I never realized this, but Saint Valentine was the patron saint of lovers and beekeepers. Who knew? Certainly not me. Gives “bee my honey, valentine” a whole new aspect though, doesn’t it?
Exactly 1,792 years ago, in the Central Italian town of Terni, a little boy was born who would grow up to be the subject of over 150 million greeting cards a year, second only to those sent at Christmas. His name was Valentinus of Terni. As an adult he was quite good at converting the Romans to Christianity. This didn’t sit too well with the Roman Emperor Claudius. When the 43 year-old Valentinus politely refused the Emperor’s suggestion to stop converting Romans, Claudius had him beheaded on February 14th, 269. Ahhh. Good times.
And that’s why on February 14th of every year we celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving flowers, candy, jewelry, and greeting cards to those we love. Yeah, I’m sorry. I just don’t see the connection. It actually wasn’t until the Middle Ages that people started celebrating Valentine’s Day. Now, here we are, centuries later, with the notion of gifting our loved ones with chocolates and over-sized bears a part of our cultural fabric, except for that brief, yet fun, period when insults were all the rage.
It starts in kindergarten. First, making a little construction-paper and doily covered mailbox to hold all our valentines – that was my favorite part, I’ll have to admit. Then exchanging little cards with each other, the teacher making sure that everyone got one. In grade school, we’d make construction-paper red and white hearts for our parents and a select few of our more crush-worthy classmates. In junior high (this was in the years before “middle school” became a thing), we became much more selective, and secretive, when acknowledging Valentine’s Day with classmates. With high school (at least, my high school) came the single roses or carnations sold by the PTA for $2 a piece…flowers that would be delivered to the classrooms at some point in the day for all our fellow students to behold and admire.
As adults, we moved on to more serious gift giving. Last year, Americans spent $19.7 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts. I’m pretty sure that the majority of that money was spent on gifts to soothe ruffled feathers, hold on to troubled relationships, or for relationship “prospecting.” But hey, whatever moves the economy along and provides for 50% off candy the day after, I’m all for it. At least, the 50% off candy part.
As for me, I’m spending Valentine’s Day as a single person this year. Believe or not, I find it quite liberating. Single adults have been emancipated from what I call “The Great Valentine’s Day Duty Dash.” You’ve all probably witnessed this great phenomenon. It is a double tidal wave of frantic people flooding CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and 7-11 stores across the country, desperately looking for something (preferably not too expensive) that they can give a significant other to celebrate a holiday that somehow was able to sneak up on them.
The first wave arrives on the evening of February 13th. They look like a horde of locusts stripping a Kansas wheat field. Candy, cards, cheap perfume, wine, flowers, teddy bears, candles, Gillette Venus shaving kits.
The second wave arrives around 5:00 PM on February 14th. Rush hour. The stores have desperately tried to restock the shelves, but not much is left. People begin to realize that if they don’t come home with a Valentine’s Day gift, they might as well just not go home. When they discover that the last of the Snickers bars and My Little Pony Lip Gloss are gone, they fall to the floor and begin flipping about like tuna on the deck of a fishing boat.
As a single person, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. The angst of buying the “right gift,” or any gift, is gone. The decisions about the appropriateness or cost of a gift are non-issues. After spending more years than I would like to admit stressing out over being faulted on my gift choices – as well as my reaction to gifts given to me, I’m glad to have a break in the routine. When I was younger, I didn’t think it would ever be possible, but my experiences have dimmed the shine of cupids and hearts and hastily thrown together reservations at that candlelit Italian restaurant. And that’s okay too. That life was not all it was cracked up to be, trust me, and no amount of Valentine’s Day pageantry would’ve fixed it. I’ve since found that what I want in a relationship is something deeper, something real, something that doesn’t need to be glossed over with decorative red and pink trappings to keep it afloat. Now, I have different romantic goals.
When my soulmate and I do connect on Valentine’s Day? It won’t be with heart-shaped boxes of candy and cards and cute stuffed animals or a reservation at that exclusive, yet somehow still overly crowded, restaurant with a fixed holiday menu. It will be with whiskey and action movies and dancing in the living room. And ice cream. Or cheesecake. I’m good either way.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I suppose I should write about why I’m single (a renewed sense of self-worth in case you wanted to know – also, I’ve heard it’s helpful if you actually go outside and let people see you) or why I hate the holiday (which I don’t) or how it’s a holiday mostly created by greeting card companies and chocolatiers (it is, but hey, I love chocolate, so there). But instead of all of that, I will just admit to something…at heart, I’m a hopeless romantic. There, I said it. This Marvel comic, action/horror flick loving chick is not ashamed to admit it.
I have no doubt that my soulmate will appear at some point in time, and we will offer each other a safe haven (to hell with the white knight trope) – albeit a somewhat debauched, and
wine whisky filled haven…but hey, a safe haven nonetheless. I’ve been disappointed in the past, in ways that at times defy comprehension, however I refuse to let that alter my viewpoints on “love” completely. I’m in no hurry though. Eventually “the one” will cross my path…who knows, maybe he already hangs out in my favorite Starbucks. Knowing my luck, he’ll be drinking decaf. Oh well. Perfection is overrated anyway.
Everyone knows I’m a bit strange when it comes to love stories. I’m drawn to the “odd” ones you find in horror movies or action flicks…yet I also feel a kinship to those told through tales like Pride & Prejudice and The Notebook. That doesn’t mean I’m going to like every chick flick out there though…there aren’t too many chick flicks I do like actually. For a while now I’ve been seriously crushing on Ava and Boyd from Justified and hoping their relationship survives the season finale. If you don’t watch the show, suffice it to say they’re not your average couple. They’re more along the lines of a criminally hardcore Bonnie and Clyde. As I said, I’m a bit off. That’s okay. I embrace my weirdness.
But back here in the real world, who doesn’t want eternal love? It does exist. I’ve seen it. My parents for one. They’ve been married just shy of forever and while they bicker, they still hold hands to cross the parking lot. I’ve also seen it with my grandparents who met later in life (it was a second marriage for my Grandmother whose first husband, my Mom’s father, died in the coal mines), but most definitely married for love. My Grandfather had his hands full with my Grandmother (she was a spitfire and then some) and he loved her all the more for it. I don’t think there’s anything he wouldn’t have done for her.
And then I came across this article today, just in time for Valentine’s Day. I’m sure the newspaper planned it that way on purpose. A feel good story for Valentine’s. But truly, it is indeed inspiring. For here are the stories of individuals whose love is so strong that it withstands all odds – for even when their better half is lost within themselves so deeply that they cannot remember the shared love, the lives intertwined, or even their own names – the devotion never wavers. Alzheimer’s Disease is a horrendous illness. It invades your mind; it steals your memories. But the men profiled in this editorial are not willing to let go of their wives to the likes of Alzheimer’s, because while their spouses may not remember, they do. If that’s not eternal love, I don’t know what is.
In the waning days of August, as summer inched closer to its end yet still had plenty of bite to put sweat on the forehead at the height of the afternoon, I was in a local store to grab a few items and, lo and behold, I saw Halloween decorations staring back at me. Really!? In August the merchandisers were already starting to push Halloween on us!? Halloween, people! I did a double take just to make sure I hadn’t maybe forgotten that I had previously slipped into a coma and having recently come out of aforesaid coma forgotten that it was actually the beginning of October. Nope. No coma. It was definitely August and before Labor Day fireworks were even being set up, I was already being nudged to think about how I’m going to decorate my front porch for a night more than two months away!
Absurd, I know, but this is how the trend has been going for years now. Each successive holiday season, the celebration du jour has their products on sale earlier and earlier. My prediction? By mid-September (now-ish) we’ll start seeing turkey cartoons and cornucopia centerpieces. By the time Halloween actually rolls around there will be plastic sleighs and reindeer horns for sale next to cash registers. On Christmas Eve we’ll be able to buy chalky candy hearts with “Be Mine” and “Kiss Me” tattooed on them. After we sing Auld Lang Syne we’ll crack open a Cadbury Cream Egg which, by the way, has already been on sale for a week.
It’s getting crazy how early each consecutive holiday season starts but is it really that unexpected? Should we be shocked? We do live in an age of capitalism, so getting the jump on the competitor is how a business thrives. And who doesn’t like being reminded of these great excuses to eat more than we can fit in, see family we can barely stand, and drink more than we ought to? But when is it too much?? Keep pushing the clock back the way it’s been going and before you know it kids will be sucking on candy canes on their way home from the swimming pool. Feliz Navidad!