Cindy's Valentines

Edmonton & Saskatoon
February 14 2001 - ongoing

On Valentines Day, I set up a sort of torture test. I made a Valentine box, you know, like the ones we used to make in elementary school to place on our desks and collect Valentines?

I remember when I was a kid being forced to give Valentine's day cards to every kid in the class, even the most hated ones. Images from North American popular media and stories from personal acquaintances concur; Valentine's day was never meant to be a day when affection was shown to loved ones but a day where if you didn't show affection to everyone equally, you would be in trouble from your teacher AND your mom. This idea always seemed absolutely counter to the day and negated all meaning by suggesting that no-one felt any more towards one person than another. As an adult, Valentine's day takes on a completely different meaning; one steeped, from all my adult memories, in all sorts of anti-commercialism, anti-capitalist and anti-romantic sentiment that did not interest me at all. Everyone wants to talk about the invention of Valentine's day by greeting card and candy manufacturers, but what I wanted to talk about was what it really made you feel; how it made you act, and why we feel obligated to give a meaningless token to everyone, NOT because of corporate pressure, but because of nicey-nice pressure.

On February 14, I carried my box with me everywhere; to morning coffee, to work, to a volunteer shift, to dinner and home. I put it on the table or desk in front of me and left it there all day. Absolutely everyone I encountered received a personalized, handmade yet homogenized valentine from me. If I left my seat for any reason, upon return I would peer inside, picking the box up and shaking it upside down, lest anyone had snuck in a secret love note. Alas, by the end of the day I had still received none. Just like the goody-goody I always was in school, though, I was not sad; I felt superior for being so much kinder and ambitious a person than anyone else I had encountered the entire day, and for cheering up so many lives with my homogenous "love."