The way Mrs. Stevens handled this day was to first ask the boys to put their heads down while the girls skipped around the room, depositing white envelopes on desks. Then it was our turn. I’m pretty sure I made little flowers out of the i’s and l’s on the names of the boys I liked or the girls who were my friends. It was okay for a girl to openly give another girl a card. Because in grammar school, Valentine’s Day was more about friendships. I don’t, however, remember boys giving other boys cards. Historically, and at all ages, we are certainly more enlightened.
Case in point, and the reason I remember Mrs. Stevens’ 4th-grade Valentine’s Day in more detail, is because this is the year I lifted my head to find a card with my name spelled out with little hairs sprouting from each letter. I was, er, particularly hirsute as a child, and one of the boys not only had the audacity to craft this cruel cursive attack, but sign his name as well.
I STILL HATE YOU, MARC TEITELMAN.
I digress. Until last year, those little Valentine’s Day cutout cards had been my only measure of popularity, until Facebook. Listen, this isn’t my first day on earth. I know a lot of friend-ing is about collecting, about self-esteem and self-satisfaction. Most of my Fb friends have more than 500 pals while I remained at a woeful 189, which I was okay with until two weeks ago when I saw my number drop…by one.
I scrolled up and down my list, studying it with the same intensity needed to find a dropped earring back. And then I made the ugly discovery: The woman who’s been dating our best friend was gone. I hadn’t responded with enough sympathy, it seems, when she needed to vent about their relationship. And her response was to cut me off cyberly. I made up that word.
It was worse than not putting a card on my desk; it was as if she’d lain one down, re-evaluated me, then snatched it back. I masked my hurt in incredulity then mockery. “She’s acting like a child,” I complained to my husband the other night. It took a nanosecond to realize the irony.
She and I are always going to be nine years old. I imagine we’re in good company. It was a time when we were discovering how our peers perceived and judged us. Something we still consider – and some of us worry about – day to day. It’s a big suitcase we never unpack. However, I no longer have to figure out creative ways to hide the area between the tops of my knee socks and the bottom of my hem.