My First Valentine’s


Another post by youarethepan. Can anyone stop this writing machine? No, seriously. Can you? I don’t know whether to take him paint-balling and then to a monster truck rally or refer him to Victorian sonnets and kitschy Korean soaps.

In order to honor the integrity of the individuals mentioned and written about in this piece, I have changed the names, except for Elizabeth (because I don’t think she’d care or ever read this). This excerpt was also supposed to be a part of a larger piece that I will post in the near future.

I grew up with my parents telling me that I couldn’t have a girlfriend until I was in college. That didn’t mean I didn’t try. I remember my first crush being a girl at church. I was in the second grade. She was a fourth-grader. Taking after my old man1, I wasn’t afraid of experience of a young woman two years my elder. Her name was Elizabeth, and I looked upon her as if I were a wide-eyed Mr. Darcy. I have a few salient memories from the experience of my first crush. The most salient of these took place at an elementary school event held at church for Valentine’s Day. Each student brought a small gift. I remember going to Toys-R-Us because this is where every man does all his shopping. They have all your necessities—action figures, video games—back in the day, you would pick them up behind a glass booth2 after you purchase, bikes, Halloween costumes, stuffed animals, and chocolates. For Elizabeth, I went above and beyond and picked up both chocolates and a stuffed animal.

I got to church that evening bearing wrapped gifts and the hope that Elizabeth would be my Valentine’s. But I was soon disappointed by hearing of the rules of the gift exchange. Gifts, placed in a large pile near the front of the church dining hall, would be selected at random and given to a recipient. I was devastated. On the one hand, I had hand-picked this gift, my mom wrapped it neatly, and here it was sitting like a duck in a pond to be given away to some unassuming elementary-schooler with no aspirations of Valentine’s Day romance. After all, we were elementary school kids. What did we know about romance? On the other hand, I was too timid to stand up, walk to the gift corral, and present it on bended knee to my Elizabeth.

I imagined her giving me a big hug and the two of us finding some corner to sit while she told me how much she liked her stuffed animal. Unfortunately, reality was different. On Elizabeth’s turn, she received another gift. However, my grandmother, who was sitting nearby with all the other grandmothers witnessed the gift exchange and could not sit quietly and suffer such an injustice. While my heart sank, my indignant grandmother walked to the stage where my gift sat, like a baby pleading to be lifted and held. She grabbed it, walked over to Elizabeth, and exchanged her erroneous gift for the one that was meant to be. At the time, I was blushing brighter than the red, paper hearts lining the dining room walls. In retrospect, this showed how much my grandmother loved and still loves me.

To this day, more than anything, she wants to see me happy. And I am grateful she spared me the disappointment that I would have felt to have that gift in the hands of another girl (or boy), especially after all the trouble I went through to have my mom drive me to Toys-R-Us, pay for the gift, and wrap it for me. This was my first crush. We didn’t date (in case you were wondering). I think I was later rejected—she told me that I was too young for her.

The true woman of my dreams.

Through the years, I had a string of minor crushes until the seventh grade when I became obsessed with another girl from church. By “obsessed” I mean that as wrote about her in my journal, I thought the song “If You’re Not the One” by Daniel Bedingfield epitomized my hopeless affection and admiration. I am pretty sure my desperation was a turn-off. Nothing amounted to anything during my three years of pursuit.

Yes, I literally pursued one girl for three years—from seventh to tenth grade. This was the beginning of my hopeless romantic phase, where I started listening to emo music and began watching Dawson’s Creek3. Even to this day, there is something that tugs my heartstrings about Dawson’s Creek. The show is cheesy as hell, but I think growing up in a small town, being smitten by one girl for many years, and pursuing her resonated with my idealistic notions of what I wanted and hoped for in romance. The summer after I graduated high school, I began dating my seventh grade obsession4, two years after the fact. Up until this point, I really had no real girl experience.

The extent of my female relationships were close friends and a semi-summer fling at a summer camp at Harvard University, where I attended an eight-week academic program for high school students the summer after my tenth grade year. Normally, during summer flings, you have something hot and steamy, and it is a more physical relationship than anything. Or at least, this is how I see it. I came centimeters from having my first kiss that summer, but it never came to fruition. However, it was on my terms. I held out on my first kiss for something special, and I guess I may not have felt convicted enough to fulfill Pocahontas’s request of a good-night-kiss before we parted ways after the 11PM curfew. Instead, we shared a tender hug. I said something like “next time.” Therefore, I poetically put off my first kiss until a summer night in 2006, when I really faced for the first time that quiet moment when both people are looking at each other after some suspenseful build-up, usually flirtatious horseplay to break the touch barrier. I mean, when you get to that point, you both know it’s coming; you’re glancing at her lips and she’s eying yours like a fat kid at the sight of cake. Remember gentlemen: You go 90, and allow her to come 10. After all, consent is sexy.

  1. My mom is two years older than my dad. My understanding is that in traditional Korean society, it is taboo for a woman to marry a younger man. That is just how much game my daddy-o had.

  2. As a child, I remembered thinking they kept all these video games in this contained booth because they didn’t want kids stealing all their precious games.

  3. Though Dawson was always the hopeless romantic on the show, I was and always will be in the Pacey Witter club. All the Twilight Edward vs. Jacob battle is is a dumbed-down, superficial, fantastical, unsophisticated version of Pacey Witter vs. Dawson Leery.

  4. Her name was Cruella.