Nerd Date: Be Your Own Valentine Feb06

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Nerd Date: Be Your Own Valentine

a blogumn by Clark Perry

44407591_96d75842e1Let me tell you about my first girlfriend. Her name was Mandy.

She had a big snaggle-toothed smile, brown hair, brown eyes and lotsa freckles. Mandy was really smart and she liked The Monkees and puppies and lots of other animals.

She was my first Valentine. We were in kindergarten.

I remember the day we swapped valentines. Everybody in my class filled them out before nap-time and left them sitting on our desks. I couldn’t sleep a wink because I knew there was a valentine for Mandy in my stack … but did she have one for me?

I don’t know why I was so scared. We liked sitting next to each other during class. And we almost always ate lunch together and chased each other at recess. Other girls were fun to play with, sure (especially Lisa, who looked like a pretty elf) but I didn’t spend nearly as much time with them as I did Mandy. And Mandy definitely had a preference for me over the other boys in my class.

Everyone had taped little white sacks to their desks, paper-bag mailboxes. After naptime, we wandered around dispensing our valentines. I walked across the room to glumly deliver cards that were only half-sincere. And sure enough, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mandy drop an envelope into my bag. My heart leapt with joy!

But then I saw her give one to Billy Kinser who sat next to me … and Eddie Duncan two seats down … and then Darren Dunne. Darren! Stealer of cookies! Spitter of gum! My mortal enemy! How could she?

The fact that we also swapped them with everyone else in our class didn’t matter. Hers was for me, mine was hers. How did I know I was special? Because into my envelope she had dropped a handful of those little chalky candy hearts emblazoned with declarations of I LUV U and BE MINE.

Billy didn’t get any candy in his, nor did Eddie. Neither did Darren. I chomped those sugary hearts loudly, letting the others know how satisfied I was with life so far.

Sweet pretty Mandy was my girlfriend until second grade when my family moved far away. I remember asking her who she wanted for a boyfriend when I was gone. “I don’t know,” she shrugged sadly. “Maybe Eddie?”

I remember feeling okay with that. Eddie was a good guy. Anybody but Darren!

I wish I could remember more about Mandy because she meant the world to me at the time. Her valentine was the greatest, scariest thing I’d ever experienced.

When I think about how we celebrate Valentine’s Day as adults, I’m struck by how stressed we often get over things. What’s the Perfect Card supposed to say? Where should we go for the Ultimate Romantic Dinner? What if I DO EVERYTHING WRONG?

I’ve been reading the endless articles that come out this time each year on how to have the perfect Valentine’s Day with your special someone. Go out! Cook at home! Play records! Get front-row seats for a concert! Buy this! Consume that! Spend cash you ain’t got or it proves you’re incapable of love!

Ignore them and take this simple advice. Do whatever it takes to make you feel like a kid again. That’s really the most romantic thing about this holiday, when you think about it. Valentine’s Day was, for many of us, the first time we got to safely acknowledge that we liked somebody. Now, we were kids, we had no idea what life was about … but there we were, liking people and hoping they would do the same. And when they did like us back, remember how magical that felt.

That’s what you want to capture for Valentine’s Day. If it means dressing up, renting a limo and reserving a spot at the swankiest restaurant in town, by all means do that. But you might find that you’ll have just as much connection cutting a simple heart out of red construction paper and writing a note to your loved one in crayon. Followed by a carefully hand-made dinner of mac-n-cheese and Jell-o Pudding Pops.

We’re all waiting for someone to drop a little something special into our paper-sack hearts. It doesn’t take much to fill them up.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mandy, wherever you are. When I celebrate this holiday in the proper spirit, it makes me feel like it did when you gave me candy: very lucky and very, very special.

Want more? CLARK PERRY blogs at photo credit: Walsh