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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.]

Lileks is looking for Valentine horror stories (grade school versions) for his Thursday Backence column. I don't know if this is exactly what he's looking for, but here's my story (sad but true).

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.


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it may not be a "real" story, but as far as Valentine's Horror Stories goes, there's only one...

"I choo-choo-choose you!"

somebody'll "get" that...

If we both weren't already married, I'd be a courtin' you Michele. I'm still getting revenge on people from thirty years ago. I like the dog licked cookies thing; not too over the top, but enough to feel good about.

"I choo-choo-choose you!"

Damn...just because he glued his head to his shoulder, eats paste, bent his wookie and becomes a viking upon slumber does not mean he doesn't deserve love!

Worst/Best Valentines Day:

San Diego, CA radio show had a contest for a few years called the Mile of Men. Basically single men line up along a main road in San Diego and women drive up, take down their number and call into the radio station to reserve their date with him(date takes place enmasse at a nice restaurant in Balboa Park...that's San Diego's version of Central). Meat market is a little to kind as it was more like Lord of the Flies dating. Any girl could get any guy provided he wasn't taken. Which resulted in quite a few unhappy guys. You had 21 year old girls joustling with women in their 50's over guys. Trades offered, money chaging hands, I swear one lady even wanted to check my teeth(okay jk)...in short absolute insanity.

So there I was, simultaneously thrilled I was picked and ashamed I had done it in the first place.

Wow- isn't it amazing the things you remember from even back in third/fourth grade?!? Thanks for sharing your story- it was bittersweet and many of us can relate to something similar to that happening to us when we were little.


I love that Simpsons ref.

Heh. Michele, we are soul sisters.

Remind me to tell you my Susan English/bully story one day.

Got her good.

Great, once again I have the same experiences as Meryl and Michele... What worries me is everyone says my five-year old son is just like me. I don't want him to go through the school experience like I did. Any suggestions?

Too bad it has to be grade school. Freshman year in high school was the worst.

My parents had forced me to take Latin as my second language and to raise money for our trip to the Junior Clasical League convention, we had a bake sale and as part of the gig, we also sold "Latin Valentines," which meant you paid a buck, and some poor freshman had to call the person you wanted to woo and sing them "You are My Sunshine," in Latin. People would call it hazing today, but back then it was called tradition. The seniors, who had also done this as freshmen, all worked really hard to oversell the stupid singing valentines. My fifteen classmates and I had to each call about fifty people and sing that stupid song. Fortunately, I've blocked it from my memory. Can't remember it to save my life. Woohoo.

Oh, God, that blew.

my biggest v-day memory is from high school.

the "spirit squad" sold carnations - to be delivered at lunch - as a fundraiser.

I thought a particular fellow had a crush on me, and so I sat there that day with high hopes.

Were they fulfilled? of course not. My friends and I got to sit and watch as another girl across the room got carnation after carnation. And most of the girls got none.

of course, the reason that particular girl got so many carnations, we decided later, was that they were, shall we say, payment for services rendered. (Or at least that's what we told ourselves to make ourselves feel better: "sleep with a guy and he gives you a lousy carnation for it"). But you know, I still felt kind of bad I didn't get a stinkin' flower. Even now, it gripes me just a little...