Love is a many splendored thing – as is Valentine’s Day, in its own, very particular way. Being single I’m not officially allowed to frown upon February 14 because I’d come across as a sore, bitter spinster of some sort.
However, as I’m constantly being assailed with Valentine’s Day and all things related at the moment, I do think I’m authorized to say that February 14 is slightly overrated and often turns out to be a moment of unnecessary stress for everyone, single or not.
I actually believe it’s worst if you’re in a relationship. You cannot mock or ignore it, not even by saying that you’re against commercial holidays, Hallmark version. It’s unforgivable to treat Valentine’s Day like any other day. That would just seem, well, petty. And you can’t even trust your “cool” partner who says he or she doesn’t care about it, because it’s a lie. Believing that sort of nonsense causes much pouting and frustration.
The pressure is not so much on finding the right present, restaurant or frilly underwear as on “being romantic”. And let’s face it, if you’re not naturally inclined, acting romantic – or reacting to another persons romantic behaviour – is not that easy, especially not on a given day. However, it is essential to try, because you must prove that “you care”.
While I’m all for telling the important people in your life that you love them (some might even say I overdo it in that area), I’ve never been a great fan of Valentine’s Day. (It might have a little to do with the fact that two different men offered me cheese – yes, cheese – as a Valentine’s gift). Like every event where expectations have to be met, it often turns out disappointing. It also feels somewhat unnatural – which might be explained by the fact that it is.
Let me explain. Among the three “Saint Valentines” once acknowledged by the Catholic Church, not one had any links with romantic love. In fact, like Christmas, Easter and many other “holidays”, Saint Valentine’s Day was invented to Christianize a pagan celebration. In this case, Lupercalia, a Roman festival held partly in the honour of Lupercus, God of fertility and husbandry and protector of herds and crops, and partly in honour of Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus (supposed founders of Rome). The celebrations involved sacrifices of goats and a dog, and men running round flagellating women to ensure their fertility.
Not much to do with love either, you might say. Wrong. Because Lupercalia was also a kind of “sex festival’. On February 14, small pieces of paper with teenage girls names written on them would be put in a big jar and teenage boys would choose one at random. The newly formed “couple” would then join in the erotic games and festivities of Lupercalia and remain sexual partners for the rest of the year.
In other words, “real” Valentine’s Day shouldn’t have anything to do with cards, flowers, hearts and red-coated chocolate. It’s supposed to be a sex lottery. Maybe one day, it will become so again. But in the meantime, you’d probably better start making more traditional plans.
As for me, I’ll be neither depressed nor feeling sorry for myself on February 14. Despite my single status, I’ll even be celebrating it fondly as the very special day it is. I say this because my son was conceived on Valentine’s Day.
So if your guy gives you cheese like mine did on that same day, don’t despair. Something truly marvellous might happen next.