Saturday, February 12, 2011

valentine's


Cupid, in Roman mythology, was the son of Mars and Venus, the god of war and the goddess of beauty.  He was told by his mother to go into a mortal’s room to destroy her with a poisoned arrow, making her fall madly in love with an evil man.  Venus knew the way to wreck a woman’s life is to make her fall in love with a jerk.

Cupid has become a symbol of love (and of Valentine’s Day)  often depicted as an angel with a bow and arrows.  No one bothers to remember that he was a mama’s boy who tripped on his way into Psyche’s bedroom and cut himself with his own arrow and fell in love with the woman Venus was trying to destroy.  OY!  Cupid's weakness and stupidity makes him a good mascot for the oddest holiday of the year.

I have a top ten list about why Valentine’s Day sucks... and around this time, each year, I am reminded of it. 

I’m happily married to the love of my life.  Not only does he remember gifts and foo-foo favors, but he also remembers to put the seat down every single time.  That is a romantic gesture!  He has never let me down on this day...he once sent me a Valentine that was so big it had to be hand-delivered – it was the size of a poster. 

Nevertheless, I still believe, by its very nature, the holiday still sucks - big time. 

My main reason I feel this way is that this holiday is a day that we have made to celebrate romance (many times our twisted version of romance) and inflates the normal prices of chocolates, cards, and flowers on and around that day.  It exploits romance, not celebrates it.

Secondly, it makes single people feel so unloved and so alone.  I never have been alone on Valentine’s Day, but I’m literally protective and perturbed for the people who are.  These are amazing, awesome people who have to be reminded that they (on this one day) are not in a significant relationship where they can have an overpriced dinner with their significant other, looking goopily into each other’s eyes and telling each other how they are the bees knees...and so on.  The next day most water cooler conversations turn into competitive comparisons of how dearly loved each others’ significant other has made them feel .  I know of no single person who has ever said “Get a life!” or “Thank God you both kow-tow to holiday pressure!” 

Lastly, I think the holiday has (more than any other) made me and most people I know feel unloved or unworthy more than any other holiday, by a flippin long shot.

 In Latin, valor means “brave”.  Valentine’s Day is a day that evokes thoughts of bravery, specifically my bravery through the years of elementary school and enduring Valentine’s Day parties where I got the cheapest, least cute cards from all of my classmates...sometimes the one that was the “bonus” one on the back of the box that you had to cut out.  That one didn’t have its own envelope.  How many times had I wished to be pretty and popular...and get the large cards, the “best firend” cards, even from people who I thought were my best friends!  It was not to be, and I joined the rank of many who saw the day as a day to be humiliated or ignored. 

In High School, when everyone finally admitted I was pretty and worth a damn, I collected handfuls of roses sold by the Asilomar delegates on Valentine’s Day.  No one dared to put them in their locker.  It was the oil of the anointed, the flavor of love in our small little world.  I proudly carried mine around to show how loved I was.  There were always those with more; there were always those with much less, even none.  I ignored the pangs of my heart for them, and listened, instead, to the voices of the admiring friends, proclaiming me popular and queen of roses.  How pathetic. 

The Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine, written in 1260 was one of the most-read books of the High Middle Ages.  It gives sufficient details of Catholic saints for each day of the liturgical year, and is one of the only references we have for St. Valentine.  Its very brief description portrays him as an evangelical man, preaching Jesus Christ and calling everyone to know Him...and His love.  The story has him refusing to deny Christ before Claudius, Emporer of Rome, in the year 280.  Claudius opposed proselytizing in any religion, even in those regions where he allowed natives to worship freely. The act of wilful defiance to an emperor was punishable by death, and Claudius ordered it for Valentine the following day.  Before his head was cut off, Valentine restored sight and hearing to the young daughter of his jailer. The girl was poor, and left orphaned would not be able to earn a living.  There was no romantic relationship, just the last act of a man condemned to die. 

As a result of the miraculous transformation of his daughter, the Roman jailer became Catholic and reported the event to the church, who pronounced him a martyr and considered “Sainthood” for him.  The day they eventually pronounced St. Valentine’s Day (February 14) is the anniversary of his execution, not his birthday.  We are celebrating the execution of a good man who healed and blind and deaf girl and was led to his slaughter by a corrupt king. How romantic!

Chaucer, who wrote Canterbury Tales, also wrote a long poem called  “Parlement of Foules” (Assembly of Birds) where he proclaims St. Valentine’s Day to be “A Day for Lovers”.  

So it’s Chaucer’s fault that the holiday became the heavily marketed guilt tool of chocolatiers and restaurateurs  around the world.  It’s his fault that my single friends all need pep talks on how they are highly valued and dearly loved on this day. 

I’m not falling for that.  My husband loves me and he doesn’t need to jump through hoops to prove it.  We buy discounted cards and candy for each other the following day (or a week after) that are 50% off. 

This makes me smile... we beat the holiday pressure at its own game.
 
And Canterbury Tales sucks, too.