In a Vermont café, a satellite disco station (?) pounds the refrain Leave me alone!—a fitting anthem by which to ponder Valentine’s Day. While some people like V-day, seems like more do not. Personally, I love holidays, especially in elderhousing where they overdecorate, and I used to dig any excuse to give my grandma her chocolates. But I get why people hate it.
Established for murky reasons, V-day now serves unintended purposes: to make singles feel lonely; to foment card-based popularity contests at school; to weaken or destroy fledgling relationships with dashed, if silly, expectations; to sell shit. V-day is based upon Roman traditions, which gives you a heads up right there because the Catholic Church recognizes a few saints named Valentinus, all of whom were martyred (that, or self-immolated on love’s pyre after one cruel text too many). One Valentinus, a priest, performed weddings on the QT after marriage was outlawed by Claudius, who, naturally, had him killed. Another Valentinus allegedly signed a love letter from prison with, “From your Valentine,” before his death. A dark origin indeed, whichever St. Valentine you select.
Other lore has the Christian church calendaring St. Valentine’s feast in an effort to co-opt the pagan celebration of Lupercali, a fertility festival occurring on the 15th. Priests would sacrifice a dog for purification and goat for fertility. Strips of goat hide slathered in the sacrificial blood were slapped upon (waiting!) women and crop fields to ensure fertility. Young women placed their names in an urn; each bachelor picked one and was paired for a year with her, leading often to marriage. Sounds horrid, but no more of a crapshoot than the way we do it. Plus, they were young Italians so they were probably all hot-looking.
If I had a date, I’d choose not to be flogged messily with unclean pelts but to spend this holiday at the Randolph Valley Bowl. That is where romance can really flower, with all the sights, sounds, and smells of the lanes. My Vermonty date would pick me up (sleigh? Monster truck with bumper sticker Gone Muddin’?) and after a couple of near-accidents with lousy teen drivers we’d achieve the alley, soak in its ambience, order pizza and beer, and thread up our snappy shoes. Because we seldom bowl, we’d run hot and cold: strikes followed by gutterballs. That’s a good name for a band, The Gutterballs. I just checked—it is a band! The Butterballs, however, is still available, probably because it means The Turkeys or The Chubby People. Anyway, it would be a perfect date, and I envy those bowling on this night of romantic fantasy.
V-day is the second largest card-sending holiday. Sadly, I don’t meet the criteria for success in any of the countries in which it is celebrated (accumulation of degrees, capital, or marriage certificates). When my niece says during a movie, “You look like Anne Hathaway,” which I most certainly do not, it’s enough for me on this special day of pagan provenance, that a 9 year-old holds such to be true. On Valentine’s Day 2013, unlike so many prior, I have arrived.
My valentine to humanity, were I a scientist, would be to create a kit people could buy to test their lovers’ levels of oxytocin and vasopressin, two brain chemicals which strongly encourage social monogamy. I’d name my kit, cheerily, Don’t Candycoat It, Sweetheart! (exclamation point a pretty candy cane graphic). It would come with a booby prize, like a dopamine-boosting Belgian chocolate, for when results were disappointing. “Bummer. Wait, here is this confection. Okay.”
At the Sooperbowl, America’s soopersweetheart Beyonce’s army of wicked witchy wildwomen worked it without west or wewaxation. Some disliked the flash of Beyonce’s halftime show, but I say when hundreds of talented women, mostly of color, are paid to do as they wish at one of earth’s most male, most televised sporting events, they have arrived. (P.S. You try that in heels!) That a young girl was spotlit for her football prowess and the second ad into the game was for Maybelline (!) says somebody in Marketville has noticed how women earn and spend a lot of bread. Don’t forget the valentine, SooperCorp.
However you roll, be that sacrificing a goat, warbling Leave Me Alone to Hallmark’s CEO, whatever, may yours be a fanciful holiday filled with cards, flowers, bloodied pelts, gutterballs, chocolates, and the brain chemicals of your choice, not necessarily in that order. Good day.