February 1999
s m u g
by Steve Hawley


Romantic's Confession

My name's Steve and I love Valentine's day. I've loved it since I was a kid and my enjoyment hasn't waned since. Sure, there were a few shadows and spots on the pink lungs of Valentine's day past, like the time I wanted to impress a girl by discreetly and anonymously giving her a small box of chocolates instead of the traditional Valentine card. Her mental powers should've allowed her to deduce who sent the candy since she would have cards from everyone else BUT me. At that point she would be won over by my craftiness and savoir-faire and we would've been together like snot on suede. It didn't work out this way. Ginny and Gwen, the class gossips, spotted me trying to cram the pink paper-wrapped gift into the official Valentine mailbox. I suffered the accusations, innuendos and catcalls for weeks.

Then there was the year that I forgot about Valentine's day until the last minute and begged my mom to purchase a box of cards for me at 8:00 PM the night before. She declined, and suggested instead that I cut Valentines out of newspaper. I was crushed but I perservered and cut two and a half dozen misshapen newspaper hearts and wrote "Happy Valentine's Day!" on each with El Marko magic markers. The ink bled through the paper nearly as quickly as the hallucination-inducing solvents bled through my frontal lobe. I sheepishly handed them out with my first hangover.

You see, I have a theory. Actually, this time I don't. I do have a lot of theories though, like the one about how orogeny doesn't occur as a result of subduction, but is instead due to the interface of my girlfriend's feet and her Birkenstocks. You have a dictionary. Look the words up yourself.

Some people are afficianados of Sassy Hearts. They covet the chalky, starch-dusted nuggets with trite, sloppily printed phrases of affection and disdain. They savor gradually dissolving the craggy cakes of sugar firmly lodged on the surface of their molars. I bear no ill-will to the NECCO company or their products, but to Sweet Hearts I say, "NO WAY".

Others are connoisseurs of the Valentine cards that have die cut slots for inserting a lollypop. These cards were usually printed in such a way that some kind of cute animal appears to be holding the candy. I put my nose in the air at these cards. I am a purist and am not subject to the influences of celophane-and-sugar gimmickry. I only say this because I was insanely jealous of the kids whose moms bought these cards and the attendant bag of lollipops, but little kids are always jealous of each other. It's their way.

My true love is for the cardboard boxes full of Valentine cards that are single rectangular cards, with a corresponding set of cheap white envelopes. All of you know them well. You split the sides of the envelopes open trying to get the cards inside. There are fewer precut cards in the box than advertised because you cut those cards out from the box yourself. You discovered that the glue serves one purpose: to glue your tongue to your lips or the roof of your mouth, since it doesn't do a thing to paper. Who can forget the razor's edge of the lip of the envelope? How many of us have said something to the effect of, "Goo mawnin Mithith Thillipth. Heuh ah aw th cadth for the clath. Happy Valentith Day!"

The cards are divided into several genres that may overlap: girl cards, boy cards, cartoon cards, cute animal cards, fad cards, product placement/tie-in cards, and non-romantic Valentines. The latter have become my favorite, and I now go out of my way to purchase Valentine's Day cards which have as little to do with romance and love as possible. In recent years my purchases have included "Classic Monster Movie Valentines", "Free Wheelin' Valentines (your favorite extreme sports on wheels!)", and "San Francisco 49er Valentines". These are clearly targeted directly at boys who are still in the girls-are-icky-but-I'm-afraid-of-being-called-gay demographic. I give them to my co-workers, usually anonymously.

I address them in crayon with my left hand (I'm right handed), because there is no other way. The reactions are uniformly positive, but are uniformly diverse as well. Some people explode in excitement, others blush in drippy nostalgia, and others are knocked off their normally staid axis in rapt puzzlement. The true joy is indeed in the giving, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Won't you be mine?

Steve Hawley is a romantic sap (in a very butch kind of way), routinely accused of having too much time on his hands.



in the junk drawer:

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