Saturday, February 12, 2011

Let's Shoot Cupid

Getting what he deserves

I say let's just shoot Cupid and give Valentine's Day back to the wolves...the annoying little bastard. He shows up every time this year with the expressed intent of  foisting " that loving feeling" on the general populace through the procurement of poor quality chocolates in tacky recycled cardboard boxes, plastic novelties ( most of which are down right embarrassing) and a peculiar awkwardness that takes most of us right back to that day in second grade at the moment when we realize that Bobbie Swartzenratt is the most beloved human in our immediate universe because he has all the punch out Valentine cards featuring Batman. I don't know about you, but I'm still recovering from all the emotional upheaval wrought by Santa Claus and his Merry band of Elves, and I am tired and want nothing more than to be left alone.  Valentine's Day has always been my least favorite holiday, even during the moments when there was a "special" someone in my life. I have nothing against Love and all it's feel good endorphins...Just Valentine's Day it's self, because it seems so contrived; in flies the midget with the bow and arrows, and we're all supposed to be instantly insane about someone, anyone...because no one is supposed to be alone on Valentine's Day. It's some sort of character flaw. I really find the whole forced " Show your love today" thing offensive...if you really care, then love me everyday. Be caring and faithful and accepting of my faults and take me warts and all...or go away, I don't need you or your extra baggage.( I know you're thinking, "What an attitude!"... I know.)

The first thing I don't like about Valentine's Day is how it's marketed. Sales start on December 26th, during the Yuletide season, which is 12 days, thank you very much. I want my Twelve Days of Christmas because it's traditional, the middle of the cold snowy season here in the Northern Hemisphere, and I'm freezing my butt off - I need something to make me happy because there are twelve more weeks of Winter. Never mind that the Christmas decorations go up in Macy's and Wal-Mart  two weeks before Halloween. Retailers are now determining the seasons of our lives, and I think we're getting what we deserve for letting the money changers into our Temple in the first place.The second thing is the gaudy red, neon pink and lavender decorations- cheesy heart and Cupid cutouts, lip prints, etc. which all seem to make the day into a holiday-themed French Whorehouse that has less to do with love than selling sex. Where did all those lace and ribbon trimmed boxes of candy go? The tasteful cards with rhyming verse? The roses? The sheer civility of it, for crying out loud...
Will you be my 'love puppy'?

February used to be the month of Lupercalia, the Wolf Festival to honor the she-wolf who mothered Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome.The festival replaced the even more ancient Februa, a time to prepare for the coming of Spring, from which we get the month's name. Lupercalia was observed for three days with the intention of purification from  evil spirits, to impart health and fertility and attended by Luperci, a priesthood known as the Brotherhood of the Wolf. Wolves are known to be very loyal to their partners, so I suspect this is where the 'love' element of the festival comes in ( You have to use a bit of imagination when you start researching these pre-Christian festivals because sometimes there is no more background than free association- " Hey, let's have it mean this, this and, oh, yeah, let's toss in this, too...").
I've heard an unsubstantiated story about the Lupercalia Lottery, where the town bachelors drew the names of eligible maidens into a hat and courted them for a year- but frankly, that's sounds more like a Beltaine story to me. In the years after the Christian occupation of Rome, the myth changed to a more chase version of the young men choosing the name of a saint to emulate for a year.

Who was Valentine, anyway? While he was trying to convince Rome's young nobleman to be more saintly, Pope Gelasis also declared the newly beautified saint  the patron of Lovers, and his day was to be held every year on February 14-you guessed it-right in the middle of  pagan Lupercalia. The official record on Valentine, as in the case of many of the lesser saints, has been spotty: he may have been a martyr during the reign of Claudius, but since he was a homeboy from Rome, he merited remembrance.The story about him marrying soldiers going off to war and pissing off Claudius enough to bring about his execution is a thing of legend-but it makes good press thousands of years later.On the other hand, he may not have existed at all and is another invention of the Vatican, who can always use positive PR. Valentine's Day lost it's steam for a few hundred years and fell off the public's radar during the Inquisition, which replaced lighting up one's life with the ever popular Burning Times.

Around the beginning of the Victorian era, Valentine's Day once again became the fashion, creating the recognizable cards and other fancy trinkets we associate with the subject.  The first Valentine's Day cards were actually small pamphlets printed with the intention of being sold to young men to give to the object of their affection. Coming right out as an admirer was considered uncultured, so one could tastefully slip a pamphlet to the young lady in question for her to read at her leisure. The pamphlets were soon shortened into cards, and printing houses learned that Victorian horniness could be a money making venture. In America, the first Valentine cards are attributed to etiquette consultant Ester Howland in the 1870's. Valentine's Day cards are second most mailed cards next to Christmas greetings.
Knows how to woo a gal, doesn't he?

When I was very young and not very sure of who I was, I was madly in love with much older man who was a graduate of an Ivy League school, and we had planned to marry soon after becoming engaged. I loved that he was seemingly never at a loss of what to do at the right time...until Valentine's Day rolled around. He made a reservation at a suave restaurant, ordered a fine wine with dinner,bought a pound box of handmade butter creams and a dozen of the most gorgeous red roses I've ever laid eyes on. The display of affection- in- overdrive was awkward for us both. We ate our fabulous dinner in silence, the only words spoken being when I thanked him for the candy and flowers. He talked to the waiter more than me...the smiles we exchanged were painfully stiff. This was a man whom I was enthralled with because at other times he was a wonderful conversationalist and storyteller, who was well read, well traveled and well bred. Because we were 'expected' by polite society to display  a particular contrived behavior for the occasion, not only did the spontaneity go out of the evening but the romance as well. We both went home alone. I ate half of the box of candy and spent over an hour phoning older friends about the care of the roses. I'd never given nor received roses in my life, but I knew there was a certain way of caring for them so they didn't just droop in the vase. The relationship survived two more Valentine's Days before we grew apart.

Enter February of 2006. I'd just come out of a rough period in my life and was scanning the newspaper because I needed a treat- maybe a play or a concert. Rick Springfield was in town,and I was momentarily seized by teenage lust for the guy who had been my virtual boyfriend substitute growing up. A quick call was made to the box office and a concert ticket purchased; the ticket agent told me that the florist shop in the lobby was providing discounted roses for all ticket holders for the show because Rick 'did something special with them'. I was just game enough to pony up the ten bucks for a few flowers for my old flame from the pages of Tiger Beat magazine.Besides, it was Valentine's Day weekend. I quickly found out what Rick did with the bouquets: he slammed them against the strings of his electric guitar in a frenetic, violent frenzy-causing them to 'explode' into the air, and rain down on the audience. The moment he got his hands on the bouquets of roses and had done his signature windmill move, I was covered in the petals of decapitated roses.The light filtering through them was amazing. They were in my hair and all around me ( and later I found some in my bra, although for the life of me I don't know how they ever got there!)...and in that moment, the absurdity of Valentine's Day vanished. I  learned a valuable lesson: don't save the roses to just admire, tear them apart and experience them. Let their color and fragrance rain down and enjoy their sacrifice. It's one of those frozen in time moments to enjoy. Don't be afraid to love somebody everyday ...and forget the neat little boxes we create for ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. Love somebody every day and let the people know you love them seems the best way to me.

    If Cupid strikes, he'll do it at random so Feb. 14 isn't necessarily a magic day. Commercial hype blows so much out of proportion. The magic comes in getting through the tough stuff and growing and sustaining love and being loved includes those who care about us, not just romantic love.


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