I Gave Out Valentines — Like, The Old-School Paper Kind — & This Is What Happened

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I know, I know — Valentine's Day's a marketing ploy, an excuse to shame single women, and a gateway to diabetes. But my goodness, I love it! And I tend to go all out. In my current preparation for V-Day, I've acquired heart-shaped cake pans, downloaded several romantic comedies starring Meg Ryan, and I gave out Valentines — like, heart-shaped, handwritten, silly-pick-up-line-sporting Valentines — to both friends and strangers. Which, um, got kind of weird.

For starters, I should note that I'm currently in grad school in London, which is significant for a variety of reasons.

  1. I'm broke — like, aggressively broke — and therefore made my valentines by cutting notebook paper and old magazine pages into heart shapes (points for creativity?).
  2. Valentine's Day, while celebrated, is not as big a deal on this side of the Atlantic. So many of my valentines' recipients had expressions that read, "Why is this foreigner giving us shreds of paper? Are we supposed to pay her? Should we take her to the hospital?"
  3. I'm an adult human, so the fact that I was gifting paper hearts to other adult humans only contributed to the confused expressions I mentioned a second ago. Valentines are typically for kids.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for romance (and by romance, I mean making my peers wildly uncomfortable).

I doled out Valentines to several groups in several settings last weekend — at a bar, over brunch, and in the grad students' common room at my university — and each situation was marked by its own weird, little moments. Here's how it all went down.

Mission One: The Bar

The plan was fairly straightforward: Head to a '90s party at a bar on Friday night, purse packed with valentines that had lines from Spice Girls' songs and '90s sitcoms scribbled across the front, and hand them out to cute strangers. (Had I mistakenly assumed this event was a costume party? I had! Did I show up dressed as Britney Spears in the "...Baby, One More Time" video? I did! But that is neither here nor there.)

A few gin and tonics into the evening, I spotted a group of very cute gentlemen and decided they were the perfect target beneficiaries.

"Hey there, I love your shirt! This is so weird, but, can I give you these valentines?" I asked, fiddling with my pigtails and passing out the paper hearts. I'd assumed they would brush me off confusedly or take my forward approach as an invitation to make crass remarks (like the gents I'd asked out for Valentine's Day on Tinder). And while these guys were definitely confused, their reactions weren't quite what I'd anticipated.

"Um, thank you?" One said, setting the valentine I'd handed him on the bar. "But wait, are you dressed as Britney? I love it. Spin around!"

Then I noticed that he was holding hands with the fellow to his right, and we quickly launched into a conversation about our favorite pop princesses (it was a toss up between Posh Spice and Baby Spice).

This happened twice more over the course of the night. I would adjust my tied-up crop top and braids, approach a group of men, and catch them canoodling with one another shortly thereafter. Because apparently my "type" is men with well-quaffed hair and unwrinkled button-downs who, well, also think men with well-quaffed hair and unwrinkled button-downs are cute.

But let's unpack that later.

Mission Two: Brunch

The next stop on my valentine-delivering journey was Sunday brunch with a few friends. Once again, I passed out my little, scribble-covered hearts, this time over plates of Eggs Benedict and flutes filled with mimosas. Everyone just started laughing.

"This is such a Genevieve thing to do," one said.

I then explained that I'd given the same, flimsy valentines to (almost exclusively gay?) strangers at a bar a few nights prior, which we collectively decided was an even more Genevieve thing to do.

Anyway, you're welcome, friends.

Mission Three: School

I think I was most excited to see how my course mates would react to receiving old-school, paper valentines — after all, this is the setting for which they were made, right? And by this point (five months into our program), I was hoping that my classmates — who are 98 percent female, by the way — would understand that handing out handmade, heart-shaped cards is, well, "such a Genevieve thing to do." Apparently they did not.

Instead, most girls stared back at me incredulously.

"Oh!" Was the reaction most gave, sometimes accompanied by "But, why?" and always accompanied by bewildered expressions.

All this to say, I think the paper valentines of our youth are perhaps best left in the past?

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