I used to dislike Valentine's Day.
It started in grade school. In the early years, every kid in the class was required to give a valentine to every other kid, a "no one gets left out" approach. Although boys still considered girls officially icky, that was a public stance. I had crushes on certain girls even then, but I would rather die than admit it. I'm fairly certain that other boys in my class felt the same. Anyway, all you had to do was get a big box of assorted valentines and make sure that you had one for each kid. Easy enough, right?
It would have been, if I had indiscriminately grabbed a valentine out of the box, shoved it in an envelope, and wrote a name on it. Yet my love of drawing, graphics and color compelled me to look at each design. There were some that I really liked, some that were OK, and some that I thought were terrible. I tried to sort them, so I could give my favorite designs to my friends, while keeping the very best for the girls I had crushes on. It never worked out right, and I would drive myself insane, sorting and re-sorting. As if it mattered -- no one ever got a prize for "the most artistic distribution of assorted valentines."
I went to an all-boys Catholic high school in the city. When I was a freshman, my girlfriend attended the local public high school. A mutual friend suggested it would be a smooth move to have flowers delivered to her school on Valentine's Day, and she could help me arrange it through their high school. She called that night, and asked me what color flowers I wanted to send, explaining that different colors carried different connotations. All I remember was that red meant love. I really liked my girlfriend, but I was 14 years old. I didn't feel comfortable with public professions of love, so I chose a different color. That was pretty much the end of that relationship.
It didn't get much easier as an adult. If I didn't have anyone on Valentine's Day, I always felt terrible. If I did have someone, I usually felt terrible anyway. In my experience, the reality never matches the expectations, like a mini New Year's Eve in the middle of February. I never had this problem with anniversaries, but I find universally planned romanticism to be a flawed concept.
Over 10 years ago, my dislike of Valentine's Day grew to hatred.
This had nothing to do with a relationship, but my job. I worked for a company that is sometimes called a print finisher or converter. Our customers were printers, and we would receive printed sheets and convert them into final product. We got some overflow work from one of the major greeting card companies, and one year I was the project manager for their entire line of Valentine's cards.
Due to the lead times needed to get everything produced and shipped to all the retail stores, I was working on this project in the middle of summer. There were over a hundred different designs. I had to order and keep track of all the different components, like different colors of shiny foils, fake rhinestones, glitter, ribbons and bows. I had boxes and boxes of product to keep track of, and inevitably we'd end up a few pieces short of this piece or that, causing last minute re-orders for lavender foil or pink rhinestones from Indonesia. I remember spending a few lunch hours driving around to local craft stores, looking for little fake silk bows. Good times.
Most of the effects we could do in house, but some had to be sent out. One such effect was glitter. After it was applied, the cards would return for us to fold and package. I remember a machine-operator getting accused of being at a strip club by his wife, after he came home with glitter all over his clothes. How romantic!
The worst was something called "flocking." Basically, it produces a raised, fuzzy effect -- I believe that's how GI Joe's "life-like beard" was produced back in the day. Anyway, one over-sized card had a flocked heart covering the front panel. I got called out into the shop and yelled at by the Plant Manager. He'd first point his finger at the high speed die cutter, a million dollar machine, now completely covered in pink flocking dust, and then back at me - what fun!
Currently, I am single and relieved, but I'd like to start dating again. So if you're out there somewhere Doris (a generic name to indicate a future romance, devised by my college roommate), don't be surprised to receive a hand-drawn, plain Valentine's Day card -- in August.