When Valentine's Day was cruel

February 14, 2012

Is this just a made-up memory or did Valentine’s Day in elementary school used to be a much crueler affair?

Today, my son brought 20 valentine cards to school to give to the 20 other kids in his class. He’ll come home tonight with 20 valentines from them, and, when he’s not looking, we will throw them out.

There’s no angst, no mystery, no tears — just love. Or a boring facsimile of it. For elementary school kids, that’s probably a good thing.

But I remember The Valentine’s Day Wall in our 1970s and 1980s classrooms. We’d each tape our big valentine-card-collecting envelope to the wall and hope and pray classmates deemed us worthy of their valentines.

In other words, teachers (and parents) essentially said, “OK, kids, go give tangible approval to kids you think are cool and feel free to skip the ones you think aren’t!”

If you got only a handful of valentines, tough luck, kiddo. If the girl or boy you desperately loved skipped over you, well, get used to it.

How the hell was this allowed?

Was there a paper shortage back then? Had child psychologists not been invented? What was going on?

And how and when did it get fixed?

Was there the elementary school equivalent of Major League Baseball watching one too many players get hospitalized by a bean ball before someone said, “Hey, I know! How about helmets?”

There are a lot of areas in which we can lament today’s overprotectiveness of kids.

And to be sure, elementary school Valentine’s Day celebrations today have eliminated not just the tears but also the moments of unimaginable joy. (I still get a boost of confidence visualizing the moment in third grade that The Girl I Loved dropped a valentine’s card in my envelope.)

But adjusting a day guaranteed to leave half (or more) of America’s kids feeling lousy about themselves . . . well, that seems like a good call.

IN OTHER NEWS ...

This photo comforts me.

---

The next Interview Show -- our four-year anniversary -- is Friday, Feb. 17, at The Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia), at 6:30 p.m. Guests include WBEZ's Steve Edwards, Hot Doug's Doug Sohn, the Portable Models, Soup & Bread's Martha Bayne and DePaul "embedded sociologist" and filmmaker Greg Scott. More info here