Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine's Day blast from the past.

Have I got a box of Valentines Day Chocolates for you! Actually, it's a recycled box. And it's not chocolate. And it doesn't really come in a box. Anyhow, for your amusement, I'm posting here a couple of Valentines Day related essays (manifestos?) I wrote back in 1998. Before I was married. Before I had a proper blog (which I have largely ignored for the past couple years). Before everyone else had a proper blog. I used to write this stuff and email it to everyone on my email list. Here it is, out of context. Enjoy.



[Feb 10, 1998] we go.

take a deep breath, and graciously accept this bouquet of roses from me, off-color and slightly wilted though they might be.

on my drive into work today, i was told that what women want, what they really, really want (spice girls included) are 1K diamond earings from jewelry 3 [2011 Marc is unsure if Jewelry 3 is a store that exists any longer, but let's just say that the modern equivalent of said perfect gift is just about anything from the open hearts collection by Jane Seymour, available at Kay]. is that true ladies? just checking. see, i figure that if i give the right gift to the girl of my dreams, she will ignore my bad hair, crooked and slightly yellow teeth, my lack of washboard abs, my lack of adequate finances, the fact that i sing vaguely off-key, my collection of comic books, and poor self-image and will love me. and they cost only $97. apparently, the beatles were incorrect in assuming that they couldn't buy them love. of course, in the '80's, girls just wanted to have fun, and that was a bit more cost-effective. interesting when you think of the '80's as the decade of excess (and INXS), you wouldn't think economizing was such an issue. i gues cindy lauper was just ahead of her time. a real pioneer, that wacky girl was.

but on to the matters at hand.

in trying to make some sense of this whole valentine's day thing (something i have been trying to do for years, ever since the little tastless heart candy i got from dori bicek, in fourth grade said "hey dude" and the one that phil jones got said "be mine") i have researched the history of this blessed event. i have always felt, or rather, i have always been told, that if you understand the past, you are better prepared for the future.

now, as with all history, particularly history seeped in legend, one encounters the problem of conflicting reports. so i have compiled all the facts at hand, cross referenced them, and then filled in the blanks to try to give you an accurate, reliable, and archeologicaly supported historical reference.

the significance of february 14 dates back to before anybody thought to canonize Valentine (whose identity is in doubt anyway), possibly as far back as the fourth century b.c.. way back then, you see, romans had a lot to offer the world. domination, conquest, funny hats (they still have those, only you have to be a pope to wear them), latin and many, many, many gods. on february 14, one of these gods got a party thrown in her honor. juno, apparently the queen of the roman gods, known most for her support of the female gender in general, and the institution of marriage, specifically. i don't know what this particular shindig involved, but if the women's only parties i have spied on are any indication, i suspect paper hats, toilet paper, and strange party games were involved. what i do know about this day, is that towards the evening, the women, or girls, as the case may be, would write their names on a peice of paper (separate peices of paper, of course) and they would place them in a large shoebox decorated with hearts cut out of construction paper, elmer's glue, and glitter (if they wanted to get really fancy.) the neighborhood boys would then wander by, dressed to impress, collars turned up on their togas and sandles shined up for the occasion, perhaps a bit of sheep lard to hold their hair in place, and they would reach in the box and grab a slip of paper. the young lady whose name they drew would be their partner for the upcoming festivities of the feast of Lupercalia, which began the next day. other historical documents suggest that this young lady was to be the man's companion for the year, after which another lottery would take place. this hardly seems in keeping with the idea of juno as the goddess of marriage, but who is going to argue with ancient romans? a guy with a time machine, maybe.

at this time, i would like to voice my opposition to the "grab bag" method of choosing a date, and possibly a mate. true, those guys too shy to ask a girl to dance don't end up sulking in the olive groves, loathing themselves for their lack of courage. but on the other hand, it seems to take the choice out of the whole thing for the women. and what happens if there is an uneven number between the sexes in that town. this could lead to trouble.

the feast of Lupercalia was apparently a rite of passage for young men, and a festival in worship to the god lupercus, who, if honored properly, would protect flocks, and keep animals and people healthy and fertile. lupurcus really liked singing and dancing, so the romans did that a lot. amidst the singing and the dancing, goats and dogs were sacrificed, and the young men would make straps out of the skins, and they would run around the streets and then lash the women with those straps. apparantly, lupurcus liked that as much as he liked singing and dancing, so he would be pleased and would ensure fertility and easy child delivery to those women who would subject themselves to such behavior. now, something else the romans believed was that on february 14, doves and owls mated. not with each other. with other doves and owls, respectively. so this seemed like a good idea to the romans, so those who were paired in the "lottery" would slip off together and imitate the owls and dove. i suppose that means that they would hoot and coo at each other. i can't imagine what else that would mean.

this sort of thing went on for some time, but eventually, the roman gods fell out of vogue, and policy decisions began to be made by the Christian church, who also had a monopoly on party hats. They did not approve of this festival, but rather than do away with it completly, they dusted off good old saint valentine, and made a big deal out of him.

but i'll get to that tomorrow.

until then,
make love, not war



[Feb 11, 1998]

hi, everyone. i hope you are all well. i have a splitting headache. well, not so much splitting as throbbing. have you ever had somebody repeatedly swing a rubber mallet at the inside of your brain? and then your brain bangs against the backs of your eyes? well, that's what i feel like. i have taken some painkillers, and intend to make another score soon, so don't worry about me. i will be comfortably numb soon enough.

of course, the headache didn't exactly help with the drive in. and the rain. visiblity was so bad that i wasn't sure if the vague shapes in front of me were other cars, or if perhaps those red glowing blurs were the eyes of some sort of demonic creatures. running backwards. very fast. it could happen.

and i kept repeating that nursery rhyme over and over in my head "rain, rain, go away..." it's been so long that i don't remember all the words, so that was pretty irritating. but then i began to think of the nature of children's songs, and i realized that they are little more than mantras that children repeat to themselves to conquer their fears. "ring around the rosey" is a little chant that dates back to when the black plague ravaged england. [2011 Marc has actually since heard evidence contradicting this, but as I don't know for sure, I choose to like the black plague story] "the itsy bitsy spider" casts a spider, a truly horrible creature (if you don't think spiders are horrible, rent "kingdom of the spiders" featuring william shatner in a role that will surprise you) as a determined hero. anyway, then i thought about how almost all "adult" songs deal with love in some way or another. and it occurred to me that like children, we sing about what we fear the most, which is, after all, love.

which brings me back to this whole valentine's day thing. (that previous paragraph was somewhat contrived and not very well-written. for that i apologize, but i present my headache as an excuse for all my faults today. )

in case anybody out there was wondering, of the ladies who have responded to my half-asked question, the vote is unanimous. the earrings that jewelry3 (stupid name, by the way) has been shilling are not the way to every woman's heart after all. i guess i have to take them all back. commercials have lied to me yet again. i'm going to have to stop believing everything i hear that happens to have a snappy jingle behind it.

but the real issue here is whatever happened to good old saint valentine. well, here's the deal. i have several versions of his tale that, while similar, are to some degree in conflict. plus, it's not clear if there was more than one valentine.

either way, like cupid, valentine, or valentinius, was a bit of a troublemaker. not so much because he flitted about shooting darts o' love into the hearts of unsuspecting potential lovers, but because the romans didn't much like christians. yet. so valentine was a christian, and as such (unlike many christians today) he was compassionate to his fellow man. woman. whatever. so he used to let the christians hide out at his swingin' bachelor pad when they were on the lam from the romans. to make matters worse, the emperor, one claudius II decided in his lead-poisoning induced madness, that if he abolished the practice of marriage, then he would have more soldiers in his army. without families, these men would have no excuse to not go about killing people. this, of course, seems a bit short-sighted to me. one would think this might lead to an eventual reduction in population, but he was the emperor, and who's to tell him that he has no clothes. well, valentinius, for one. Valentine took it upon himself to marry young couples who had such a desire. needless to say, this landed him in the pokey. the hoosegow. the slammer. the joint. the big house. whatever your favorite jail slang might be.

once in jail, valentine was a model prisoner, and the jailer was impressed with this kind and peaceful man, and would allow his daughter to spend her days with him. see, she was blind, and as such was no good around the house, so she would go to work with dad. always a good place for a young girl, prison. anyway, either they became pals, or valentine fell in love with her. it's unclear. maybe she wasn't so young. maybe there's something about valentine we don't know. anyway, legend has it that the day before he was executed, valentine wrote her a letter in ink that he pressed from violets, and signed it "from your valentine". wich seems odd, because the girl was blind. but, with violet ink, at least she could smell the card. miraculously, thought, when valentine gave her the card, her sight was restored. now. again, the story diverges. either he was executed as scheduled, or the jailer, pissed off that his daughter had fallen in love with this prisoner, clubbed him to death.

that's amore.

but, i tire of the history lesson. suffice it to say that when christians took over, they decided that a feast to the roman gods was a bad idea, so they made a big deal out of valentine and turned the feast of lupercus into Saint Valentine's day.

so for years and years, saint valentine had the honor reserved only for heads of state and rock stars, but probably because of his immense popularity, or because he was jaded by all the relationships gone sour that he was forced to oversee from his little pink room in heaven, he sold out. the catholics wouldn't stand for that, so they dropped him from their calender in 1969.

that's all for today.
more fun valentines facts tomorrow. probably.


I lied at the end of that post. I did not post any more Valentines facts the next day. There may be some people still waiting for that follow-up post. Get used to disappointment.

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