Friday is Valentine\u2019s Day; if you haven\u2019t made that dinner reservation yet, you might still have time to get a table at McDonald\u2019s. I\u2019ve never had fond memories of this particular \u201choliday\u201d and its origin as a celebration of martyred saints. Valentine\u2019s Day wasn\u2019t even associated with the idea of romantic love until the 13th century, but by 1797 a British publisher created a series of sappy verses for those too lazy to come up with their own: \u201cThe Young Man\u2019s Valentine Writer.\u201d As postal routes improved and delivery rates dropped in the next century, people began mailing these fill-in-the-blank valentines. Overnight, stocks in cheesy sentiment and guilt-induced dining soared. The natural evolution of all this, of course, was the burgeoning trade in fourth grade valentines. Valentine\u2019s Day was the occasion on which our elementary teachers allowed reality to run rampant through the hallways like the bulls of Pamplona. It was as if, after spending the year insulating us from the cruelties of the outside world, of cupping us like eggs in a Styrofoam carton, our teachers suddenly decided to open wide the doors of humility. Out came the brown paper bags, which we feverishly decorated with the requisite hearts and arrows. In a scene out of a Dickens novel, we spent days cutting out snowflake hearts and wearing our Crayolas down to the nub creating cards that would convey an idea of love none of us truly understood. Most importantly, we were told to write our names clearly on the front of our bag so that everyone would know where to send their valentines on the big day. The result was often brutal. At the prescribed hour, our teachers had us deliver our prepubescent longings into those pimped-out lunch bags taped to the front of our desks. We raced around the room, hopped up on miniature boxes of chocolate and Necco candy hearts with the wildly inappropriate messages for 4th grade: \u201cBe Mine,\u201d \u201cKiss Me,\u201d \u201cCall Me,\u201d and \u201cLet\u2019s Get Busy.\u201d A more appropriate message would have been, \u201cTest Your Blood Sugar.\u201d The boys gazed wide-eyed at Heather Palmer, the standard of beauty for the fourth grade, as she flitted from desk to desk dropping her valentines into bags like a nymph feeding grapes to Dionysus. After the last delivery, we\u2019d rush back to our desks and spread the contents of our bags in front of us. We\u2019d rummage through the notes and cards the way prospectors once sifted for gold in California, holding out hope for a personalized note from that special someone. For many, an actual arrow through the heart would have been less painful. Students today, raised on participant trophies and carefully orchestrated attempts to give everyone an equal share, wouldn\u2019t recognize this wanton cruelty. The Heathers of the world had their bags overflowing while Chad, the kid who couldn\u2019t keep his fingers out of his nose, was left with little beside the notes the teacher discreetly placed in his bag. In a flash, we all got to see where we stood in the social hierarchy. We\u2019d furtively glance at each other\u2019s piles, comparing each to our own. Scarred and dazed from sugar hangovers, we\u2019d limp back to school the next day. The teachers returned to their usual state of benevolent neglect, careful at least to make sure the same kids weren\u2019t always picked last for kickball. By then, though, the damage was done. Maybe this is why I\u2019ve always been wary of Valentine\u2019s Day, why my first valentine to my future wife was written on a complete roll of toilet paper. That\u2019s why I avoid making that Feb. 14 dinner reservation or buying that bouquet of roses on the way home from work. Maybe a part of me hopes I\u2019ve learned to convey my love through more than the trappings of a Hallmark holiday. More likely, I\u2019m just another self-inflicted martyr who\u2019s traded his crayons for a laptop, his cutout hearts for a local column piece. I eventually found my valentine, for which I am forever grateful. Here\u2019s hoping that you have, too \u2014 or at least that you got over life\u2019s half-empty paper bags on the big day. You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.