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Discuss: Cupid's Big Day Out

When I was a teenager, Valentine’s Day was a very big deal for a clique of girls who referred to themselves as the Sweet Sixteen.  There were 16 of them, and they were (apparently) sweet.  On V-Day, they would go out of their way to show the other girls in the group how much they were adored on love’s big day.

Girls would open their lockers to find piles of Valentines (think Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), balloons and streamers lining the inside.  One year, they all wore bright red, matching t-shirts emblazoned with their logo (yes, a logo) and the names of everyone in the group written on the sleeves.  In 11th grade, one of the girls even dressed up as Cupid complete with a quiver full of chocolate arrows that she distributed to her friends in between classes. 

Their celebrations were all very theatrical, made to remind us that their friendship was so much deeper and more special than any of us could ever know.  But this show of affection put a triple does of pressure on their boyfriends. 

The guys would regularly spend a few hundred dollars on flowers, chocolates, gifts, jewelry and dinners out.  Plans would be feverishly discussed during morning classes, “Am I spending/doing enough?  Sure that bracelet costs a full week’s salary, but should I buy the matching pendant?” 

They would plot and plan like their lives and their relationships depended upon it, trying to one up each other.  They filled car trunks with red balloons.  Wrote messages of love on the blackboards of 1st period classes.  They drove two or three hours to nice restaurants in other towns.  It was madness.  But the guys, their girlfriends and the cadre of underclassmen who longed to be like them, thought this was normal.  They wanted this to be normal.

My senior year, I had classes with several of the Sweet Sixteen girls, and on the day after Cupid’s Big Day Out, the clique’s Alpha Leader decided to grill me about how I had spent my evening.  After all, my boyfriend was in college, so my plans were expected to live up to a certain standard. 

When I told her that we ate Chinese food and spent less than $20 on our gifts (he gave me a book of Pablo Neruda poetry, I bought him balloons and a dessert), she was scandalized.  “If (insert name of flavor of the month jock, here) ever gave me a book, I would pitch it at him,” her group of girls cackled like a coven.

“Well, I guess the difference between you and I, Alpha, besides 20 IQ points and 30lbs, is that my boyfriend actually loves me.” 

She was dumbfounded, and furious at the insinuation that her heart pendant didn’t mean that she and the jock were going to spend the rest of their lives together.  Though I think, in actuality, she was a lot more angry that I had called her fat than she was that I questioned the depth of her boyfriend’s feelings.   It’s a miracle that I didn’t get jumped in the hallway after school. 

Ever since then, I’ve held a negative opinion about Valentine’s Day, and a particular dislike for big, showy displays of affection.  Bigger and better gifts don’t mean that he loves you more.  In fact, I am of the belief that if you need to make February 14th mean something with a big gift/night out/trip then you are probably doing something wrong the other 364 days of the year. 

I was fine with Chinese food and roses because I knew that Mr. Wonderful (this is what my Dad called him, it stuck) loved me.  Since high school, I have received several more V-Day gifts and only one cost more than $30. 

That gift, given by a man who is now referred to as The Asshole (first name) (last name) in all conversations, bought me a Tiffany bracelet.  For weeks afterward, his friends and colleagues kept coming up to me (even if we’d never met) and asking how I liked the bracelet.  It made me very uncomfortable that everyone knew what he’d bought me, because a) he clearly thought this was a status symbol, b) the bracelet was festooned with heart pendants and I hated it, tough I pretended to adore it, and c) by then I’d found out that he was once again cheating on me with his ex and had sold the bracelet on eBay after a screaming fight in a parking lot. 

This was not a love story that I wanted to cherish for decades with a white gold charm bracelet, no matter how much it cost.

Over and over, throughout my life, I have been reminded that people who need to make a show on Valentine’s Day don’t really love you.  (People who want to, but don’t have to, are in another class entirely.)  People who love you don’t need to plan the perfect V-Day for weeks, and their success or failure doesn’t hinge on getting the biggest gift or the best dinner reservation.  And the man/woman who really loves, knows and respects you, doesn’t live in fear that the gift will be wrong because in theory, you love, know and respect him/her enough not to care if it is.

If you want to buy your beloved an expensive gift or drop three bills on an impossible-to-get dinner reservation, that’s one thing.  But if you’re convinced that you need to, you’re in a lot more trouble than you know. 

So this Valentine’s Day, skip the big show and do something simple, quiet and sweet that will be remembered long after the calories are burned off or the jewelry is tossed in a drawer (sold to pay the power bill on eBay).  Because then, even if the relationship ends, you get a nice memory that you can feel good about a decade later, and those are hard to come by.



  1. Stephanie says:

    I don't know. Hate the holiday all you want, but I have a really hard time understanding how someone who spends so much time writing about professionalism & class could actually speak to someone that way.

    I sincerely hope that you embellished these encounters for storytelling purposes, and that you wouldn't actually say those things to anyone. Or are you actually that bitter & petty?

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. L says:

    Belle, I wish your identity wasn't a secret, because i agree with everything you say down to a T.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  3. Rachel says:

    I'm with you! And even more so because my birthday is two days before Valentine's Day. This year, my boyfriend and I are trying out a new recipe together and enjoying a nice bottle of wine at home. If our first ever attempt at mussels goes disastrously wrong (which it very well could), our Valentine's eve will be just as special with delivery pizza.

    Valentine's should be about spending time with the one(s) you love and letting them know how much they mean to you–but there is no reason to make it the one day of the year to do that.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  4. KLo says:

    I have already sent this article to several friends who are dying to be a part of the Sweet Sixteen this year. Perfect article, perfect message. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  5. EG says:

    My V-Day will be exactly the same as Rachel's (above!) We used a groupon to buy a nice bottle of wine, and we're cooking a new recipe. I can't wait.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  6. MAB in VA says:

    Oh, thank you, Belle, for making me laugh during my lunch break today! Even though I am now happily married, I still wear black on Valentine's Day, just as did for over a decade when I was single, to boycott the ridiculous-ness of it all. ๐Ÿ™‚

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  7. Heather B says:

    My favorite part of Valentine's day is the day after, when the chocolate goes on half price sale.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  8. Tia says:

    Whatever happened to Mr. Wonderful or the Sweet 16? Good story, want more!

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  9. Lisatella says:

    Doing something big can be fun, but it's not necessary. MC and I tend to focus on just having time together. Also: sharing good eats. And this year, as a welcome change (I think) I remembered to send cards to my family and to my next-door neighbor who has been in a nursing home for quite some time.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  10. Lexi says:

    I'd have to agree with Heather about the half-price chocolate!

    Great article though, and so true.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  11. prosecutordc says:

    I think Valentine's Day was created just to separate the singles from the couples and make the singles feel bad. If you are in a couple, hopefully you tell the other person how much they mean to you with some frequency and not just once a year on Feb 14.

    Having said that, if I was dating (and I have) someone who refused to acknowledge in anyway…even a small way…I would be upset. Some small acknowledgement is merited.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  12. Belle says:


    Mr. Wonderful and I were off and on for a few years, mostly my fault. For a long time, we were friends. Then he got married, and decided it would be wrong to keep being friends, since I'd done something unhealthy and cruel years earlier when they were first dating.

    A year later, he came back and apologized, saying he wanted to chat from time to time. I accepted his apology, but I knew he didn't actually want to be friends anymore, he just wasn't comfortable being the bad guy. So I wasn't heartbroken when I never heard from him again.

    As for the 16, they, to my understanding they are still friends. Well, a large group of them are, anyway.

    The Alpha Leader still dislikes me. I saw her at the store once a few years back and she had some unkind words for me. Backhanded compliments that seemed unnecessary.

    I told her that I thought it was unfortunate that the half-decade since graduation hadn't mitigated her pettiness. Though, I hadn't changed as much as I thought either, since I took great comfort in the fact that I was still skinny but she had gained 30 or 40 more lbs. Not proud of it, but maybe sometimes we regress without thinking about it.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  13. EG says:

    Belle– I can't believe she is still rude!! That amazes me. Especially that she would actually say something, not even pretend not to know you. I was relieved to find most of the middle school pettiness had disappeared by the time everyone went to college. I guess some people never grow up.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  14. a says:

    I don't get people who hate on Valentines Day. I've been single and in relationships for the holiday – either way its a great time to remind people you love them and care…whether that's your grandma, your friend, or your neighbor. I'm not for the big showy bf gesture myself, but I like getting flowers and who am I to poo poo a holiday were I might get some (not a fan of roses though). Love isn't religious or culturally exclusive — its something everyone can celebrate.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  15. prosecutordc says:

    a: I agree. I just wish society/media made your comment the typical V-day perception. But with kay jewelers adds running all the time…the attention is focused exclusively on V-day being the one opportunity to show love to a significant other, not a friend or other loved one. Its sad but that is what it has morphed into.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  16. amy b.s. says:

    in highschool, our group called themselves the baby sister's club. but i don't recall the theatrics that you experienced. and i agree with you about v-day 100%.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  17. Belle says:


    I don't hate Valentine's Day. I hate the greeting card aisle festooned in red and the Zales ads, and that bleeds in to my perception of the Day in general. But I call my Nana and bake cookies for the office, so I don't think it's a total wash.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  18. R says:

    I can't get past the surpise/coincidence of Rachel's post. We share the same name, birthday, AND valentines day plans. ๐Ÿ™‚

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  19. BT says:

    We had the Sweet 16 group (although they weren't referred to as that) at my school too so I can completely relate to the ridiculousness you experienced Belle. However, they made a point though to celebrate ALL holidays with the same ritual that got passed down from class to class like some creey ritualistic heirloom. Any girl not part of the clique that tried to latch on to the tradition was horribly reemed out in the school lunchroom for being a lemming (oh the irony).

    On any holiday, they would wear colorful tights, a tshirt and (wait for it)… men's BOXER shorts and a tie all coordinated to the holiday du jour. Hearts and pink for Valentines, green and red for Christmas. Let me also note that I am from Wisconsin and most of the school year you are lucky to have the temperature above 10 degrees.

    Thank the Lord (and my sane mother) that I wasn't allowed to participate in this obscene culture because the money I saved from purchasing these costumes probably cost the same amount as my flight to Washington, DC and allowing me to start my life anew. Most of them are still back home and their husbands probably got the holiday ties.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  20. H says:

    I've been married for 5 years. We're going to pizza and beer at Paradiso followed by an evening free of blackberries, internet and TV. Just…. us.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  21. Simone says:

    Oh my gosh! I agree with you on everything! I don't understand why people feel they have to show this tremendous display of love and gift giving on Valentine's Day. It should be shown 365 days a year(not necessarily the gift giving)!

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  22. K says:

    The “Sweet 16” group at my High School was called the “90210” crowd (the show aired when I first entered high school). My husband and I have been together many years and the extent of V-Day in our house is celebrated with a card. We like to surprise each other with a little gift of appreciation or a getaway some other time during the year when the other least expects it–got to keep things interesting after 12 years ๐Ÿ™‚

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  23. Norwegianette says:

    This fascination with Valentine's day is so weird to me because traditionally it's not at all celebrated the same way this side of the Atlantic. However, like a lot of other things about American culture, this sickly sweet approach to V-day celebrations is slowly making it's way over here and I can totally get behind what you're saying. The weight digs (especially the last one) seemed unnecessary and mean in kind of a cheap way, though.

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  24. whattokeep says:

    You had some very, very good thoughts on love and Valentine's Day, but OMFG, I cannot stop laughing about the Sweet 16! Imagine having 16 best friends, 16 people you would drop everything for if they needed you, 16 people you needed to keep in touch with at least once a week, probably more. The insanity! How can something this big be true friendship?

    February 11, 2011/Reply
  25. Unknown says:


    I would check your facts first before posting a blog about it. I personally know the Sweet 16 and know what you have stated isn't true. The only true part is that they are all still friends to this day. Wouldn't we all be so lucky to have great friends like that in high school and still be friends with them to this day? To me it just seems like you are jealous because you weren't part of the Sweet 16. I was a freshman when they were juniors and loved everyone of them and still to this day talk to them! And as for calling the alpha fat, not very nice. Some people are insecure about their weight and it's not cool to do that. How would you like to be called a nierd? You would probably have feelings x amount of years later because things that happen in high school can stay with you the rest of your life.

    February 13, 2011/Reply
  26. Belle says:


    You are correct that what I said to the girl about her weight was not nice. And what I thought about her years later was also not nice. I said I wasn't proud of it then, and I'm still not now.

    I was called a lot of things in school, nerd included, some of them not appropriate to say out loud on this blog. And I was called these names, on occasion, by some of the girls mentioned above. But just about every person who ever attended a high school was called names and called others names as well. I got over them. Hopefully, we all did.

    I wasn't jealous then, and I'm not jealous now. In fact, I'm somewhat impressed that they're still friends, I think that does sound very nice. But high school wasn't a place that I wanted to make permanent. I didn't make any lifelong friends or forge any lasting relationships, because I didn't want them. Like most of my highschool friend group, I wanted out of the small town and I wasn't going to do anything that might stop me from leaving with a clean break. Different perspectives, that's what we had.

    I don't know the Sweet 16 as the women they are today, but I'm sure, like me, they grew up, changed, had families and became better people than they were in highschool. If what you say is true, than you certainly know them better than I do or ever did. But perspectives are always different outside in than they are inside out.

    This post is about how I felt and what I remember of my highschool experience and how it shaped my feelings about a holiday. Some of my readers feel the same or had similar experiences. Others love V-Day and don't get what I'm saying at all. This is why this is a post with open comments.

    February 13, 2011/Reply
  27. Stephanie says:

    I don't know. Hate the holiday all you want, but I have a really hard time understanding how someone who spends so much time writing about professionalism & class could actually speak to someone that way.

    I sincerely hope that you embellished these encounters for storytelling purposes, and that you wouldn't actually say those things to anyone. Or are you actually that bitter & petty?

    February 15, 2011/Reply
  28. Belle says:

    Well, I was 17. I'm sure we all said things when we were 17 that we would think better of now.

    In fact, I'm sure most of us have said things in our adult lives that we wish we hadn't. Like maybe, accusing someone of being bitter and petty based on one comment made over a decade ago in highschool?

    February 15, 2011/Reply