February 14, Valentine’s day, the day when you give that special someone a token of your appreciation and affection, and then hopefully, the good deed reciprocated later on in the day. In school, it was tradition that all the students in each class would buy Valentine cards and give one of those cards to each student once signed. My first experiences of social dynamics took place during this event as I quickly learned that several problems existed with this unilateral giving of Valentine cards. First, Valentine cards are for those who are special to you. When you leave school and embark into the real world, the cards become a means of advertising to other potential partners your interest of romantic desires of them. Also, for those who are committed, today is a means of reinforcing affection to the partner with traditional tokens such as roses and chocolates. Second, during those early days of life at primary school the Valentine’s cards became a means of gauging your popularity. The unilateral giving meant that everyone in the class received a card, but not each card was equal, so you could gauge your level of merit by the quality of cards collected in total. Most of us, the girls were given the brightest cards with words endowed with hints of affection, while you gave the boys less affectionate cards; however, those who were deemed unpopular were given the less desirable cards regardless of your gender. Yes, even sexism was well endowed in each of us at that age.
I always looked back at those days with fondness because we were so Innocent and believed in the basic need for giving and receiving. As we got older, the complexities of love changed; and so to did the value of the what Valentine’s day represented; and along with it too, the cards themselves. The card is replaced with a box of chocolates and some roses. Some say that passing a secret note to that person of desire is the equivalent of cupid’s arrow, and today is the day you get the chance to pluck the bow and hope your arrow hits its mark. Yet for others this day could spell misfortune if the proper or expected response has not been made, or worse yet–you totally forgot–ouch!
I know from talking to my sisters, for them, receiving a Valentine’s card meant great happiness and promiscuity wrapped in mystery and romance as they scan the faces of boys they knew as to see who the admirer is without exposing their interest. I remember during high school watching the older girls shriek with joy as they found a hidden note placed inside their lockers. One woman I knew had a poster sized Valentine’s card folded neatly and inserted into her locker, and I remember seeing ten to twelve women huddled in a circle around it as they inspected the document for its authenticity. From what I can remember, she never found who that someone was?
So happy Valentine’s day. May everyone find that special someone, or at least have the courage to secretly send them a card with a picture of cupid and his little arrows that says, “Be my Valentine.”