A large spread of candy hearts.
Can you taste the bitterness? Photo by Laura Ockel.

A Day for Sweethearts

Bitter rantings of a single white male

February is a special month for at least two reasons: first, and mostly obviously, the 14th of February is Valentine’s Day™; if you’re single, this day usually ranks as the worst day of the year. If you’re double (what’s the opposite of single?), this day has the potential to be the worst day of the year.

Second, February is a confused month. Most years, it’s 28 calendar-days long, but every once in a while, it makes the leap to 29. A little research into this phenomenon would probably expose the ridiculous nature of time-keeping in general (it’s all imaginary!), but it’s simpler to just shrug it off and eat chocolate. And really, that’s what February is really about—food.

It’s no mystery that chocolate and flowers are in high demand this time of year, as are razor blades and notepad paper. They all go hand-in-hand, really. But instead of mocking the gargantuan commercial venture that is Valentine’s Day™, let’s explore one of most enduring, semi-edible offerings that you can only get during the first few weeks of the F-month: Necco’s Sweethearts®.

These heart-shaped, rock-hard chunks of concentrated flour and sugar have been one of the most popular, time-tested weapons in Cupid’s arsenal of confections since 1866. Much like true love, Sweethearts® have remained virtually unchanging; in the considerable one hundred and forty-some years since they were created by David Chase, Necco’s famous candies still taste suspiciously like colored chalk.

The sayings printed on Sweethearts® are perhaps one of the few reasons the candies remain popular. Back in the day, when the candies still resembled wafers, the sayings were printed on “thin colored paper” used to wrap the candies. Such antiquated and naive phrases as “Married in satin, Love will not be lasting”, “Married in Pink, He will take to drink”, and “Married in white, You have chosen right” are clearly a thing of the past.

In the 1990s, the powers-that-were-and-may-still-be decided to update things a bit: from the tender, heartwarming “Call Me” of old sprang the hip, edgy, and socially-relevant “E-mail me” and “Fax Me,” both of which are already grossly out of date. Now, in 2010, Necco will “for the first time in its 145 year history… unveil a new generation of Sweethearts® that includes all new expressions selected entirely by the American public…”

With contemporary America already having served up the steaming pile of rubbish known as UrbanDictionary.com, what fate can an old-school, cynical, hopeless romantic like this author predict for the once-timeless and classic Sweethearts®?

Don’t be fooled by Necco’s “historic” announcement—the company has added a few new sayings each year since the 1990 revamp. The presence of “Cool Dude” and “Yeah” are nothing new; neither are “Text Me” and “UR Sweet.” It’s a harsh reality, but the candy that once defined a century and a half of meaningful sentiments and doe-eyed expression sold out a long time ago.

Take heart, though; while Sweethearts® are no longer unique, special, or classic, they still taste just as awful as ever—or do they? The rest of Necco’s announcement reads as follows:

“…entirely by the American public, along with a re-formulation of the iconic candies made in the USA.”

That’s right. The colloquial sentiments of the common man will now grace the face of the candy that once embodied the essence of love. These gems of yesteryear have been thrown like pearls before swine! It’s sad, but true. Necco’s shame truly knows no bounds.

And that, ladies and gents, is just one more reason that Valentine’s Day™ should be removed from the calendar. Not because the lonely people hate being reminded of their relationship status. Not because taking a single day out of the year to show one’s affection is forced and disingenuous, not to mention simultaneously overblown and grossly commercialized. It’s not even because love is a four-letter word!

Instead, it’s because February 29th deserves a permanent home on the yearly calendar. Think of all the missed birthdays! Think of all the senior citizens who can’t get benefits because they’re only 26 years old!

And if you still can’t bear to part with February 14th, then perhaps the two dates can swap places. I don’t know about you, but I’d feel a lot better if Valentine’s Day™ only rolled around once every four years.