Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure it was supposed to be Christmas that was all about the children. Valentine’s Day, surely, is about the following: making single people feel desolate; charging couples a mint to go out for a multi-course dinner where they dare not express any loving emotion lest it feel too forced; allowing stalkers who send anonymous letters to feel socially acceptable for one day of the year.
It’s not like I’m a fan or anything. But until we moved over here I did, at least, think Valentine’s Day was strictly for grown ups – or at least teenagers – and about the momentous decision of whether to send a card, and if so, to whom?
Witnessing the Stateside kiddification of V-Day, I decided to borrow a library book to clear things up. Evanston library has a whole bay of books for children on this specific subject. Things to Make and Do for Valentine’s Day explains: ‘on Valentine’s Day we tell people how much we like them’, and suggests ‘make the same card for all your friends!’ Really? This seems to be the convention at any rate: kids make Valentine’s cards – or cookies or cakes. (Check out the list of child Valentine crafts on this blog for a small sample.) Then they go to school, send everyone in the class a card in a specially orchestrated postal distribution thing, before they all, presumably, collapse in a haze of glitter and pink fizz. (But for a darker view, see here.) If they aren’t old enough for that, they simply dress up in clothes covered in hearts or a red tutu – as witnessed at this morning’s Wiggleworms class.
In fact, this has gone so far that yesterday Time Out Chicago Kids proposed something of a perfect storm of nausea by requesting that you send a Valentine’s card to a sick child in hospital. Because what could be less meaningful than sending a pre-formatted electronic expression of your love to a child you have never, ever met?
Now, I know I wouldn’t find all this depressing if I weren’t, at heart, both a curmudgeon and a romantic. I’m pretty sure I don’t believe that love is all you need. My faint dislike for pink increases every time I look at clothes for little girls and can find nothing else. But more than that, I like the idea that a Valentine means something: that it expresses a true romantic feeling, a little bit tortured, a little bit dangerous. I don’t want toddlers to feel tortured – least of all, the ones in Lurie Children’s Hospital. I just don’t want to see them playing with those dangerous pink hearts.