Remember when the whole class was your valentine? Picking out the perfect valentines and finding the best one for each classmate was a right of passage in American elementary schools everywhere. You wanted to show your interests, but not get too weird with it. And you’d rather send the super romantic ones to your female BFF than to the weird kid who puts ranch dressing and jelly beans on his pizza.
Inspired by a recent Google search (OK in all honesty, I was looking for Jurassic World valentines to buy for myself but THEY DON’T HAVE ONES WITH OWEN AND CLAIRE which is a fucking travesty), here’s my personal ranking of those infamous 90s valentines, from best/coolest to worst/weirdest. Shout out to these two Buzzfeed posts for the images.
Best: Lisa Frank
Best: Lion King
Popular girls who wanted to become veterinarians or marine biologists or to save the manatees.
Socially Acceptable: Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, or Aladdin
Future basic bitches of America (probably multiple girls in your class sent the same set of cards, leaving you with three identical copies of Belle holding a rose).
Socially Acceptable: Barbie, Cute Animals, or Lesser Disney Princesses
Basic bitches whose parents took them out of town to shop for valentines, thus broadening their options.
Cool or Uncool, Depending on the Sender: Cartoons (Power Rangers, Animaniacs, Sailor Moon, My Little Pony, Care Bears, etc.)
True individualists! The future anime fans definitely sent Sailor Moon cards, less stereotypically “girly” girls went for the more gender neutral cartoons, and others nursed 80s obsessions inherited from older siblings that, while not producing new media, were still going strong into the 90s.
Best: Michael Jordan (in ‘Space Jam’ or otherwise)
Best: Shaq and other big-time athletes
The popular boys who took dodge ball way too seriously.
Socially Acceptable: Jurassic Park
The equivalent of the high-end Disney Princess (every little boy had the same red lunchbox featuring the t-rex chase scene).
Cool or Uncool, Depending on the Sender: Superheroes and classic “boy” cartoons (Power Rangers, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, anything featuring an ensemble of muscled creatures)
Still a socially acceptable choice, but less common than velociraptors.
Uncool/Just Weird: Gross-out cards
Probably something featuring bugs (Creepy Crawlies!), monsters (Ahh! Real Monsters), or Ren & Stimpy; these were the weirdo boys you didn’t want to be paired up with during square-dancing in music class.
Uncool/Confusing: The Youngest Child
What even IS this?
A gender-neutral bonus category! When not treated to a new set of My Little Pony or Transformers valentines, this kid with either thrifty or uninterested parental units (uninterested in Valentine’s Day, I’m sure your parent[s] love you!) wound up either recycling extra cards from an older sibling featuring pop culture references from 2-5 years ago (things like California Raisins, Rainbow Brite, Garbage Pail Kids, etc.) or buying the dollar store version of new cards with offbrand characters or generic designs (the equivalent of your parents buying grocery store brand cereal). These were puzzling but interesting cards to receive. Sometimes you had to ask someone to explain them to you.
Supreme: The McDonald’s Sundae
If you were very lucky, one person in your class would order 30 “free sundae” coupons from McDonald’s and give these out instead, finally giving your health-conscious parent an indisputable reason to take you to McDonald’s. This kid rules.