clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Don't be mine

It didn't seem funny at the time.

On Valentine's Day 1985, I found a red envelope with hearts on my desk. Anxious, with that "somebody likes me" feeling, I opened the envelope to find rocks and dirt.I felt worse than those little heart candies taste. The humiliation intensified when I saw a couple of my schoolmates laughing at me from across the room.

Valentine's Day. It's the day that kids learn how popular they are among their classmates. When I was in elementary school during the early '80s, some kids who liked me would drop a card in my box. The classmates who didn't would walk by - or leave cards with not-so-nice notes.

Nowadays for Valentine's Day, most teachers require students to give a card to everybody in the class. It's a mandate that has kids thinking up creative ways to express their feelings.

Chase Larsen, 11, and his classmates in Mary Olpin's fifth-grade class at Canyon View Elementary, 3050 E. 7800 South, seem to have the system figured out.

"We have to give everybody a Valentine," Chase said. "I give my friends a lot of candy, like big Snickers and stuff. I give the kids I don't like not as many."

Tucker White, 11, plans to give Valentines to all his classmates, but that doesn't mean the cards will carry the same meaning.

"I put more thought into the gifts to people I like and I throw in a lot of extra candy," he said.

The jabs kids take at each other through Cupid on Valentine's Day beat up on self-images and leave huge mental scars that can take a lifetime to overcome. . . . Well, not really.

I hadn't thought about the rocks and dirt since the sixth grade until I sat at the computer to write this story.

The holiday actually doesn't pose much of a threat to the kids' self-esteem, says William Jenson, a professor in the University of Utah's educational psychology department.

"Poor self-esteem is like a toxin," he said. "It builds up over many years and comes from many different sources of information that's negative. Just ending up with a lean Valentine's box is not going to damage you forever."

Poor academic or athletic performances are among the causes of self-esteem problems, Jenson says. Some children lack basic social skills that come naturally to some, so they are shunned by peers.

Despite some tarnished feelings, most kids still have a good time with Valentine's Day.

Arial Larsen, 10, has plans for a boy in her class whom she has a crush on.

"I don't want a big relationship or anything, but I do like somebody," Arial said. "I'm going to send him a card that says, `Be Mine.' I'm shy so I'm going to try not to let him know who it's from."

Fifth-grader John Clifford just wants the candy.

"I don't like the `Be Mine' part of it. I don't want to be anybody's," he said. "I'm only 10. At that age it would be sickening."