I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.
– Norma Jean Mortenson
I find that the longer I live the more I question the nature of our notion of love—but this is really only a small part of the living of life for most of us. A longer life means greater exposure to things generally, and more exposure produces a more varied existence. The longer you live, for example, the more likely you are to contract an exotic disease such as Alzheimer’s, or cancer, or perhaps to become the victim of a terrorist attack. You’re simply around longer, and linear mathematics being what it is, the longer you live, the greater your pool of human experience, which is a two-edge sword.
The pool of experiences is likely to be not only greater, but more diverse as well—which means the experiences will no-doubt be much more interesting but will also certainly include both pleasant and unpleasant events. To wit, the experience of living life is bound to include progressively both more ecstasy and torment, although it often feels to me as though there is much more torment than ecstasy.
And this brings me to the notion of Valentine’s Day. A day that vexes me like no other—so much so in fact that I was unable to write about it at a more appropriate time, like the actual Valentine’s Day rather than today. I instead stewed at my bar, while my wife prepared dinner. I refer to Valentine’s Day as a notion because like many notions it’s annoyingly silly. Most refer to it as a holiday, but this is precisely the problem I have with it. Holidays are known as such because the word devolved from the term Holy Day. You know, a day set aside to acknowledge or celebrate Divine intervention. News Flash. There’s nothing Holy about Valentine’s Day.
“But” the well read among you are no-doubt injecting as you read this entry “Valentine was sainted by the Catholic Church. He was convicted by the Romans of ministering to Christians and marrying soldiers forbidden to do so and then killed for the practice. Doesn’t that sound like something holy?” It does indeed. So what’s my problem?
My problem is that this stupid thing we call a holiday no longer resembles any sort of homage to or acknowledgement of Saint Valentine. It is instead a day to spend money—lots of money mind you—on things to demonstrate your love for that special someone in your life when a sincere “I love you” will suffice.
I blame Chaucer. For some reason he decided that it was a good idea to associate Valentine and his special day with romantic love in a stupid poem as a tribute to the engagement of a British king. Stop fretting; I’m not going to provide details because this isn’t the History Channel. This is a place where I get to rant about, lament, and mock things I despise and celebrate things I love. I underscore, though, that Valentine’s Day as we celebrate it, is stupid.
I mean, for Oktoberfest, a celebration of Prince Ludwig’s nuptials, we get beer served to us by women clad in provocative costumes. For Valentine’s Day, though, we get overpriced greeting cards, roses, and an expensive dinner. Ever wonder why the Germans were always kicking France’s ass? It’s because Paris is a city of romance, which is fine, but Munich is a city of beer halls. That’s why. But to the point, the original concept was veneration to a Christian martyr. Today it’s a vulgar offering to the proverbial Golden Calf.
At this moment I need someone to explain to me why I should plan months in advance to place a reservation at Bess Bistro to honor a Catholic saint. Why should I drop $300.00 on a limo, roses, dinner, and an expensive bottle of wine? Are you out of your freaking mind? And the second culprit I blame—after Chaucer—is that bitch Hallmark. I hate her and every one of her sisters. Wal-Mart. Costco. Target. Best Buy. Purveyors of corporate idolatry every one.
At first glance Hallmark seems innocent enough. It’s a greeting card company. They just sell greeting cards, right? No; no they don’t. They can’t sell greeting cards unless they get you to buy into some premise that serves as an impetus for parting with $5.00, for a piece of lacquered pasteboard decorated with romantic images and words that you yourself would never say.
At this point I must admit that I was stewing at my bar last Thursday because I dropped $20.00 on a card and chocolate for my wife, which I suppose is a sin. A gift given to celebrate your love for another should be offered with that sentiment in your heart. And while I do love my wife and want to give her nice things, I was put out because I felt coerced into giving these tokens—and demonstrations of love should never be coerced. Yes that’s what it was: it was coercion—not to mention yet again the ridiculous nature of the things that are written in these tributes to the Western notion of love and romance.
So I found myself at Walgreens picking over cards, quietly fuming as I stood next to another guy who apparently shared my sentiment. I discovered this shortly after I heard him groan as he read the card he had just picked up. I turned to him. “You OK?” “No man. I’m not. Check this out: ‘On this day we celebrate our love. I looked for you my entire life and when I found you, I found that you were the one person who could complete it.’”
“Good God.” I responded.
“I know. Right? But you’ve got to do it though. You can’t show up empty-handed. Thanks Hallmark.”
“Well you know; at least you cared enough to send the very best.”
Shaking his head, he retrieved an envelope and said “Good luck man.”
So at the end of the day what we have here is just another religion. The religion of Hallmark—and it returns me to the ridiculous nature of what we do to ourselves on a random day originally set to honor the memory of a saint. A man who dedicated himself to what I would call true love: being in service to others at his own peril.
According to the myth, the man was selfless. He saw things that needed doing and because of his love for his fellow man, he did them. That was his version of loving others. And what do we do? We drop a load of cash and say “See? I love you.” “I must love you because of the money I spent and the time I invested. See?”
Hallmark. When you care enough to just not make waves.