I entitled this blog “Don’t screw up Valentine’s Day” because a great many of us men will.
Yep, it’s a safe bet that even with cell phone and computer calendar reminders ringing bells and tweets in our ears, we’ll screw it up.
As a gender, we’re not all that good at this particular holiday. Perhaps with a historical perspective, some of it gleaned from the Internet, we can appreciate it more and, thus, not end up celibate all spring long — which would be a very long spring.
Who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with all this? The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine, Valentinus and the less popular name, Vinnie.
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest in Rome. When the emperor decided that unmarried men made better soldiers, he outlawed marriages for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the emperor’s order, defied him and continued to perform marriages for young couples in love. When the emperor found out, he ordered Valentine be put to death.
One legend says Valentine, while in prison, fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and sent her the world’s first “Valentine” card, declaring his love for her. He was then put to death, making one wonder how much she loved him back. Also, it was rumored the card was a Gary Larson silly cow card, unappreciated by the jailer’s daughter who, as history shows, had no sense of humor — and was ugly.
During the middle ages, when romance and beheadings flourished, Valentine’s Day was very popular in England and France, specifically in France where they paid tribute to Valentine’s Day just before the traditional “Surrender to Whomever” day.
Baseball and Fort Lauderdale have nothing to do with it
Why February? Some believe it coincides with the pagan Lupercalia Festival, which celebrates the beginning of spring, a time for purification and spring training (See “Bobby Valentine-New York Mets”).
The festival occurred around the 15th of February and was observed to avert evil spirits and purify Roman cities. It was also the time of spring cleaning and fertility, later known as “Spring Break.“
During the festival, the priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility, a dog for purification and old Slim Whitman albums for yodeling. The boys would then slice the goat’s hide into strips and dip them into the sacrificial blood. They would hit the streets, gently slapping women with the strips of goat hide.
The Roman women, according to my Internet research, were said to welcome the gentle smack of the goat-hide strips because they believed it would make them more fertile in the future. (Today, that same gentle smack of a goat-hide strip can still be had at about $300 for one hour. See “Craigslist/Personals/Erotic Goat-Strip Smacking by Helga.”)
Later the women would put their names in a big urn. The young bachelors would then each choose a name from the urn and those two would be a pair for one year — or longer if involved in a reality TV show — and hopefully wind up married, where they would happily gently smack each other, first with goat-hide strips and eventually with whatever they could get their hands on. Good times.
Bring all this nonsense forward a bunch of years and add some slick marketing, television and the raging libido of the male gender, and you have the annual Holiday of Morons, in honor of those who forget.
Valentine’s cards have been on the shelf since Halloween and, if you’re smart, that’s only a stop on the way to buying her something nice — what she likes, not what you think she likes. (Hint: Stanley tools and tickets to the Monster Truck Jam are risky gifts. True, if she likes them, she’s a keeper for sure. Still, your odds are not good.)
The Aisles of the Damned
Pick any city on Feb. 14, at about 5:15 p.m., and go to Aisle Five — greeting cards. Look closely at the men who procrastinated up to the point where they must now choose among the lousy leftover selection of greeting cards. Here you’ll find the really bad ones like: “Nothing Says Love Like Our Suicide Pact” or “I Love You but Don’t Make Me Choose Between You and Porn.”
These are the men who are doomed to spend late night watching “Letterman” instead of playing “Captain Midnight with Goat-Hide Strips” with his Valentine.
As sure as a teenager sleeps 15 hours a day, those guys will be there, on Aisle Five, with the 2,000-yard stare, looking for anything at all that might get them through it. While it’s too late for most of them, it’s not too late for you.
We can’t save all of them, but we perhaps can save a few. (Insert “Sally Struthers” here.) Learn from their mistakes and go beyond your limits on this year’s Valentine’s Day. It’s worth it, for us — us guys. We need you.
Now get out there and make us proud.