Let’s shoot Cupid (and I don’t mean with those sissy, love arrows)

The “Bee my Valentine” card was strictly off-limits even if dorky me loved the cute, little bee on the front and the dopey pun. There could be no signs of desperation, no hint of my misguided affection. As such, any cards that could be misconstrued as an elementary-school-strength come-on were prohibited, as were any cards that could be considered some sort of compliment.

What I really needed was a Valentine’s Day card that said “You’re kind of okay. Have a good day.” Unfortunately for me and all of the other 11-year-olds who had stopped thinking the opposite sex was gross but were desperately pretending they hadn’t, children’s Valentine’s Day card manufacturers didn’t cater to the hard-to-get, pre-pubescent set.

I was screwed. Wherever I looked there was mushiness. There was love. There was the promise of a blush-causing embarrassment. There was potential for “Ashley and Ben sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” This was my worst nightmare and it happened every year on February 13 as I sat on the floor of my bedroom debating the selection of Valentine’s Day card recipients with the concentration necessary to disarm a bomb.

In my newly-hormone-addled brain, February 14 was not marked with a big heart but rather with a skull and cross bones. This was dangerous stuff. This was a pre-adolescent, misguided romance minefield.

In truth, it hadn’t always been so bad. Back before the Backstreet Boys taught me that all boys didn’t seem to have cooties, Valentine’s Day was not cause for such alarm. Back then Valentine’s Day was awesome. There was candy. There was craft time. There were games. There was a crisp $20 bill in a card from grandma. What was not to love?

So I spent the first decade of my life a dead-hard Valentine’s Day fanatic. I loved Cupid. I loved that old, dead guy named Valentine. I loved handing out Lisa Frank Valentine’s Day cards to all the boys and girls in my class.

Back then the Valentine’s Day card addressing process had been a snap. I would simply write: “From Ashley” and pass the cards out willy-nilly as the “To” column remained, unashamedly blank. There was no need to strategically address the cards to ensure I didn’t give my crush anything too nice or anything too mean. There were no whispered conversations with my best friends to ensure he “liked-me, liked-me” before bestowing on him the coveted “Bee My Valentine” card.

But just as they warned in the “Our Changing Bodies” video they made us watch, puberty was a bitch and it pretty much ruined everything, including Valentine’s Day. (Granted, I paraphrased there a bit, but not by much.)

Once I stopped thinking that that kid who sat across from me in Mrs. Johnson’s class was gross, I stopped loving Cupid and that dead guy named Valentine. In fact, I kind of started to hate that stupid Cupid, I mean really, were we all just going to ignore the fact he was flying around in a diaper shooting people? A flying, diaper-wearing, arrow-shooting baby was no means for celebration. He was cause for “duck and cover” type maneuvers. I, for one, am not a fan of getting shot by babies, or shot by anyone for that matter.

Now more than a decade later, I’m still not a fan of Mr. Cupid because as it turns out, he doesn’t so much spread joy and love as much as he spreads loneliness, whininess and mass commercialism.

Cupid and I would be mortal enemies were he not immortal and completely fictional. As far as I’m concerned his holiday stinks as much as that diaper probably does. Unfortunately, my hatred of this man’s holiday usually gets me labeled as an unromantic, love-hating cynic. Which is mostly untrue.

I don’t hate love per say but I do hate cliche bouquets of roses, ugly stuffed animals, impersonal Valentine’s Day cards purchased at a gas station and stupid, jewelry commercials that make women look like materialistic morons whose hearts turn to putty if they’re presented with tacky, heart-shaped necklaces.

So call me a cyanic if you must, but a little, tiny part of me still wouldn’t mind a simple Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’s “Cowabunga! You’re My Valentine” card. My 11-year-old self and I can agree on one thing: those cards were awesome.