You might be giving a Valentine’s Day gift from someone special, or maybe getting one.

That’s the whole idea of this holiday, right? Showing a little love?

Well, not always. Because in the old days, some people sent out nasty-grams each February 14 to their least favorite people.

These were known as “vinegar valentines.”

They were sold and sent from about the 1840s to the 1940s.

And, at first glance, the cards looked like standard valentines, only when you looked closer you wouldn’t find compliments or gratitude.

The least rude ones would simply say words to the effect of, I know you’re interested in me, but it doesn’t work the other way around.

More often, the pictures and poems mocked recipients.

A doctor might get a card saying that they must see dollar signs whenever someone gets hurt.

One card called “BALD HEAD” mocks a guy for his “true ardent love for that one lonesome hair.”

Another makes fun of a husband who the card says is “held in bondage” by his wife!?!

Sociologists note that a lot of these cards are meant to put down anyone who was seen as acting outside of appropriate social boundaries, like the many vinegar valentines that mocked suffragists.

That said, these were often sent anonymously because the messages were themselves way outside of appropriate social boundaries!

Like one called “You Are A Nerve Destroyer,” which features his horrifying pair of lines at the end:

“If some one would choke you, and thus end their pain,
Hearty thanks from your poor distressed neighbors he’d gain.”

Today in 2014, The Independent reported on a man in China who was not exactly feeling the love on Valentine’s Day.

He used the website of a movie theater in Shanghai to buy up all the odd-numbered seats for a showing of the movie “Beijing Love Story,” so that couples couldn’t see the picture together.

Somehow Valentine’s Day recovered from that devastating attack.

When Valentines Were Really, Really Mean (Slate)

Happy Valentine’s Day, I Hate You (Collectors Weekly)

Single Chinese man spoils couples’ Valentine’s plans by preventing them from sitting together in the cinema (The Independent)

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Image from Missouri History Museum via Picryl