my valentine lesson
[The blogosphere exit poll will stay up today (see here) - if you haven't voted you have until about 8m tonight to do so.]
Fourth grade, circa 1972. I fit all the criteria of being one of those kids. I had no real friends to speak of. My nose was always buried in a book. My mother dressed me funny. So it was no surprise that every February, I would be unofficially crowned Least Likely to Get A Valentine. You get used to these things after a while, so it didn't phase me as much as my tormenters hoped it would.
Remember, this is back in the day when self-esteem issues had yet to seep their way into the school curriculum. We still played dodge ball and called the Russian kid a commie (Turns out he wasn't really Russian, he was Polish). So, when Valentine's Day rolled around, there were no guidelines sent home by the school administrators imploring parents to have their children hand out a card to everyone in the class or noone. It was every outcast for himself.
I had a plan, though. I was going to take a stand for myself that year. I wasn't going to give out cards.
See, I learned my lesson in third grade. That year, it became painfully obvious that no one wanted a card from me. I found at least five of my carefully decorated valentines in the garbage on the way out of the classroom that day. Two of them weren't even opened. As is my standard operating procedure, I was more pissed off than upset.
Fourth grade would not be the same, I vowed to myself. I remembered the third grade incident clearly, so I took the pre-packaged cards my mother had made me fill out for my classmates and threw them in a garbage can on my way to school. I'll show them. They may be able to make fun of me for getting no cards, but I'll be dammed if I'm going to let them ridicule me for asking my sworn enemies to be my Valentine!
I spent the morning feel smug and superior to the rest of the kids. I had finally figured out a way to show them I didn't care about them. Certainly not enough to hand out some crappy Hallmark heart with a goofy sentiment and sparkles that got all over your dress.
I waited patiently for the moment of truth. We made mailboxes out of construction paper and cardboard and put them on our desks. We were supposed to decorate them for the holiday. Susan and Patricia drew hearts and flowers on theirs. I took a black crayon and drew a stick figure on fire. Well, that's what it was supposed to be. The teacher thought it was some kind of morse code.
Finally, the time arrived. Mrs. M. instructed everyone to take out their valentines, walk around the class, and deposit the cards in the proper mailboxes. Everyone scurried about. I sat at my desk. Mrs. M. kept looking at me, surely wondering why I wasn't getting up. I couldn't wait for her to come over and ask me. I'd finally get my say. Me, the girl known as "Mousy" because she very rarely spoke, would let go with a torrent of anger and pain that had been building up since Kindergarten. I am not giving out any Valentine cards because no one ever gives them to me and I think that's pretty rotten. So the hell with you all! I am not going to give you the chance to humiliate me by throwing my cards in the garbage pail! Mwahahahahah! Well, that's what I had planned on saying.
And then it happened. I learned the meaning of irony. For, one by one, the kids in the class came over to my crude mailbox and deposited Valentine cards. Susan. Cynthia. Ray. All the cool kids and the not so cool kids. Every single one of them. I had been tricked by fate!
Was I pleased at this turn of events? Did I feel shame for what I had done? Embarassed? Not at all. I was pissed. Obviously, Mrs. M. had instructed them to give me cards. Not only did Mrs. M's efforts ruin my planned soliloquy, but it further alienated me from my classmates and gave them new fodder for their rule against me.
They say what does not kill you makes you stronger. Tis true. Not only stronger, but wiser and a hell of a lot more evil.
Two months later, I had to bring in an Italian dessert for our Heritage Pride day. My grandmother helped me bake cookies that looked something like this. After taking them from my grandmother's house, I made a quick stop at my neighbor's gate. I took the plastic wrap off the tray of cookies and held the platter out for Thumper the German Shepherd. He licked those cookies good. I put the cover back on the tray and brought the cookies to school the next day, gladly sharing with my classmates.
Hey, it's not the ultimate revenge, but it was pretty clever - and satisfying - for a fourth grader.