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By Staff | Feb 13, 2015

Valentine’s Day can be a tricky proposition for us guys much in the same way that playing with balloons can be a tricky proposition for porcupines.

For some reason, it seems that society (mostly the female portion) expects us guys to be virtuosos of all things romantic.

This despite overwhelming evidence that most of us have no such skills and that many, such as me, actually have a negative romance IQ.

My unromantic instincts revealed themselves in seventh grade, when my buddies and I noticed a startling development regarding the girls – many of them were starting to develop.

Up until then, we boys had regarded our female classmate as a species that warranted only mild curiosity. Girls generally spent recess gathered in small herds, talking, whispering, sharing secret girl stuff.

They had zero interest in joining our marathon game of No Rules Kickball, which lasted all the way through elementary school.

But then the girls began to acquire curves. We boys found this new look fascinating, although we couldn’t say exactly why.

Girls – the creatures whom we had ignored due to their total lack of kickball skills – were suddenly infinitely intriguing.

Our social hierarchy was thrown into a cement mixer. We boys now had to consider the feelings of an entirely new segment of the population.

It wasn’t long before a particular boy expressed a romantic interest in a particular girl. The girls got wind of this and dispatched an emissary to make inquiries.

Was it true that the boy liked the girl? Did he simply “like” her or did he, in fact, “really like” her?

Notes were sent back and forth. The girl couriers had the demeanor of a person who had been entrusted with super-secret high-level diplomatic correspondences.

The fate of future generations was in their hands.

Soon it became known that the boy and the girl were going steady, which meant that the boy was allowed to walk beside the girl between classes. When he was also allowed to carry her books, it was declared that things were getting serious.

The rest of us boys instantly began to want to go steady. We signaled our deep feelings toward the girls by hanging around near them and punching each other in the shoulder.

As Valentine’s Day drew near, the pressure to be going steady skyrocketed. Anyone who was single on the most romantic day of the year would be looked down upon as a lonesome loser.

One girl seemed especially going steady-worthy to me. She was tall and gangly and had mousy hair.

In addition to these obvious charms, she possessed a quality that I found supremely attractive, namely, she was unattached.

I cranked up my courage and sent a message through the proper channels. A female envoy carrying a piece of paper soon approached me.

A note. My heart jackhammered in my chest.

But it wasn’t a note. The girl plenipotentiary instead popped the paper into a beak-shaped fortune teller.

“Ellen says that she isn’t sure what to do so she’s going to let the fortuneteller decide,” said the courier as she chewed her bubblegum meaningfully.

I dutifully chose a color on the outside and a number on the inside.

“It says ‘not likely,'” said the go-between, her smile betraying secret knowledge.

I was crushed. Not just because Ellen was my only shot at having an official Valentine’s steady, but also because I knew that this debacle would be discussed and dissected and whispered about for months.

I later happened to see a familiar-looking wad of paper in the trash. It was the fortuneteller that had dashed my romantic hopes.

Reading its contents, I learned that its answers ranged from “Fat chance” to “I would rather kiss a moose” and realized that I had actually been let down easy.

I was grateful that Fate had been so kind.

It’s been said that we learn more from our failures than our successes, but this doesn’t seem true for me.

Many years later, when I first set eyes on the young woman who would become my wife, I telegraphed my interest in her by punching my buddy Steve in the shoulder.

Good thing he was there or else I would have been forced to punch my own shoulder.

My wife and I have now spent more than 30 Valentine’s Days together. Flowers and candy are fine for this occasion, but I prefer something handmade.

Not only is this more romantic, it’s usually less expensive.

This year, I think a paper fortuneteller might do the trick. And I have a pretty good idea of what type of messages it won’t contain.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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