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From the Archives: The strange love scene at Notre Dame

, , and | Monday, February 17, 2020

Diane Park | The Observer

How’s your love life? This week, From the Archives shares some standout Observer content from Valentine’s Days past. There’s something for everyone — chocolate fever, polemics and, of course, heartbreak.

Jim Moster | The Observer
Observer archives, Feb. 14, 1989

Community members give Valentine’s Day wishlist

 Feb. 14, 1984 | Researched by Marirose Osborne

Jim Moster | The Observer
Observer archives, Feb. 14, 1984

In the week before Feb. 14, 1984, a group of Observer reporters traveled across Notre Dame’s campus on a Valentine’s Day quest: They asked students, professors, clergy and even head football coach Gerry Faust (1981-1985) a simple question: “What is your idea of the perfect Valentine’s gift?”

Faust gave two responses — one humble and one perhaps a bit idealistic: “My family’s good health, and of course, it would be nice to have a [national] championship on top.”  

Answers varied widely. Senior Theresa Mullins said “an endless pitcher of margaritas,” while freshman John Ginty (’87) said a card from his mom. Then there was senior Brian Callaghan (’84), who asked for Christie Brinkley with a bullwhip. 

Not everyone felt the Valentine’s Day love and kinship in the air, however. 

“I don’t get valentines. Charlie Brown and I have that in common,” junior Rob McMonagle said (’85). Freshman Jamie Cantorna (’87) simply wanted to “[share] conversation over a cup of Swisse Mocha by the fireside with Joan Rivers.” 

Keeping the tradition alive, Observer reporters asked students the very same question Feb. 7 of this year.

Viewpoint writer criticizes Notre Dame’s “battle of the sexes,” calls for productive discussion

Feb. 17, 1989 | Tom Varnum | Researched by Nia Sylva

Valentine’s Day is usually a time for celebrating love. In February of 1989, the Notre Dame student body was not feeling so warm and fuzzy. In a Viewpoint column, Tom Varnum (’89) accused the student body of acting like a group of “6-year-old children” straight from the panels of a “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip.

The controversy began with the release of the 1989 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Girls — he said he purposely called them “girls” because everyone was acting so childish — claimed male readers were “supporting the exploitation of women” by ogling at the magazine’s bikini-clad models. Not unlike today, this led to a barrage of Viewpoint articles arguing both sides of the issue. A subsequent article about a “hero-worshipping” girl meeting the Notre Dame football team added fuel to the fire, Varnum said. He said the article angered the “less athletic men on campus,” presumably by making them feel women would reject “average” boys.

Jim Moster | The Observer
Observer archives, Feb. 17, 1989

Varnum had no patience for this back-and-forth, arguing that the administration would never listen to them if they didn’t shape up.

“There is only one way to end this insidious issue,” he said. “GROW UP! Although we have been acting a bit childish lately, I think we can still distinguish between dream and reality. Looking at girls in bathing suits or worshipping football players are exercises in fantasy.” 

To Varnum, life at Notre Dame was reality — and for the sake of the “dozens of more important issues” at hand, he pleaded for everyone to come to their senses.

“Since we’ve just passed Valentine’s Day, I think the boys and girls at Notre Dame should kiss and make up,” he wrote.

Let them eat chocolate!

 Feb. 6, 1991 | Christine Walsh | Researched by Sarah Kikel

In February of 1991, associate news editor Christine Walsh wanted to make something clear — the love scene had evolved. Flowers, dinner reservations, champagne and jewelry were tokens of the ’80s. Walsh, citing what she called “highly scientific studies conducted by frustrated graduate students,” explained what lovers really want: chocolate. 

Jim Moster | The Observer
Observer archives, Feb. 6, 1991

First, Walsh tackled the myth that chocolate is unhealthy.

“These myths are obviously rooted in that early ’80s overly health-conscious oat bran mentality,” she wrote. “In fact, nothing is more physically and mentally soothing than a simple Hershey’s Kiss.”

Kisses are also rich in calcium, she said — about 520 mg (which is almost half of the daily recommended amount). 

Extending her philosophy, Walsh attributed the roots of major world issues — including the rule of Saddam Hussein — to a chocolate deficiency.

“The Swiss, however, have the world’s highest GNC (Greatest National Chocolate), and when was the last time they went to war?” she wrote.

To conclude her column, Walsh addressed the issue of a vanilla-loving Valentine. The solution is simple, and does not include succumbing to the beloved’s weak tastes. 

“Get them chocolate and show them the error of their ways,” she wrote.

The cure for everything, perhaps, is a little piece of chocolate.

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