Thursday, February 9, 2012

Do you suffer from Valentine's Day Panic?

Valentine’s Day is the holiday each year I look forward to with the least fondness. I am sure this is from the years in elementary school where teachers had each student write a valentine for every other student in the class. This frustrated me for two reasons.

First, I had, and still have, the world’s worst penmanship. Being a left-handed male has doomed me to smudged and wriggly letters. All through elementary school, I struggled with writing. The mention of an essay sent me into a panic. For those of you who have more youth than age, a bit of clarification. There was no internet, no personal computers, and no printers. The only way I could type was using a typewriter and if I made a mistake, I had to use ‘white-out’ to cover it and type over it. When I did type and with the amount of typo’s I made, I kept a 5-gallon bucket of latex white semi-gloss next to the desk and dipped a small paintbrush into it to fix my errors.

I always paired writing with penmanship. My difficulty in writing legibly caused me panic that generalized to not only forming neat letters, but gave me great anxiety when faced with stitching words together to make sentences and stacking sentences together into paragraphs. There are times when I sit at the computer and type meaningless, random letters, just to see how neat and tidy they appear on the screen. I want to cheer at this technological marvel that takes my words and makes them neat and orderly. There are even times I am filled with such joy at the orderly characters I publish those in my blog.

The second frustration of my elementary school Valentine’s Day memories is that I always seemed to have been left off another student’s list. Every year another student or two would seem to neglect to give me a little card with a heart, or superhero, and a shining example of their perfect penmanship. I am sure that some of those cards were simply overlooked as students checked names off those unending lists, or some that were dropped from paper bags as they were carried into school. I have a deep-seated suspicion that some were deliberately and malevolently unsent. As a child, I found this deeply and profoundly troubling and hurtful. However, now that I am an adult I see things differently and wish those former classmates no ill will. I used to think that deliberately leaving my valentine unsent was the beginning of a downward spiral eventually leading to a lifelong incarceration in a federal penitentiary. I now realize that those children probably grew up to be normal, healthy adults, with wonderfully fulfilling careers as convenience store cashiers or TSA agents.

It has been a few years since elementary school and the number of people on my Valentine’s list has shrunk. I buy a card for my wife and some small tokens of affection for my daughters. Those small tokens usually involve sugar and cocoa. The act of buying a cardhowever, still stirs a sense of panic , but I no longer fret over my penmanship. My wife seems to be able to recognize my scrawl; at least enough to know it was I who signed her card.

I would give cards to my daughters, but they make fun of my handwriting. I once wrote a note asking them to switch the laundry and they assumed I wanted them to send it to Switzerland. I did not want my shirts in Europe, I wanted them in the dryer. It is for this reason I have scratched them off my Valentine’s card list.

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