At the risk of being branded a Valentine Grinch, I must take issue with opinions expressed recently in the Winnipeg Sun.
Writer Shelley Cook tried to contrast Valentine’s Day as experienced by adults and by children. She saw the holiday as complicated and anxiety-producing for grown-ups, and wished it could be converted to the innocent fun, fun, fun that kids experience on the day.
My own experience puts a lie to the idyllic vision of childhood.
In Miss Bunch’s fifth-grade class, one particular girl gave me a Valentine with a handwritten “I love you” message. True, I had dabbled with an unrequited crush or two in my day, but this level of commitment caught me off guard. I saw my entire future life flash before my eyes: meeting the parents; splurging on expensive prom corsages; stomaching ugly bridesmaid dresses; assuming a backbreaking mortgage; herding bratty kids; arguing over whose family to spend the holidays with; buying cemetery plots; letting a mooching brother-in-law camp out on the sofa, etc.
Luckily, I did some research and learned that the tender-hearted lass had handwritten “I love you” on EVERYONE’S card. I was greatly relieved, although in retrospect, maybe it was some sort of hippie “free love” communal invitation I was too dense to pick up on. It was 1971, after all.
Kids have even more reasons to be stressed out nowadays, what with Valentine’s Day having to coexist with dysfunctional families, custody battles, climate change, identity theft, vulgar videos, early puberty, confusion over which gender bathroom to run to for a good cry, etcetera.
It’s enough that youngsters have to bear the guilt of perpetuating a politically incorrect holiday honoring a Christian SAINT. I understand that the traditional invitation is gradually being changed to either “Be my holiday” or “Be my agnostic studmuffin.”
Overscheduling of extracurricular activities takes its toll. (“Do you like me? Check yes or -- hold on! I’ll have to finish this questionnaire after ballet class and karate and violin practice and...”)
The nation’s childhood obesity epidemic leads to some disheartening ditties. (“I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug part of the way around your neck...”)
Don’t even get me started on the trauma of making it past a school metal detector only to be told by a gun-wielding policeman, “That’s right, dirtbag --- lay that card of Dan Cupid with his high-capacity bow and arrows on the floor - slowly, slowly...”
The nation’s teachers (bless ‘em) have tried their best to make Valentine’s Day bearable by stipulating that EVERYONE gets a Valentine card or candy, so no one feels left out or unappreciated. I just hope this esteem-building level playing field doesn’t leave the kids with unreasonable expectations later in life. (“My senator didn’t get around to communicating during his first three terms, but I just know that any day now he’ll call me at my janitor station and meet with ME for a weekend at the country club to hear my wish list.”)
I hope my readers of all ages will have the best Valentine’s Day possible. I won’t be able to buy anything expensive for my wife or son because I had to put up bail money when my hypothetical brother-in-law beat up Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend. *Sigh*
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”.