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Valentine's Day musts include love letters and candy

Dave Masko's picture

Some of the most romantic places in this university town are “chocolate joints,” and places where college students write love letters; while, at the same time, there’s a view that “it’s not cool" to try and get away with just an e-mail message over a real Valentine’s Day card or a box of candy, thus causing some confusion in this digital age for many "wired youth," say experts.

Many college students will agree that the real story of Valentine’s Day is a story of suffering because “it’s not easy writing an eloquent epistle to the man or woman of your dreams,” says University of Oregon student Lara Werner who’s young, aggressive and pushing the envelope for her boyfriend Tom to “give me something other than a lame e-mail card” on Valentine’s Day.

In turn, Tom is brainstorming ideas on a white sheet of paper that remains white and blank even after three cups of coffee at the campus Starbucks. Tom then smirks smugly with the following poem for Lara: “Her eyes were the beautiful blue of a robin’s eggs and had just as much expression…”

“What do you think,” asks Tom of his poem thus far?

Tom’s friend, Jake, suggests he round the poem out with something like “I’m so happy I found you.”

Jake, who prides himself with getting A’s in his college writing, then adds: “Keep up the positives by adding something like ‘even when you’re not here,’ followed by some memory you guys had that was romantic.”

At the same time, Tom is convinced that Lara would like a “nice box of chocolates” or even a special Valentine’s Day chocolate donut from their favorite place in Eugene, Voodoo Donuts.

“Go with the box of chocolates, so she doesn’t think you’re cheap,” adds Jake, "And, don't just send her a Valentine's Day e-mail becuase that's not cool, man. You have to show her you really care. Go with the candy heart or something."

In fact, a heart-shaped box of chocolates is still the “standard” for Valentine’s Day according to a host of experts who market goodies for this special day.

However, experts warn “there is good chocolate, and no so good chocolate.”

According to the Union of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers – that recently celebrated its 100 anniversary at its headquarters in Munzgraben, Switzerland -- there’s five qualities that mirror the senses that make for good chocolate.

Also, the union is quick to point out that one “can’t eat or smell an computer generated Valentine.”

The test for good chocolate includes observations from all the five senses: to listen, to look, to breathe in, to feel and to taste.

-- Listen. “Can you hear the “snap” of a bar of chocolate being broken into mouthwatering pieces? If so, it’s good.”

-- Look. “Can you see the seductively smooth, unctuous surface of the chocolate? Do you find it difficult to take your eyes off these truly tempting miniature works of art?” If so, it’s good.

-- Breathe in. “Can you smell the heady, bitter-sweet aroma and sensuous smell of chocolate?” If so, it’s good.

-- Feel. “Is there pleasing contours of the chocolate in your hand. Can you touch the candy’s perforations?” If so, it’s good.

-- Taste. “Let the chocolate melt slowly in your mouth for a consummate feast of sensuality. Can you taste the sensuality?” If so, it’s good.

Overall, the experts in Switzerland say good chocolate for Valentine’s Day must have most or all of these qualities that appeal to the five senses.

Youth struggling to be romantic in a digital age

Those who think many of today’s youth are slackers who just want to play computer and video games and hang-out, may want to read “Not Quite Adults: Why 20-somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood;” while, at the same time, today’s youth might not be ready to answer President Obama’s call to help jump-start America’s economy through innovation, say experts.

The book hits youth hard with a point of view that they have a “sense of entitlement to their immaturity and to their dependence on their parents’ purse strings.” The book goes on to say that 20-somethings just want to have fun, and they don’t want the hassles and responsibilities of adults. They want to stay as kids who play games, go out and party and just do nothing for as long as they can get away with it.

As for the so-called new economy that replies on such things as tech and computer innovations, Facebook’s social networking and the wonders of smartphones, economists say those technologies “have not provided jobs for today’s youth even with college diplomas.”

In short, all the texting and online computer “fun” that today’s youth enjoy and cherish does not add up to a hill of beans when it comes to “innovation and progress,” say experts.

While it’s unfair to group America’s 20-something youth with such negative views, “Not Quite Adults” book authors Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray want to shatter these widespread stereotypes by having a bit more empathy for what today’s youth that experts say are somewhat dazed and confused.

According to the book’s marketing pitch, Not Quite Adults “gets to the heart of how and why the course to adulthood has become so complicated, what these changes mean for families and for our country, and what we should do about it. Rather than playing the blame game by pointing fingers at helicopter parents or entitled teenagers, the authors show how cultural and economic forces have radically transformed the ‘traditional’ path to adulthood, creating a very different set of challenges as well as opportunities for today’s young adults.”

Co-author Rick Settersten, Ph.D., is a Hallie Ford Endowed Chair and professor of Human Development and Family Sciences, and director of the Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families, at Oregon State University.

He is also a member of the MacArthur Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood. A graduate of Northwestern University, Settersten has held fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin, the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern, and the Spencer Foundation in Chicago.

Settersten was in Eugene on Tuesday to discuss his new book that’s become a popular read at both the University of Oregon and Oregon State University where this 20-something generation is being taught to help take the reins of today’s high-tech society.

“They’re waiting. They’re not rushing into marriage, and they’re in no hurry to become adults in the sense of taking on the responsibilities of raising kids, owning a home and doing what they’re parents and grandparents did,” explained Settersten during a recent public radio interview in Eugene.

Moreover, Settersten said the vast research over the past 10 years points to today’s youth wanting to take a “slower course and not so much a slacker course.”

He said many of today’s youth are more “strategic and careful with their choices. They want to build credentials, skills and experiences that will ensure stronger and more stable futures.”

“Like the butterfly that flaps its wings in Indonesia, causing a thunderstorm to erupt in New York, the events and upheavals of the past few decades have unleashed a perfect storm, and shredded the old rule book for [adulthood]. The new rulebook, meanwhile, is still being written, leaving much uncertainty for young people and their families as they try to make their way,” states the book that's a hot seller in Eugene during this Valentine's Day period.

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