocated. Of course he denied giving it to me, but I knew 🙂

  3. Hi Susan!
    Thank you for sharing your worst Valentine’s Day memory with us here and I welcome you as a first-time commenter!
    The Fifth Grade seems to be a watershed grade between platonic relationships and the expression of deeper attractive emotion.

  4. Although I have to say, David, your experience is more embarrassing than the note with the “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” boxes! 😀
    Seems like almost everyone has sent one of those notes in their lifetimes!

  5. There was always something bad about Valentine’s Day as an elementary and middle school student. I never had anyone shoot me down in front of the class, but I also never took the risk of showing my true emotions for a crush until I was older.
    I remember a guy in high school was spotted in the hallway with a dozen red roses for his beloved. All the guys that saw him gave him a rough time. Deep down, I think they were all jealous that they weren’t giving Valentines to anyone.
    I had a bad “Sweetest Day” experience when I was in law school. I thought I’d be different and bake some cookies for someone I was interested in getting to know better.
    Law school is just like high school — small classes and we even had lockers. Before the day was out, people were all talking and gossiping.
    It pretty much ruined any chance that I might have had at the point. I had hung out with her going to bars and studying before Sweetest Day, but there was always an unspoken “let’s just be friends” vibe about her. I crossed some line with the cookies. Maybe it was being too “wussy” as some dating gurus suggest. Maybe she was just interested in being friends.
    Of course, most 20-something guys always take “let’s just be friends” as “get out of my life and never bother me again!”
    After that, I pretty much kept my distance thinking that if she was interested, she’d get in touch with me. Of course, the year ended without any more contact with her besides the routine things that occur when people are in school.
    She ended up going away for a semester overseas in some program during my second year, so I pretty much forgot about her. All strong school romances seem to fade as semesters come and go — the Christmas holidays or summer vacations seem to erase all of the old and allow a new beginning. Sometimes, crushes seem to fade in a matter of days as someone else catches ones eye.
    She came back for the third year and by that time, I figured I’d never really have anything more to do with her, besides being a classmate.
    One day, I found a note from her on my bike which was parked behind the school. She said she wanted to still be friends and had written her phone number on the note.
    I was stupid and full of myself at that time.
    I had a personal rule that a woman only had one chance and if she rejected me once (and saying “let’s just be friends” counted as rejection in my mind), then she’d never get a second chance to do it again.
    I felt good that she had left me a note, but I invoked my personal rule even though one part of me wanted to try to kindle the flames of romance. I ended up throwing the note away and never did reach out to her again. It was my pride that told me to never put myself in a position to be rejected again by the same woman.
    Sometimes, I wonder what might have happened if I would have called her …

  6. Hi Chris!
    Gosh, what a great, well-written story! Thank you for sharing it with us here.
    I admire your ability to peel yourself open.
    Knowing you now, I don’t think you’d be so cold to throw away the obvious attempt at reconciliation: Sometimes time apart makes the heart grow fonder!
    😀
    You are right that young men are jealous of other young men who take a chance at the open expression of deeply held inner emotions. The pioneers always get the worst of it, though!

  7. It’s too bad we don’t get 10 times to re-do things from our youth after having time to learn and gain some wisdom from our life experiences. I bet the world would be a better place.
    If I had to do it over again, I would have called and accepted being friends, if that was all that it was meant to be. I was being self-centered at the time by not wanting to reconcile.
    A big part of growing up is being able to focus on others, instead of just ourselves.

  8. Chris —
    Yes, being able to go back and have a mulligan or two over the course of our lives would likely make the world a better place.
    That’s probably why so much fantasy and science fiction in the entertainment world centers on the idea of time travel and reversing the past in order to re-envision the future.
    I’m sure if you had made that call you would have been more than friends with her – because she left you in that position, right? Why would she risk re-connecting with you unless her intentions were hoping to take her beyond the status quo in her mind?

  9. And, of course, my pride blocked me from possibly having what I wanted at the time …
    But, if if something had developed with her, my life might not been what it is now since I probably wouldn’t have been able to date the woman who would become me wife.
    The “Prime Directive” probably applies here — do not do anything to change the past because it could have serious ramifications on the future.

  10. The Worst Valentines Day Ever.
    My worst Valentines Day had to be Febuary, 14th 2007, when my boyfriend made me so mad. First prior to Valentines Day, I thought long and hard on what to get him. He mentioned that he wanted to get a massage several times in the past. I researched local spas was driving around the day before Valentines day, during a tornado watch looking for the perfect spa package. When I found the right spa I purchased a spa package for 2, a card and a cookie cake. I decided to surprise him so I left it on the table. The next day he was happy about his gift. He said he made plans to take me out to dinner that night. That evening I saw him preparing to go to the gym, so I stopped him on the way out, and asked him about dinner. He was like oh yeah are you ready to eat now. I was so mad because we were driving around town for several hours trying to find a place to eat since he made no plans and everything was booked solid. We finally found somewhere to eat and things were starting to look up as we shared a romantic dinner out of pure luck. When we got home he was playing around in the draw as he untangles old costume jewelry that he clamed he purchased at the store for me. He put this three dollar necklace on my neck. I thanked him as I tried to hold back the giggles. About an hour had passed and I was watching TV in the bed room. I noticed that he was not in the room so I went down stairs to see what was going on ,as I got closer to the stairs I noticed that I could hear him whispering on the phone, After several minutes . I realized he was talking on the phone with other women. I quickly confronted him while he was on the phone. We have not talked since.