It’s not a good look to say that Valentine’s Day sort of sucks on Valentine’s Day. It sounds like I’m sitting around sipping on a big glass of Hater-Aid. So, I waited for the day after V-Day to say it sort of sucks. And it does. But not for the obvious reason of my singleness. For the last decade, I have been uncoupled more than I’ve been coupled, so I’ve always done my own thing for Valentine’s Day. Sometimes I’ll catch an early movie, or have dinner with another single friend. I don’t give much thought to V-Day except as it relates to my students. V-Day is a big day for middle school students, and that bothers me. How in 7th and 8th grade do my students come to expect the exchange of trinkets and gifts to demonstrate their love and affection for each other?
On Friday, I was driving to work when I saw a young man, small in stature with this gigantic teddy bear! I laughed and I shook my head. He was truly struggling carrying that over-sized stuffed animal. Well, low and behold, when I got to school I found out that it was one of our students carrying the bear. The principal made him leave it in the counselor’s office until the end of the day. She knew that a bear that size would cause disruptions throughout the day. I looked at the bear and I kept thinking, what does it mean?
New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day are the biggest couples holiday, and my middle school students are not old enough to “show their love” on New Year’s Eve, so Valentine’s Day is their day. The boys are out shopping for candy and cards to give to their girlfriends and the girls are waiting for their gifts. This is why Valentine’s Day sucks. There is the expectation the boys will purchase gifts for their girlfriends. What lessons are we teaching our children? Are we telling them that love is bought and sold?
I remember Valentine’s Day as a child. You brought the cutesy Valentine’s Day cards to school and passed them out to your friends. If your parents were feeling especially generous, then they bought you candy to share with our friends. It was sweet for the most part, but there was also a level of meanness because every child didn’t get a card. If you didn’t like so-and-so, he or she didn’t get a Valentine.
One year, maybe first or second grade, every boy in my class gave be a Valentine Day card. And I had a meltdown. I cried because I didn’t like all of the boys in my class, and I thought that by giving me a card, they had to be my boyfriends. The teacher sent a note home, and my mother and I had to have a talk that evening about why the receipt of cards from the boys did not mean that they ALL had to be my boyfriends.
I can laugh today, but I was confused by this idea of “love”. And perhaps it is my own trauma about love that fuels my issues with V-Day and my students. There were boys who caught my attention in junior high, but I didn’t have a boyfriend. It was strictly prohibited, so if a boy had given me a Valentine’s Day gift I would have been trying to figure out how to sneak it in the house, or better yet just leave it at school. In my tenure as a teacher, I have witnessed many V-Days over the years, and it ain't nothing nice sometimes.
When Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday, the girls come to school all dressed up, and the boys come bearing gifts to show their love. And not every girl who has a boyfriend gets a gift. To be among her peers, and not be acknowledged by her beloved is social suicide. I’ve seen a many angry and/or sad girls on Valentine’s Day. I’ve seen boys come bearing gifts only to be rejected. This breaks my heart. What are we teaching our daughters? What are we teaching our sons?
Adults and Valentine’s Day is one thing, but for adolescents whose hormones are out of whack, it can be too much.Why are girls expecting gifts? What are they obliged to give in return? Where are boys supposed to get money from to buy gifts? Call me old-fashioned or whatever you like, but this idea of “love” in middle school makes Valentine’s Day sort of suck.