Plenty of links to Valentine’s Day

The following is my summary of NPR’s Arnie Seipel’s summary of University of Colorado at Boulder historian Noel Lenski’s theory regarding the evolution of St. Valentine’s Day: The roots are in ancient Rome where there was an annual winter fertility ritual during which the names/numbers of eligible females were drawn from a jar in a kind of lottery system that paired them with the man who drew it. Once coupled, the males would get drunk and naked, and in wild celebration, commence to chasing the women around the village and striking them with the hides of previously sacrificed goats and dogs. Apparently this would help them all “get in the mood.”

Such cavorting continued during February for centuries. According to Seipel, the name Valentine was assigned to the idea of love making much later. The story goes that two men named Valentine were decapitated on Feb. 14 circa 300 AD by Roman Emperor Claudius II. Years later, the Catholic Church declared them martyrs, though it’s not clear why. It’s possible the Valentine boys rebelled against such random acts of public flogging and fornicating; they believed a Catholic wedding might be a better route to go. Regardless, those guys did something the Emperor didn’t like and they certainly paid a price for their posthumous fame.

Centuries later Shakespeare and others revised the theme into something less brutish, and a romanticized version took hold. Today, Valentine’s Day-related business exceeds $20 billion per year. During this time there is incredibly shmaltzy promotion of chocolate, jewelry, Hallmark cards, and fancy underwear. Advertisers have succeeded in getting consumers to conflate the acts of professing true love and spending money.

But I believe there is something more sinister at play here. Valentine’s Day hype is really a centuries-old vengeful conspiracy to make men feel guilty, and then to make us spend money to assuage that guilt! It stems from the aforementioned Roman version of foreplay, and there may be evidence that it has been a secret tool of fundraising for the Left.

I hereby declare that I have never smitten anyone with a hide of goat or dog or any other creature. I will also proclaim that true love happens only in middle school, and therefore all this hype about real Swiss chocolate and diamonds-are-forever and Hallmark drivel and candy coated panties is sheer gobbledygook.

If I could travel back in time to junior high school, I could illustrate my theory. (Note: in the following confessions I might have changed names.)

In sixth grade there was the girl who rode my bus and always sat up front. One day my friend told her about something I had said (I, Howard the Coward, was incapable of speaking for myself in these matters of the heart). The next day she got on the bus, then swiftly and deliberately passed by her usual seat and plopped her beautiful bacon-scented self in the seat next to me. There, bundled in our winter coats while the bus bounced and groaned along toward Campus School, not a word was spoken, though I do remember our shoulders touching. Now if I could travel back in time through the spirit of Valentine, I would write her a heartfelt note with a sticker on it: “Hi Bonnie, I think about you a lot.”

In seventh or eighth grade (can’t remember which because true love makes time a blurred streak) there was the girl to whom I said “Hi” in the halls every day and even in class a few times. She had long brown hair and pouty lips, the kind that when she smiled made her seem even more lovely. Maybe it was that my mother and grandmother had really been getting on my nerves lately, prying and such. Anyway, this girl was my secret, and if I could travel back in time to that second floor in Wheelock School, I would write a Valentine’s note professing profound Truth: “Dear Linda, I think about you a lot. I even think you look good in your glasses.”

Yes, there were other true loves during that time to whom I could write similarly eloquent proclamations, though none made such indelible marks on my adolescent psyche as the two described above. There were more lesser loves in high school, but then feelings became way too complicated. Then of course there were the adult relationships, after which I always felt like the original Mr. Valentines, their heads totally detached from their bodies and tumbling out onto the lawn beneath the guillotine.

Anyway, to prove I am not totally unromantic or anti-adult, I offer this sonnet, one that I’m sure will endear itself to the local Shakespeare Club, English teachers, and foodies alike.

A Sausage Sonnet

Shall I compare thee to a summer sausage?

Thou art more spicy and more curved:

Tough skin doth shield the inner goodage,

And grill’s briskets hath soon to ashes burned:

Sometime too red the coals do grow

and often is juiciness turned to black;

And every flame from propane goes low

And the links do fall betwixt the grilled cracks

But thy eternal sausage-ness shall never rot

Nor lose the pulpiness that thou possess

Nor shall Rover seize the dropped ort, nor Spot

When in these preservatives dost thou stay fresh

So long as nose can sniff and man can eat

So long lives this, and this makes you pretty sweet

Pete Howard is a Dunkirk resident, writer, musician and teacher. FOCAL Point strives to make insightful social commentary through the integration of Facts, Observations, Compassion, Awareness, and Logic.