So. Valentine’s Day just happened.
The actual story of St. Valentine doesn’t have much to do with the sensationalized “holiday” it has become.
Valentinus was a priest in the late 3rd century. During that time, Claudius II (Claudius the Cruel) of Rome was heavily persecuting Christians.
Aiding Christians, let alone marrying them, was considered a crime at the time. Claudius believed that young men wouldn’t join the army, or go to war, out of devotion (uh, lust?) for their wives. To prevent that, and to ensure he had a robust army, Claudius the Cruel banned all marriages or engagements. Valentinus thought that this was unjust, and continued to marry Christians. As a result, he was arrested and imprisoned. As the story goes, Claudius II took a liking to Valentinus, and Valentinus tried to convert him to Christianity (that NEVER happens now)… but Valentinus was ultimately condemned to be beaten to death and then beheaded. His execution took place on February 14.
Because he continued to marry Christians while they were under this persecution (hmm. Reminds me of another fight for marriage rights, today) , Valentinus was sainted.
He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers, young people (Interesting, isn’t it, that no one thinks of epileptic seizures or honey bees on February 14).
So, if anything, Valentine’s Day is a *religious* holiday. Did you go to church on Thursday, February 14th? I didn’t think so. You may have called out the word “God”, but I doubt it was from a pew.
Do you know about the Feast of Lupercalia?? It was celebrated on February 15, and the ceremony of the festival was to secure fertility and guard against evil. The custom was that two young men, clad in animal skin, ran through the streets slapping passersby with strips of goat skin. Surely, you aren’t strongly considering skinning a goat to show your crush that you’re hot for him/her? If you are, kindly keep that away from me.
(Interestingly, male goats are meant to embody sexuality. Hello? I’m a Capricorn. )
My point? There’s some history behind what we currently “celebrate.” Maybe there’s something to do with love. However – do we need one day per calendar year to celebrate love??
No, we don’t. Valentine’s Day has become a commercialized, hallmark, jewelry-store, bad chocolates, those-poor-singletons holiday.
When I was in the first grade, I had a crush on a boy named Michael. I may have mentioned this in a previous post. Michael had curly, sandy blond hair, a gravel-y voice, dark brown eyes (a weakness of mine, to this day), and wore plaid flannel shirts. A lot.
Michael was also a class-A jerk. Even at 7 years old.
That year I had Strawberry Shortcake valentines, and, the rule was that we had to give valentines to everyone on the class during the class party on Valentine’s Day. The days before were spent diligently cutting out giant heart shapes that we would dutifully paste or staple together ( I chose to staple – faster, and, even at 7 I thought the pointy sharp edges and risk of drawing blood apropos) to form giant envelopes that we affixed to the front of our desks . These would hold all of our valentines received from classmates.
In the midst of opening the cards with my girlfriends, Michael stormed over to my desk, slammed my valentine to him on my desk and shouted, “I HATE Strawberry Shortcake!!”
He had given me the “Teacher” valentine. Clearly a lot of thought went into that.
My next significant Valentine’s Day was marked by Will, in the third grade. He surely must have known I had a giant crush on him, but I was very shy – I was skinny, nerdy, wore giant coke-bottle-bottom glasses (which were made of glass, at the time, so they always slid down my nose. Also, it was the early 80’s. While I slathered on peach-flavored lip gloss, I also had to keep pushing my giant, heavy glasses up my nose. Not cute in the eyes of 9 year old boys.).
On Valentine’s Day, before our class party (I was terrified that Will knew I liked him, and I was simultaneously thrilled to be able to eat pink-frosted sugar cookies and drink soda), we all were let out for recess. I remember distinctly playing on the see-saw with my friend Melissa. Will, out of nowhere (at least, to my 9 year old mind), stormed over, balled his hands into fists, and screamed (at me):
“YOU’RE SCUM!! AND YOU’RE UGLY!!”
Valentine’s Day should not be “celebrated” in elementary schools.
Or high schools, for that matter. That was a painful 4 years. Everyone around me seemed to be flooded with notes, cards, and roses in Chemistry class. Me? I was invisible. I didn’t exist. I was the ugly smart-assed, bitchy, smart girl.
Hey, a girl does what she has to do to get by.
Now though, I think Valentine’s Day is a bit silly. I have had some lovely Valentine’s Days as an adult: great dinners, hot sex, jewelry, roses, affection… And that is all very sweet.
But, you know what I think is romantic? Flowers on a random Tuesday, just because. Dinner that my guy cooked (even if it’s spaghetti – the thought matters. Well, a nicely seared filet would be better. ;)). A text in the middle of the day describing what he wants to do later on.
I don’t need a day on the calendar to “celebrate” a relationship, and while I appreciate flowers on this day, I also appreciate them any other day of the year. Flowers on February 14 feel almost forced. Let’s have some time alone instead. No need to spend money. We can watch a movie and go to bed early. Ahem.
Now that I’m single, I can stand back and watch Valentine’s Day from the sidelines. This year, I noticed the ads pushing chocolate, jewelry, cards, and trips.
Do you really think, if you’re a total and complete ass the other 364 days of the year, that buying something on February 14, makes up for your shittiness? Not quite. (A guy did that once. He was an emotionally abusive, low-life asshole that I should not have dated as long as I did. On February 14 – after we had broken up – he left roses on my doorstep before work. Never mind that he was hiding (<cough>. Stalking much?) around the corner WATCHING me as I found them. He thought this was wonderfully romantic and surely I’d run straight to his arms. He had fallen victim to the Hallmark hype.)
Ladies, don’t be so silly. You’re better and more intelligent than this. If you’re in a relationship with a good , genuine, caring man who loves you, you do NOT need an earmarked day on the calendar for him to show you this (disclaimer: wedding anniversaries and birthdays COUNT and are not silly “holidays”). And if you’re not in a good, kind, loving relationship?? Well, deep down you know that too; don’t become an advertiser’s dream.
Someone asked me this year what I wanted for Valentine’s Day. Granted, this was not a legitimate question. I don’t know this person “In Real Life.” I don’t really exist for him. He has, on more than one occasion, admitted that I am fantasy fodder for him (he contacted me via an online dating site that I no longer use). That’s fine, if that’s what he needs. It’s not ”real” after all. Anyway, he asked me what I wanted. My first answer?
I want a nap.
That would be the greatest gift I could get these days. A nap in the middle of the day.
Ok, ok. Before you stop reading because you think I’m a giant puddle of bitter, know this: I’m only a little bit bitter. I’m not bitter because I didn’t (don’t) have a boyfriend or a date to celebrate Valentine’s Day – or any other holiday I had a great Valentine’s Day. I was insanely busy at work. I had a nice dinner and some great wine, by myself, on my couch with my DVR. It was *exactly* where I wanted to be. It doesn’t get better than being exactly where you want to be, does it?
The things I’m bitter about have nothing to do with a stupid holiday, or red roses, or cards or sap. I’m bitter because I don’t have the thighs I did at 23, when I didn’t appreciate them. I’m bitter because I have to work out 6 times as hard now to burn calories and to fit into my clothes. Pizza has become a splurge rather than a staple.
I’m bitter because the money that I’d spend on amazing shoes has to go to my mortgage (actually, I’m not bitter about that, I think that’s pretty ok). I’m bitter because I haven’t gotten bizay in a long time (and, come on, that’s legit). However, that’s partly by choice. I don’t let just anyone up in he-ah.
But a silly holiday? No. That does not make me bitter. Sometimes wistful, yes, but not bitter. Not angry, not sad.
Instead, I like to show my good friends and family that I care about them. Sometimes I do that by cooking for them, leaving unexpected notes of gratitude, voice messages that say: “I’m thinking about you and your awesomeness!” They appreciate it; it makes me happy, and doesn’t put extra money in Hallmark’s or Tiffany’s pockets.
I’m not sure where the ridiculous stereotype of the sad lonely single gal on Valentine’s Day came from (must do some research on that). I’m single, yes. Sad? Not because of Valentine’s Day, surely.
Generally, I try to rear mightily against stereotypes as a rule. And, that one (Valentine’s Day = single girl as sad, lonely and pathetic) in particular is one I rage against.
I was not disappointed that my boyfriend/husband/significant other/office crush/other crush didn’t send me flowers, or stand at my bedroom window playing Peter Gabriel.
I was not irritated because I shelled out too much money for a Valentine’s Day cocktail with my girlfriends.
I didn’t stress about what I looked like, or what I wore. I didn’t worry whether my phone would ring, or if I’d get a text message. I didn’t cry when my mailbox contained no valentines.
Instead, I did some baking for family and close friends – they’re my true valentines, after all. They make me happy every day. Bring a smile to my face, make me laugh out loud. They appreciate me on my bad days and my good days. They tell me how wonderful they think I am, and they like it when I bring them unexpected goodies or jokes.
How’s *that* for a “sad” holiday? You can stuff it, Hallmark.
While I’m here, there’s one other stereotype that I want to touch on – since it played a prominent part in my Valentine’s week.
Porn. Specifically, the stereotype around who watches it.
Yep, pornography. Not that 50 Shades of Grey tripe. Real, serious, make you blush or turn away, graphic pornography.
I had quite the interesting conversation this week about it (it was recorded, for those who are interested, but you’ll have to check out my friends’ page and their podcast – you’ll want Episode 13, expect it soon.) and about the importance of good communication in a relationship.
Pornography is quite a sensitive subject, particularly for women. I know that some of you are offended by it, find it degrading, filthy, abhorrent. I will admit that there are genres of the stuff that make my stomach turn. However, here’s what I want to say:
Porn is what you make it or let it be. There is pornography that is demeaning to women. It can be argued that pornography portrays women as things, objects purely for men’s gratification (of course, this is talking about straight porn). I am not sure I entirely agree with that description of pornography as a whole. Yes, some porn is horribly disrespectful, downright scary. But, not all of us choose to view that variety. There is plenty of porn that is just “normal” sex – average people, enjoying each other. And, sometimes seeing that enjoyment, placing oneself (imaginarily) in that , er, position, can serve a very satisfactory purpose just as much for women as for men. And, why not? Why shouldn’t women enjoy recreational smut as much as men do?
During our podcast recording, Ric (of Ric and B) asked me whether I watch porn. I said I did. I should have clarified: I *use* porn. I do not pop some Jiffy Pop (because I do not own a microwave, you see) and settle in for the story line. When porn comes into my day (certainly not every day), it’s for a few minutes, and for a very specific purpose. I cannot say that I’ll watch a scene for more than 10 or 15 minutes. After that, the job is done, the purpose filled, and well, it just becomes boring, mechanical, and staged.
Does that shock you? Offend you? Do you think I am somehow less than or perverse? Judge away – I’m not bothered. I think it’s important to highlight that there seems to be a double standard around pornography. If you judge me, do you also judge your husband, your boyfriend, your boss, your brother or yourself? There are women who use porn just as men do.
After the podcast with Ric and B was recorded, I was talking about it with a friend of mine. I wasn’t sure how she would react to hearing the very candid conversation we had. She said something that struck a real chord with me: “Hey, just because we don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean it’s not real.” I paused, and realized she’s right. I was wrong to assume that she’d be embarrassed by the conversation, the topic, or that she’d think differently of me. Even I was (still am, I suppose) guilty of assuming that women don’t use/view/watch/enjoy porn. I know women who do, and who openly talk about it, but I’m still pleasantly surprised to learn of other women friends who are comfortable enough to acknowledge that it plays a part in their lives too. Bravo.
Of course, I think that how men and women use or respond to porn is different for the two sexes. One of the points I raised in the podcast was that for me, purely watching the act holds no appeal. What’s appealing is (caution, TMI alert) that I see the act, and imagine (or remember) what it feels like to be doing just that. I might remember a partner who did a certain thing in a certain way, or remember what it sounded like, felt like, etc. *That’s* arousing. What makes porn “work” for me is the mental element. I can’t say whether or not men have the same response, but since men are more visually stimulated (generally) than women, probably not..
If you don’t use or view porn in any form, if it’s not your thing, that’s fine. It doesn’t have to be. But, *why* isn’t it? Ask yourself that. If you can answer that, I hope that you’re at least answering the question honestly.
And, by the way – you should listen to that podcast when it’s up (episode 13) – you might blush, you might be shocked or disgusted, but I guarantee it will make you think and it will also make you laugh. That’s a good gift any time of year – Valentine’s Day or not. And, oh, I have mighty crushes on more than one of my podcast companions – see if you can figure out who those crushes might be.