Valentine’s messages in tiny packages

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 13, 2000

Thoughts of Valentine’s Day conjure images of a chubby little fellow named Cupid who’ll stick an arrow in you in an instant to make you fall in love. He’s sort of a messenger of love.

Other images of the day are likely to include red hearts, red roses and lots of &uot;I love yous.&uot;

For some folks Valentine’s Day means roses, champagne, chocolate bon-bons and other such &uot;fru-fru&uot; devices. I’ve never been included in this group — life in the middle-class is much more frugal.

Email newsletter signup

And for as long as I can remember Valentine’s Day was synonymous with one thing — tiny candy hearts emblazoned with &uot;love&uot; messages.

Like Cupid, the tiny sweet messengers of love — and of friendship, companionship and even laughter — have entertained us and made us smile for almost 100 years.

In case you’ve spent the last few decades under a rock or on a remote island somewhere I’ll try to explain them — though their meaning varies depending upon who you ask.

The tiny hearts, affectionately called &uot;conversation hearts,&uot; are about the size of a button on a touch-tone telephone and come in six colorful flavors.

Although there are a variety of knock-off brands, I believe the originals were made by the Necco Company, which boasts producing the first official conversation heart in 1902.

Necco estimates that in that time they’ve made more than 250 billion of the tiny tastebud teasers. That’s enough to go to the moon and back — twice. Or it’s enough &uot;Be Mine&uot; and &uot;Kiss Me&uot; messages to encircle the earth about 40 times.

Officially more than 100 messages exist — including several of the originals. &uot;Be Mine,&uot; &uot;Be Good,&uot; &uot;Be True,&uot; &uot;Kiss Me&uot; and &uot;Sweet Talk&uot; are all oldies, but still goodies.

Through the years, the company has modified the message list to keep up with the times. This year’s new additions include: &uot;Marry Me,&uot; &uot;2000 Kisses,&uot; &uot;Amore,&uot; &uot;Got Love,&uot; &uot;Girl Power,&uot; and &uot;In The Mood.&uot;

The tiny hearts are enjoyable on several levels.

First, they simply taste good.

And the Necco company says they aren’t as bad for you as you might think. Hearts are fat-free, sodium-free and contain about three calories each.

Eating a few won’t hurt … unfortunately like most things good in life self-control is easier said than done.

In addition to their taste, the little hearts’ messages also allow the shy among us to communicate without words.

No doubt dozens of folks, young and old alike, secretly hand a heart to someone they’re smitten with as a harmless barometer of sorts. It’s easy to deny knowing which message was on the heart since there are dozens. It’s the perfect alibi.

Perhaps most important of all, the chalky hearts do exactly what their name implies — create conversation.

Don’t believe me?

Try tossing a few around to your friends and loved ones and see what happens.

If elementary school memory serves me correctly, the only real problem with the hearts is when you don’t get the message you want. For example you get the dreaded &uot;Friends&uot; one from someone you’re hooked on.

Oh the tragedy of it.

But, the best thing about it is getting rid of the evidence is as easy as tossing the little messenger into your mouth and waiting until next Valentine’s Day.

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or