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Wednesday, 20 February 2008 00:00

Valentine's Day, often, is about survival

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By David Curtis

Whew ... I survived another Valentine’s Day. That is a big accomplishment if you are a man, a man who’s married with teenage daughters.

I did OK. I was out of town the week before, and I had the time and opportunity to stop and shop for what I needed. Technically, I don’t think you can call it shopping. Men really don’t shop — we are more like “getters.”

Here’s my take on it, and you guys tell me if it is right. If a man knows what he wants, has a mental picture of the perfect item in his mind, and then goes to a store that carries that item and buys it, he’s not really shopping, he’s going to that store to “get” what he needs.

Shop, or shopping, if one looks up the definition in the dictionary, is a verb and it means: to examine goods or services with intent to buy, or: to probe a market in search of the best buy. I’m sorry Mr. Webster, but I don’t probe, unless it is into the personal lives of my teenage daughters, but to probe at a market — no. I am a “getter,” not a shopper.

I need a hammer. Lowes has hammers. I drive to Lowes, enter the store, turn right past the returns desk, walk past checkout, turn right again and walk into tool world, hammers are hanging on the wall display in front of me. Grab hammer off the display rack and retrace my steps back to nearest checkout with shortest line, pay for hammer and leave the store. Drive home with purchase thankful I did not have to probe anything.

That’s how men shop, sorry, I mean we don’t shop, we “get.” We are getters. Don’t send us to the grocery store and tell us to, “look around and pick up something nice for supper,” we will only look as far as the potato chips and the beer cooler. If you are brave enough to send us to the store, you better be smart enough to pin a grocery list on our jacket with specific instructions to not buy anything that is not on the list.

I knew what I wanted to get my wife and daughters, and I pretty much knew where I would find it. In about the same amount of time it took me to find a parking place, I was in and out of several stores with three thoughtful gifts and three tasteful Valentine’s Day cards.

Thoughtful is important, wives can see right through a gift that was bought with little to no forethought put into it — it must be meaningful. Sorry guys — a hammer from Lowes is not meaningful. Teenage daughters are not fooled easily as well. As for Valentine’s Day cards, it’s getting harder and harder to find decent cards any more. Cards that are not stupid, or sappy, or indecent are hard to find, frankly I think middle school students could do a better job:

“Roses are red, Violets are blue. I love chicken ring things, Ketchup, and YOU!”

“Be my lunch buddy, my study partner, my Valentine.

I will warm your toes when you wear flip-flops in 20-degree weather.

I will text you love notes and then visit you in detention when you

Are caught checking your cell phone in math.

I will love you forever ... or at least until next week ...

Your friend Tiffany and I are talking.”

Valentine’s Day is not always a day of love. I was reminded of the not so pleasant affects of Valentine’s Day this past Thursday. After a long day of Valentine celebration — candy grams, paper hearts, sugary sweets, and even a class or two thrown in for good measure — it was my good fortune to have second load, which means I was watching a couple dozen sugar loaded students careening around like June bugs on energy drinks waiting for their bus ride home.

One little boy was sitting quietly off to the side, which is not normal for a middle school boy to sit quietly, so I walked over to check on him to make sure he was all right. I knelt down and asked if he was OK. The flu was going around and I wanted to make sure wasn’t feeling bad, or if something wasn’t bothering him.

He looked up at me and I could see that his eyes were red like he may have been crying, and he said four words that broke my heart. “I hate Valentine’s Day.” \Just like that I could feel the same hurt was he was feeling. It’s just not a day of love and paper hearts and candy; it’s more complex than that to a seventh-grader.

It’s a day of being accepted by your peers, a day just to be liked and not picked on, a day not to be shunned at lunch or told to move by a popular kid, a day just once to be told you’re special — but like every other day, it doesn’t happen.

I knew exactly what this young boy was feeling. I couldn’t just tell him it would get better, being 13 is tough and kids can be mean. Or don’t sweat the girl stuff, worry about that when you get older. Or hey, it’s not important what they think; you’ll be all right. I turned out OK, you will too.

The only thing I could do was to pat him on the shoulder and say, “I hear ya buddy, I hear ya.” So I sat with him in silence a few minutes and then he got up and went off to play. The only good thing about being 13 is that things don’t bother you long.

(David Curtis teaches middle school in Haywood County.)

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