Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Something Lost in the Love Translation?

Hubby and I attended the prom in 1971.

Years ago, when the tall boy in my high school biology class called, I didn’t understand him at all.

Flattered, I small-talked for five minutes before realizing he hadn’t said a word. I left strategic moments for comments.

Silence.

I babbled about our class’s fruit-fly genetic experiments. My subjects’ Great Escape. The school cafeteria’s subsequent fumigation —

“Well, goodbye.”

Click.

Maybe he wasn’t the scientific type, after all.

Maybe he’d decided I wasn’t his type.

However, he soon called again.

This time, my monologue focused on literature. My English teacher didn’t understand my paper’s crucial insights touting fried chicken’s symbolism throughout Southern literature.

I continued my learned discourse —

“Well, good-bye.”

Click.

 Did this sadist call girls just to hang up on them?

Nevertheless, I had seen a glimmer of this shy guy’s meaning: I like you. Do you like me?

However, I didn’t realize he disliked fried chicken until after our wedding, four years later. I cooked my mom’s special recipe.

He refused it.

This time, he was the one attempting to break lo-o-ong silences. And translate touch-me-and-you-die assurances that I was fine. Fine.

 Hubby seemed aghast that he’d married an alien whose language he’d never understand.

Ditto.

Nevertheless, we’d vowed to love each other.

Against impossible odds, we determined to learn each other’s language.

Hubby now understood that I, like all women, said “fine” only when I meant the opposite. We then grappled with another mysterious word: we. Only two letters, it appeared cozy — until used thusly:

He: Sure, we can feed 237 runners.

She: Yes, we will dig the new church basement.

Eventually, Hubby and I understood that if we valued our lives, we would use accurate pronouns.

Throughout the year, unequal estimates of garage wall/car distances and checkbook balances also challenged our powers of translation. But after three decades of marriage, we finally mastered each other’s languages … until our empty-nest purchase: a tandem bicycle.

Hubby’s “Ma-a-an!” didn’t soften the effects of potholes on my, er, anatomy.

My “Aaaaahhh!” meant little to him, riding in front. Fortunately, the pursuing Dobermans ate only one of my ankles.

The tandem initiated a repeat of Marriage Translation 101.

Hey, everyone needs an occasional refresher course.

And today?

If Hubby’s pondering deep theological, medical, or I.U. basketball issues, a visual reminder, such as a cartwheel, must accompany my “Dinner’s ready.”

I assume he’ll automatically finish my half-sentences, e.g., “Last month’s letter from the IRS …”

After 43 years of marriage, he should read my mind, right?

Fortunately, we aliens rarely need a translator now. Love language hasn’t taken light years to learn, after all.

Only a lifetime.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite mistranslation story?

Lovin’ It

Me, a prim 6-year-old

Vestiges of first-grade shyness still cling to me when Valentine’s Day nears.

As my class colored purple-lined mimeographed hearts, our teacher explained we’d soon celebrate a love holiday.

“Ooooooh.” The boys made kissing noises.

Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween — none of these turned my face red as my Crayola. I’d even heard yucky rumors people kissed at midnight on New Year’s Eve. But my parents always sent me to bed early, so I didn’t have to witness it.

Now in school, I celebrated mushy Valentine’s Day. Despite reservations, I enjoyed decorating a white doughnut bag with pink hearts — though I had no idea why. Then our teacher explained we, like mail carriers, would deliver valentine cards to our classmates’ bags to make them feel special.

Though I didn’t consider Scary Larry Williams and Donny the Dirt Adams special, I could live with that. On Columbus Day, we only sang songs about a dead sailor who got lost. On Valentine’s Day, I ate the red-hot cinnamon hearts off a pink-frosted cupcake, then washed it down with cherry Kool-Aid.

I labored over my class list, reserving ballerina valentines for my girlfriends. For boys, a lower species, I selected animals. Ugly ones.

I suffered my first case of writer’s cramp printing names on the cards. This love stuff was hard work!

But I received pink ballerinas and multiple Snow Whites in return. I even enjoyed those sent by subhuman boys.

I applied phonics to the faint print on candy hearts, only to discover such steamy sentiments as “my baby,” “be mine,” and the dreaded “kiss me.” More disconcerting: we each received fat red wax lips. The first-grade class looked as if we’d made a field trip to a plastic surgeon’s. More kissing noises.

But Mrs. Cade didn’t stand the boys in the corner. Instead, she abdicated her moral responsibility as a teacher and donned lips herself!

Later, I asked my mother to solve the mysteries surrounding the heart candies. Was “my baby” supposed to be a compliment? All my baby brother did was pee, poop and puke. Mom said a young man might call his girlfriend “baby.” That explained the incomprehensible songs on the radio.

Valentine’s Day appeared the strangest holiday of the year, and the love/romance scenario remains puzzling as ever. But it’s nice to know I’ve moved past the first-grade version. Forget the candy hearts; now I’m into Belgian chocolates.

I also understand real love means even harder work than addressing valentines.

And that kissing noises aren’t so bad, after all.

 

How do you remember your first Valentine’s Day experience?