JUNK FOOD: Left Hanging

February, 2022

Valentine’s Day. Feh.

In elementary school the day meant taping paper bag ‘mailboxes’ to desks, walking around to drop a little prefab, foldable valentine in every kid’s box, all accompanied by endless streams of chalky-yet-desirable conversation hearts. By the fourth grade I was channeling my fussy crafty tendencies into personalized construction paper cards for the whole class, and then some. By eighth grade, I’d stopped.

closeup of conversation heart candies

I was proud of, and charmed by my hand-crafted cards, and so excited to hand them out. But middle schoolers are hardly known for their tact or compassion, so my enthusiasm was met with confusion, and derision. So ended my outward facing Valentine’s cheer. Ever since I have kept the pink-and-red pressure at arm’s length to help keep my head straight, and my heart unwounded.

heart-shaped cake with knife going through it; Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock

Which brings me to Picnic at Hanging Rock, Peter Weir’s 1975 powerhouse breakthrough to the global cinema stage. I remember renting the tape (which I now own) from the library when I was 14—about the same age as the girls in the film. I didn’t know what to expect, and got more than I’d bargained for.

four girls in white dresses in a circle around a boulder; Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock

The plot sees a group of young girls travel from their boarding school to a local geological landmark on Valentine’s Day in 1900. But once at Hanging Rock something unseen and otherworldly calls the girls away from safety, and only one of them returns from the field trip that day. Accusations and investigations follow, but do not bring satisfaction; the mystery surrounding the girls is never solved. The audience is left hungry and wanting more from the Picnic at Hanging Rock.

girl examines flower with magnifying glass; Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock

Weir didn’t think he owed the audience closure, so there wasn’t any. Things happened, and then things changed. So it goes.

The middle schoolers who were so bemused by my twee cards didn’t owe me an explanation, and I never got one. So it goes.

I have since developed my own Valentines routine (Star Wars + box wine) that all but forfends disappointment. So, in spite of the mystery change in my classmates, I guess the overarching message from those final cards I made for Valentines 1998 still holds true: My heart will go on.

Happy Valentine’s, dudes.

blue heart-shaped gem necklace; the Heart of the Ocean from Titanic