By Laurie Frost
This Valentine”s Day is monumental. This is the 21st time that Feb. 14 has rolled around without having someone to take me out to dinner.
Granted, more than half of those years don”t really count because elementary school was the golden age of Valentine”s Day gift giving. There was no discrimination then. The boys handed out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles valentines with “Cowabunga!” and “You”re better than pizza!” on them. Girls handed out Barbie or princess valentines with some rendition of “You”re great, Valentine!” printed on the inside.
This whole contraption was a little too complex for kids. Every valentine was sealed with a corresponding sticker of some kind, which was about the size of a pinhead. Yet this itty-bitty sticker had to fold over both free ends to get the valentine to stick together. This, for little kid fingers, was a nigh-impossible feat. That”s why I always stuck with the envelope.
The envelope had its advantages, as my mom was quick to point out. The envelope valentines came in a sheet of about a million, which ended up being cheaper in the long run than the sticker-sealed kinds.
However, it meant that I was handing out the same valentines for several years in a row. This posed a problem because my tiny-town class of 30 kids never really changed, clear up through high school. The problem of the standard valentine then called for some quick thinking.
My solution was the same as every elementary school kids” in the nation: I threw in a handful of Conversation Hearts.
For all of you who don”t know, Conversation Hearts are those little heart-shaped candies with sayings like “Be Mine” printed on one side. These were the perfect medium of communication for an elementary school kid, because at age 9, you”d rather die a painful death than tell your crush that you actually liked them. Instead, you put the “Love U” heart in the envelope of the kid you liked and hope they noticed. (You always saved the “Fax Me” hearts for the kid you didn”t like.)
Conversation Hearts are one of those obligatory parts of American candy culture, kind of like circus peanuts or those paraffin-and-peanut butter chews that circulate around Halloween time. Conversation Hearts also taste exactly like you poured Kool-Aid mix over a piece of chalk and took a bite. In that way, I guess they”re kind of like Tums, but cheaper and less tasty. (Yeah, why has nobody thought of making Conversation Tums? They could say things like, “Tum over” and “Can”t Stomach U.”)
But Conversation Hearts hold a sort of mystery for Americans. No one knows where they came from, what they”re made of, or why we”re still eating them.
I, with the help of my friend Ben, have constructed a flavor code for Conversation Hearts for your convenience:
Orange: circus peanut/sofa cushion
Yellow: something vaguely citrus
White: sidewalk chalk
Just so there are no nasty surprises on Valentine”s Day. Believe me, you”ll thank me later.
Now, in the 21st year of my singledom, I”m going back to the basics. The days of chasing boys around the playground may be over, but that doesn”t mean I should spend Valentine”s Day nursing a tube of Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough and burning effigies. This year my friends and I are exchanging valentines in letterboxes constructed of shoeboxes and construction paper.
I say we bring back the golden age of Valentine”s Day, the era of cupcakes and cartoon-y valentines and indiscriminate gift giving. I dare you to celebrate Valentine”s Day like a kid again.
And keep those Conversation Hearts going around. You never know when you”ll run out of Tums.