Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The ghosts of Valentine's past

Let me take you back to a time in my life that was almost as tragic as it was hilarious.

Back in elementary school I was not a catch. I was no one's dream girl. I never had a valentine.

I was that girl who sat in the back of the class chuckling and having slap fights with my best friend. And if she happened to be absent from class for a day, then I was that girl who sat in the back of the class being a nerdy chubster and reading The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes. Life was unkind to me, but it was mostly because I chose to be a happy otherworldly weirdo.

But one day, several years before the intense-level-of-awkward time of my life, I decided I'd try to be a normal girl and flirt with a boy I liked. The truth is I'd had crushes every year since I was a preschooler. To this day I can name off most (if not every single one) of my childhood crushes. So when I was six I thought it would be worthwhile to make it known to my crush that I liked him.

Flirting is not my forte. This is true now and it was true back in first grade. So my version of letting a guy know I liked him was by leaving him a love letter. A probably poorly written love letter with a photo of myself attached.

I never heard back.

At the time I don't remember being incredibly broken up about this. I think I just forgot about him a few weeks later because after I stealthily left my little hand written note in his desk, I cannot recall ever having any other thoughts to him or the status of the letter or the condition of my photo (i.e. whether it had been thrown away or not).

Nearly a decade later and I saw Mr. Neverheardfrom (A name derived from Old English, methinks) again in high school. The adorable seven year old boy with slicked back blonde hair (like his parents wanted him to play one of the T-Birds from Grease or something) had become clinically obese and had the air of a socially awkward misguided frat boy who let himself go. Let's just say I was glad I had gotten over that one back in first grade.

In fourth grade I started to like a brand new boy and I'm pretty sure he was also the boy that every other girl in my class liked (though my perception might have been skewed).

Fast forward a few months into the school year and Valentine's Day is coming up. Our teacher has us decorate bags or boxes at home to have our schoolmates drop our valentines in during our card exchange.

Happy Valentine's Day, Bart Simpson Loser!
That year I bought the most stellar pack of Harry Potter valentines. It was 2002 and The Sorcerer's Stone had just come out the year before so I clearly felt like the coolest kid in class with an almost holographic set of cards featuring Harry, Ron and Hermione.

Since I'd found the best valentines in the store, I realized this was my moment to let my crush know I liked him. But still being my awkward stealth self, I decided to be coy about my feelings for him and hope that he'd understand my implied interest if I gave him the best card in my valentine collection (disregarding the fact that there were at least four or five copies of each card and therefore it was illogical to think he would realize I was singling him out with the best type).

So I wrote his name under "To" and mine under "From," and placed it carefully in his valentine bag, hoping he might get the thickly veiled hint.

Needless to say, he didn't figure it out. And what's worse, my return valentine from this boy - who I believed at the time was the love of my life - was one of the least girly and least heartfelt cards I received that year. Bart Simpson. I love The Simpsons as much as the next person, but when you're a little nine year old hoping that your crush gives you a fantastical valentine that speaks of his undying love for you, you at least hope that it might have Lisa or Maggie or some other cutesy character on it.

A few years down the road I looked up Bart Simpson Loser (his birth name, believe it or not) on Facebook and found out he was dating a girl from my high school who I had taken a few classes with and subsequently discovered was one of the most disturbingly ditzy people I'd ever met. So I guess I just wasn't his type. Luckily I'd already come to terms with that after fourth grade.

So yeah, I lived the first decade or so of my life being the oddball. And yes, I went on through high school without knowing if anyone liked me back because 1. I never made a sincere in-person effort to find out and 2. The one time someone did allegedly like me, the prospect freaked me out. But at least in those early years I tried, however ridiculously, to let the boys I fancied know I was interested.

If I could go back in time and give the little me a high five for putting herself out there, I would do it in a heartbeat. And I'd probably hug her too. Childhood crushes may have been the trials of my past, but in a way they prepared me for the disappointment and, alternatively, the excitement of the future.

Valentine's Day may never turn out the way you expect, but at least in my case it's always interesting.

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