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Life Minded

When Cupid Misses

Valentine’s Day is a much-maligned holiday these days. It’s criticized for being too commercial, too manufactured, too consumer-focused, too much. I always loved the childhood Valentine swaps, and I like red- and pink-themed clothing and can even choke down some chalky conversation hearts. There are the charming chocolates in faux velvet heart-shaped boxes. The bouquets of expensive roses in the dead of winter. The cards. Again, the chocolate. Plus, America now boasts a National Tortilla Chip Day and a National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Love deserves at least one day of recognition if we are devoting time to celebrating chips and squirrels. 

February 14th, 1987, was one of my favorite Valentine’s. I was a sophomore in high school. And I’ll speak for myself, but high school was a time of intense feelings, obnoxious laughter, a steady diet of cookies and French fries, and boldly exhibiting almost zero common sense. In 1987, my childhood bestie and I sent anonymous Valentines down to the front office at school to the two boys we were fixated on that month. Let’s call them Jeff and Aaron since they are named Jeff and Aaron. 

We waited nervously for their names to be called over the school-wide intercom system, alerting them that they had something to pick up at the front desk. When we heard JEFF and AARON boom out of the speakers, we were beside ourselves with anticipation. At no point did our fifteen-year-old brains consider what a colossal waste of time this was for the school secretary. She was an integral part of our scheme. 

We hatched this brilliant plan to set in motion the most memorable, most romantic, most special Valentine’s Day of all time. We figured these boys would puzzle out that these Valentine’s cards were from us, ask us out (together), profess their undying love, and we’d likely have some sort of awkward double wedding before we even graduated from high school.  

None of that happened.

What did happen was they got the Valentines from the desk. That’s it. They didn’t immediately assume it was us who sent them. They did not magically fall in love with us. They did not track us down through the girl hive at school to uncover our identities. They did not swoon. They did nothing. And because we were fifteen, we were legitimately SURPRISED by this result. 

While devastated, we needed to move to an alternate plan for the evening of the fourteenth now that the double wedding had clearly been postponed. We ended up at the majestic Eden Prairie Center to see the movie Mannequin and then to Rocky Rococo’s to share a heart-shaped pizza. We spent a large majority of dinner poring over the details of our original plan and where it went awry. We landed on “it’s their loss, and we are better off without them.” And while it was not a romantic evening, it was filled with love and absolutely memorable. We are still dear friends. We have been friends for forty-five years now and have probably laughed and cried together over more boys than is reasonable. 

Life lessons in adolescence are often painful but can be valuable in the future. First, never keep love anonymous. No need to waste it. Spend it all. Second, the minds of fifteen-year-olds are a complex and confusing place. Like a funhouse maze with no exits. Teenagers are not mind readers as they are most commonly focused on their own minds. This is actually a very keen insight to be used as a future parent of a teenager. And most importantly, any evening can be salvaged with a good friend, a bizarre movie (a department store employee falls in love with a mannequin who is under an ancient Egyptian spell!?), and hysterical laughter. 

And if all else fails, celebrate the pizza. Pizza does not disappoint. There are ten national days devoted to celebrating pizza, and I bet very few of them end in heartbreak. 

Jen Fortner is a freelance writer who enjoys asking friends and strangers far too many questions. She spends her spare time sitting in inclement weather watching youth sports, traveling, cooking, and searching for the very best baked goods. She lives in Shorewood with her husband, three children and the most spoiled dog.