Monday, February 14, 2011

Newspaper column: Sometimes carnations smell better in the garbage

Although I've always anticipated Valentine's Day on some level because it's a few days away from my birthday, when I think back, more often than not, I shouldn't have.

High school was particularly brutal. I never seemed to be dating anyone in February, unlike the majority of my friends, and my district had an annual fundraiser where students could purchase carnations to be delivered to one another throughout the day with a handwritten note.

The first year, I remember losing sleep fearing I would be the only one in the entire school not to get a carnation from someone. I pictured every girl walking through the hallways with heavy armloads of pink and red -- much like Miss America during her triumphant celebratory saunter after being crowned.

Little did I know the opposite would happen.

During homeroom, I was relieved to find two pink carnations waiting for me on my desk. Sure, one was from my mother, who taught at the school, but no one had to know that but me. The other was from my best friend who I had confided my fear to. I instantly panicked because I hadn't returned the favor, but I knew she'd probably be getting actual roses from her boyfriend, so I figured the scales were even.

The next period, I arrived at my desk to find yet another carnation. This one was from "anonymous," so it immediately spiked my heart rate. How on earth was I supposed to concentrate on algebra after that? The school might have devised a great way to raise money, but I'm guessing someone forgot to factor in the level of distraction it could create for a teenager without a relationship status.

As the day went on, I found more carnations waiting for me at each class. And each time I sank lower and lower into my desk. It appeared that every guy I had ever been nice to in passing decided the dreaded carnation was the best way to ask me out on a date.

The flowers felt like lead weights. I wanted to shred them into pieces, throw them in the trash and run home. They ruined what I thought had been perfectly good casual friendships with guys that I saw throughout my day. Guys I now had to avoid. Pronto.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon ducking into bathrooms, cowering behind friends' lockers, and taking alternate routes. When the final bell rang, I instantly felt the relief wash over me. Who knew a series of shrill beeps could sound like music?

Although I made no mention of the disaster later that night during dinner, preferring instead to assume that ignoring the situation would make it disappear, my mom found the pile of bent carnations in my garbage and inquired.

Apparently I should've burned them to get rid of all the evidence.

So I told her everything. Then she made me call each and every one of them to thank them for the flower and say I'd prefer to remain friends.

It was absolute agony. I hadn't read all of Dante's "Inferno" yet in English class, but I figured his seven rings of hell would be downright pleasant compared to my day.

There was still one silver lining -- the carnation from Mr. Anonymous. But one quick phone call to my best friend to lament about the situation killed that glimmer of hope, too. She said her boyfriend had filled that one out just in case I needed an extra boost, but she figured I'd recognize his handwriting.

A pathetic cherry on top of a disaster Valentine's Day sundae.

Those memories are one of the main reasons I never take for granted being married to my best friend this time of year -- no chocolate, jewelry or carnations required.


Julie said...

Gawd.... I remember that carnation fundraiser. Yay for the old blue -n- gold, ruining a perfectly innocent flower. To this day, I despise carnations.

Anonymous said...

This post is so sweet! Although I'm sure it was dreadful back then, those kinds of memories are probably what make you especially appreciate what you have now.

The Plainsman said...

A fun story to read with the admonition of being careful about what one wishes for, lol! Still, even though you might have not wanted to date all the guys who used the carnation valentine as a pretext to ask you out, on reflection part of you had to feel good that you were not ignored and were in fact, liked, eh? :o)

Enjoy The Day!

Kristin said...

Awww ;|
I'm sorry you've had such unfortunate Valentine's days. I love Valentine's day, I think it's cute.