Let me tell you about the worst Valentine’s ever. Well, my worst Valentine’s, I know a couple of people have had far worse, namely those that have been in a relationship longer than two years, because everyone knows, after the first one they’re all rather frightening. If you prepared you’ll have arranged something the day before. Well done. Generally though, Valentine’s Day is all about last minute bookings – you’ll settle for a quaint but rather shit restaurant with some nostalgic value, mad missions for roses – you’ll only manage to scrape up some tired dregs from crappy strip malls in areas old people retire in, and you’ll probably end up fighting in the car on the way home. I mean, generally speaking. But this is not about those kinds of Valentine’s Days. The better ones. This is about my Standard 4 Valentine’s Day.
I’d just move from the then quiet seaside village of Camps Bay – where we had the same teacher for two years in a row, because she didn’t want anybody else to teach us and that kind of shit flew, to Joburg – where kids were graunching and things like discos with smoke machines were happening in parents garages. The last party I went to in Cape Town involved fishing with handline off the harbour wall in Hout Bay, the screening of Grease in a lounge, and then a late evening game of ‘put your closed lips on the persons mouth for five to ten seconds’. The adjustment was pretty tough.
After an historically epic failure of a first day, which I’ll save for another time, things were off to a slow start at Parkmore Primary. I had a devastatingly well cut middle part, quite possibly stoneys, and words were not my ally. The first friend I made was Walter, he was about double my height and also a newbie. I sat next to him on the first day, and the first thing he said to me was that he wanted to have sex with our teacher. I didn’t quite know what he meant but he seemed enthusiastic about it so I agreed.
Either the second or the third was Ben, a typically dorky Chinese kid with binoculars for glasses. And when I say binoculars, I mean binoculars. Poor Ben was basically blind. He had to adjust focus on both protruding lenses constantly. He also had the most interesting lunches I’d ever seen. And this story is actually about him and me. So let me begin.
In 19-however-long-ago-Std-4-was, Valentine’s Day fell on a Friday, and on the Monday of that week there was a school announcement. Valentine’s Day would be a civvies day. Perhaps I read a little into the situation, but I got it in my head that this was now a themed day. A fancy dress day. I was pretty amped. This was my time to shine. I loved a good dress up. I’d been trick or treating the shit out of my old Camps Bay block for years. Every kids party had a theme. I planned to bring it.
And I brought it. Red something on my head, white shirt, red shorts, one white and one red sock, white shoes, one red and one white curly shoelace, and probably a few other things I’ve forgotten slash repressed. Man I was pumped. Kids were going to dig me!
As my old man turned into the school road the fear slid down my throat and dropped into my belly like a rock. I’d never seen kids dressed like this. These kids were cool. Converse and LA Jeans cool. They walked and laughed in slow motion. I wore baggy Island Style shirts and off brand pants. I was fucked.
I kept my head down all the way to class. Absolutely no one else was dressed up. Except Ben. He was there before me and had put in even more of an effort. During the morning assembly we were pulled up onto stage, paraded in front of those we may have been able to avoid during the day, introduced as the new kids, and awarded best dressed – which they probably made up.
I don’t really remember the rest of day, either because it was too terrible and I have repressed the worst of it, or it wasn’t actually that bad in the greater scheme of things. I did go on to become wildly popular, after several more of these sorts of incidents, but the point of this whole story is that Valentine’s Day is bloody terrible. You dress up and put in hell of a lot of effort and think you’re going to impress somebody, but instead you get it wrong, in front of a bunch of strangers, and you cant even recall the day a few years down the line.