The Ups and Downs of a High School Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2019 · CLASSMATES FUN

When you were a teenager, there was one day of the year that had the potential to be awesome or horrible – to be filled with anxiety or heartache or disappointment or heart-bursting joy.

Of course, we’re talking about Valentine’s Day. And how the day unfolded for you could depend on a number of factors…

Happy loving couples

At the top of the list, of course, was whether or not you were actually in a relationship. The day seemed to be made just for happy high school couples. If you were one of the lucky ones, you could look forward to a surprise gift (often a teddy bear and candy) and a romantic evening. Perfection!

But if you were without a romantic partner, you had to endure the sight of lockers decorated with hearts and even more public displays of affection than usual. This didn’t phase some people, but for others, it could be a little hard to take.

My mom’s gotta drop us off

Of course, having a romantic night out to look forward to was still no guarantee that all would go well. You could have everything planned out (pick up your date at 6pm for dinner at your favorite Italian restaurant), and then you’d get the bad news: “Your sister’s ride to tap practice fell through. I’m sorry, but I’m going to be needing the car tonight.”

And then came the “upside”: But I’d be happy to drive you two to the restaurant. I can pick you up afterwards, too!”

Oh boy.

Breaking up is hard to do

The worst thing that could happen on Valentine’s Day was a break-up. ESPECIALLY if it was during school.

And it was bad no matter who initiated it. If you were the one breaking things off, you could have a host of feelings jumbling up your insides: sadness, guilt, anger, resignation, dread. You had to decide when and how to break the bad news and hope that the fallout wasn’t too horrible (especially since you were choosing pretty much the worst time for this). And you’d be getting glares and comments from your ex’s friends for the rest of the day.

If you were the one getting dumped, on the other hand – well, you could hardly wait until the final bell rang. It was almost impossible to concentrate on history or math when your heart was broken. And keeping your emotions under control could be a challenge. At least you had your friends for support.

Secret crushes

Some of the most intriguing Valentine’s Days could happen when you weren’t in a relationship at all. When there was someone you had your eye on (and you weren’t sure how they felt about you).

Maybe you’d been admiring them from afar for a while, exchanging smiles in the hallway and trying to get up the nerve to start a conversation. Or maybe a friend had recently told you that she knew that they had a crush on you. Ooh, exciting!

So the day was full of possibilities. Should you write them a note? Or send them a candygram? It was risky to put yourself out there, but what did you really have to lose?

And, depending on the situation, you might have hope that they were planning to send you something. As the school day progressed, the waiting could be both exciting and anxiety-inducing…

About those candygrams…

There was usually some club at school that raised money by selling Valentine’s Day greetings (flowers, boxes of those candy conversation hearts, chocolates). The actual offering usually wasn’t that exciting – maybe a single red carnation and a photocopied card.

But the fact that they were available for purchase sure raised a lot of expectations.

The soundtrack of your day

The tunes that you woke up to could set the tone for your day at school. Maybe you were unattached and had fairly neutral feelings about Valentine’s Day. But whether your clock radio was playing “Walking on Sunshine,” “All By Myself,” or “True” could sometimes make a difference in your mood (especially if you were subject to earworms!).

Of course, if you had a Walkman (or other portable music device), you could control your mood by listening to songs between classes, whether that meant punk, new wave, rap, or bubblegum pop. You just had to make sure not to run out of batteries!

Those embarrassing moments

Being a teen meant living in constant fear of doing something embarrassing. And when you had the high stakes of Valentine’s Day to contend with, the pressure was that much higher not to mess up. But that was sometimes easier said than done.

Misspelling your girlfriend’s name in her Valentine’s card. Tripping and spilling the contents of your lunch tray on your crush in the cafeteria. Walking around all day with toilet paper trailing from your shoe. Accidentally putting romantic decorations on the wrong locker. Getting tongue-tied when you suddenly came face-to-face with the guy you’d been secretly lusting after.

The possibilities for humiliation sometimes seemed endless. (Fortunately, decades later, you’re probably the only one who remembers.)

Friends are the best

The happiest Valentine’s Days were often those spent with your friends. Nothing fancy. And no stress. You didn’t have to worry about dressing up or saying the right things or showing up with a romantic gift. Junk food, bad movies, and silly conversation were the order of the day.



What are your favorite Valentine’s Day memories from when you were in high school?