Holiday isn#039;t about candy, flowers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Friday is Valentine's Day.

A holiday, for me, that progressed from construction paper hearts and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle valentines, to loneliness and cynicism.

Elementary students are probably gearing up for Friday by pasting pink and red hearts on white lunch bags to hold candy and cards.

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In grade school, each student received a list of classmates so no one would be left out.

I remember going through the list and making sure I gave the Valentines with the least-mushy verse to the people I was not friends with. When distributing candy hearts, I was careful not to put the ones with "True Love" or "U R Mine" in anyone's Valentine I didn't like.

Otherwise, the result could be mortifying.

I received a Valentine with a candy heart that said "Kiss Me" from a boy one year. The girls in my class were convinced that signaled a secret crush.

But that fun ritual began to die out in sixth grade when our teacher said you did not have to give out Valentines, but if you did, you had to give them to everyone in the class. Many students (especially the boys) didn't participate and some only gave out Valentines to their friends anyway.

In junior high and high school, I never had a boyfriend on Valentine's Day, so any Valentines were from family members or friends. (Which, of course, I didn't mind. Chocolate is chocolate, right?)

But feeling left out of the romance of this holiday reached its peak in high school.

The high school office received so many flower deliveries that day that it set up a table in the middle of the commons area to accommodate them all.

During class, students received notes from the office telling them to pick up the flowers that had been delivered to them.

Lovestruck girls made their way to table and picked up the roses or bouquets their boyfriends had sent them, while the rest of us singles looked on.

Of course, on the outside, I scoffed at the whole holiday. My other single friends and I rolled our eyes at the display and agreed the holiday was just a way for card companies and florists to make an extra buck during the winter.

But really, I wished I could, just one year, be one of the girls picking up a red rose from that table on Valentine's Day.

I was overjoyed when, one year, the holiday landed on a Saturday.

My freshman year of college was the first time I had a boyfriend on Valentine's Day. I received a dozen red roses that night and finally felt a part of the holiday.

I've had a boyfriend for Valentine's Day since, but I still think people make too big a deal of it.

It's strange how a day to honor a saint turned into a frenzy of red and pink, tacky stuffed animals and over-priced roses.

There is not much about the holiday that seems genuine -- except for the time you spend with your significant other. My boyfriend and I will probably have dinner and watch a movie and maybe exchange boxes of chocolates.

But I would enjoy that no matter if it were a holiday or not.

In some ways I'm glad Valentine's Day was so depressing for me in high school. I remember a high school friend of mine being upset because she received a yellow rose instead of red from her boyfriend at Valentine's Day.

I thought that was ridiculous. At least he had remembered, at least she had someone to share the day with.

Perhaps I would have acted just as silly about Valentine's Day if I didn't experience a few lonely ones. Whether lack of maturity or perspective, my friend was expecting too much from one holiday.

Celebrating Valentine's Day is fine. I truly appreciate the candy and cards I get from friends and family.

But there's no reason to make it more important than any other day you spend with the ones you love.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at