Playing Right Card on Valentine’s Day

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Posted Mon, Feb 18, 2013

You can’t get a better snapshot of growing up or of samples of society than through the lens of a few Valentine’s Days.V-Day $100 bill

I still hate considering a day of love,and consumerism in the same breath, especially as that consumerism depended on my scrubbing, mowing, edging or begging for money, but that’s a large part of Valentine’s Day.

Grade school was egalitarian. Everyone had to give everyone else a card. Whether you were a guy or girl, you could expect as many X-Men themed cards as you could Barbie themed cards. There was a sense of satisfaction in hearing a gruff “Dude, these cards are cool,” but a greater one in hearing a single sweet-voiced “Thank you, Stephen.”

Guys received guy cards: Wolverine saying something trite while slicing through a sentinel’s sparking head.

Girls received girl cards: Storm saying something overly dramatic that ended in “Happy Valentine’s Day” because what else was she going to say?  A few girls received the Gambit card because what could a girl find cooler than a suave guy who could blow stuff up and speak a little French?

The workings of a real relationship may as well have been French to me as a 7-year-old kid. But I was smitten by the idea of doing stuff for a girl, and that girl liking the stuff I did. I could only hope that was preparation enough for Plato’s playground: middle school.

While grade school was a take-a-card, leave-a-card democracy, middle school was a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately meritocracy. For those three years, Valentine’s Day cards were out.

“Did you make the baseball team?” a girl might ask, or “Did you win your wrestling weight division?” “Why, yes, ma’am. I did.” These were the new cards to give and to play by.

Another new card was a date to the Valentine’s Day dance. Granted, a date meant walking from homeroom to the all-purpose auditorium/cafeteria/dance floor together. This was followed by some odd repulsion that drew guys into chuckling, roughhousing groups of the “fellas” and girls into giggling, smiling groups of the “ladies,” but it was a show. An irritated disc jockey, our favorite music and a disco ball that all seemed to be going to waste, eventually brought us all together, as did high school.

But it was a jungle, where money cut a path to recognition.

Administrators and teachers transformed from watchmen to salesmen. For $10 you could buy your Valentine a basket worth $5. For $15 you could have a basket worth $10 delivered across the hall. For $25 you could have six classmates surprise your sweetheart with a serenade during class.

Cards were back in, for real for some, ironically for others.

Dances were full-fledged with prices, tickets and semi-formal dress codes.

My goals, my date’s and our respective parents’ were worlds apart. I could play the Storm card, but that usually backfires. I took a few years of Spanish, so I played the Gambit card.

About Stephen Young

Stephen Young is currently a student studying writing at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. He believes that writing is torture, but still does it for some reason.

View all posts by Stephen Young

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