This article appeared on Tuesday 2/14 in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
We’re grown-ups now, but we still remember our elementary school Valentine’s Day parties, when we would sit at our desks and anxiously await the distribution of cards from a shoe box wrapped in red foil. If we were lucky, we would get a handmade one with a Pixy Stix taped to the envelope. But, oh, the embarrassment if anyone’s pile of valentines looked skimpy.
We know a man who, decades later, is still grateful that his cousin was in his class, because that meant he could always count on receiving at least one valentine. Contrast such sad stories with that of the popular girl, who would hold out her armful of valentines and ask loudly, “Does anyone have a bag?”
The era of political correctness had dawned by the late 1990s, when our children were instructed to bring a valentine for everyone in their elementary school classes. As parents who suffer from PTVS (post-traumatic valentine syndrome), we were in favor of this policy. But it didn’t stop our kids from going through their package of Rugrats-themed valentines and addressing the “stupid ones” to the classmates they didn’t like.
More recently, in an effort to fight childhood obesity, a local school sent a letter home advising that school parties would offer healthy snacks. That apparently means that cupcakes with pink icing and candy conversation hearts will be replaced by hummus and baby carrots. How much fun is that?
We’re long past the days of exchanging valentines with classmates, but we still appreciate snail-mail cards from our husbands. That’s because we’re old. The other day, we glanced down the card aisle at the drugstore, and every single person browsing was a senior citizen. (We’re not that old.)
But if only old fogies send paper cards, what do the young people do on Valentine’s Day? (And we don’t mean the obvious.)
E-cards are tempting. We especially like the one with the canine gondolier singing “That’s Amore.” But an e-card would arrive on our beloved’s computer screen alongside Viagra ads and Groupon offers. And to our generation, e-cards just seem too easy. It’s hard to ignore our mothers’ voices in our heads: “You couldn’t go to the store and buy a $3.99 card? You don’t know how to get a stamp at the post office?”
We could post our romantic sentiments on Facebook, but then our 284 “friends” would know that our husbands’ nicknames are Snookums and Snuggle Bunny. Our kids would cringe and unfriend us. And we’d never get rid of the targeted ads for Snuggie blankets and rabbit hutches.
Then there’s Twitter. In 2010, the venerable candy maker Necco introduced two new phrases on its conversation hearts: “Tweet me” and “Text me.” But we are women who love to talk, and writers who hate to count our words. Had Elizabeth Barrett Browning been forced to transmit her most famous love poem via Twitter, it would come out like this:
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight for”
For what? We would never know, because while Browning was busy counting the ways she loved her beau, Twitter would be counting the characters, and her sonnet is 481 characters over the limit.
After considering the alternatives, we’re sticking with the tried and true – old-fashioned paper greeting cards – even though they require a little more effort. We will stand in that aisle with the seniors, reading and rejecting cards until we find the one that says it just right.
Then we’ll each whip up a heart-shaped chocolate cake and present the card to the guy we’ve been married to for years. And we’d both be happy to see him come home with flowers and chocolates, because we’re old-fashioned that way.