Another reason to hate Valentine’s Day…and Swedish fish

Over 20 years ago, I started wearing black to protest Valentine’s Day and the commercialism that went with it. I wasn’t being noble, I was just angry and bitter because I was single. But a tradition was born that day and I’ve continued it ever since, more to honor my amazing friends and the love they gave me way back when and the love I still have for them.

My husband and I don’t celebrate the “holiday,” although some years we have gone out to eat because any excuse to eat out is fantastic. We’ve given little treats to our son some years, too, again because it’s a good excuse to do so. But this year we were looking forward to doing absolutely nothing on Valentine’s Day. The weather forecast was predicting a *very* cold day here in Maine (wind chills of -30 degrees) so the plan was to stay home all weekend and do as little as possible.

On Friday, my son had a Valentine’s Day party at school. They always exchange the little cards you can buy at the store or homemade cards or whatever. There’s usually extra goodies for everyone, too. But there is also something called “candy grams” that are sold by the PTA. Now, I personally love these things. It’s a great little fundraiser for the PTA and it’s an easy little gift to give to my boy’s teacher and bus driver. Each year I ask him who he’d like to give a candy gram to. In the past, I’ve always twisted his arm and told him he’d be sending one to his teacher and bus driver, but apparently that already sunk in because he mentioned those two people first off. (Yay for my brainwashing, I mean parenting skills!)  Then he rattled off a few of his buddies’ names, wrote very formal messages on them, which I found hilarious (“Thank you for being such a good friend. I really appreciate it”), and called it good.

Here is where I screwed up.

When my boy got home on Friday afternoon, one of the first things he said was, “No one likes me, Mom.” He wasn’t crying, but he was matter of fact with a dash of melancholy thrown in. I told him that was untrue but why did he think no one liked him? “Because every single person got Swedish fish, except for me!”

Oh man, Swedish fish. Had I known the candy gram was Swedish fish, I probably would have bought one for my son. Why? Because Swedish fish is our crack, people. We LOVE this stuff. How these stupid, red, gummy fish can taste so yummy, I just don’t know. When I was a teenager, I worked in a video store where we sold Swedish fish (the small ones–which are WAY tastier) as penny candy. My friend, Ang, and I, had to eat at least $100 worth of these things while we worked there. And now I’ve apparently passed on my addiction to these little gems to my son.



I reassured my boy that not every single person got a candy gram. He went on to describe the many places he saw the fish (classroom, hallway, lunch room, bus) then actually said, “Mom, why didn’t YOU buy me a candy gram?”

Oh, shit.

We ended up having a discussion about why I hate Valentine’s Day and how I don’t need one day to tell people I love them, because I tell them every day. And I reassured my son that he does have friends and people do like him, but maybe not everyone has the money to buy candy grams or maybe they feel exactly the way I do. Either way, don’t worry about the candy gram. And then I promised we’d buy him Swedish fish if he would pinky swear to give me some. So he did, and my husband bought the fish and my son and I gleefully ate them.

Is there a lesson in here somewhere? Besides the fact that I really need to give up Swedish fish? Or that I shouldn’t buy my son candy? Well, neither of those things are going to happen, so let’s see if there’s anything else I can learn.

One thing I kept thinking about today was, “Is this how people who don’t celebrate Christmas feel in December?” It feels kind of shitty. We say we want to be outsiders because we think it’s cool and it sounds awesome. But it doesn’t feel very awesome. It can feel very cold and lonely.

Does that mean I’ll conform and go back to buying chocolates and flowers for my honey? Or wear red on this day of love? Ummm…no. But it does make me empathize with those that always seem to be outside looking in. It sucks out there.

So come on inside and get warm. I don’t care what you’re wearing, what color you are or what you believe.

But if you have a craving for Swedish fish, we may have to wrestle for it.