3 white roses in a vase
3 white roses in a vase

Against My Will, I Write About Valentine’s Day

Paul Kiernan

Look, I was assigned this one. I have no desire to acknowledge, let alone write about, Valentine’s Day. Someone higher up the food chain than I decided, gosh golly, wouldn’t it be great to have our copywriter pen a nice homage to the day of love?

Happy Valentine’s Day from a one-room garret in the bowels of some God-forsaken harbor town in the Pacific Northwest. And before you ask, yes, deer walk along the roads at all hours of the day. Yes, as soon as the sun sets, the coyotes begin their night song. In winter, the sun goes down nine and a half seconds after it rises. And, yes, cougars on the footpaths, moose trundling down Main Street, and everything is “Squatch” themed. Even the donut shop. In the midst of all that, plus the endless rain, guess what I’m thinking about?

Why love, of course.

Look, I was assigned this one. I have no desire to acknowledge, let alone write about, Valentine’s Day. Someone higher up the food chain than I decided, gosh golly, wouldn’t it be great to have our copywriter pen a nice homage to the day of love?

The same copywriter who, when the barely sober doctor held him aloft for his horrified mother to gaze upon, spoke his first words: "love is a lie and will bring about the onset of madness and Cheeto addiction.” Sure, let’s let that guy write about this.

The copywriter who has a visceral tattoo on his frontal lobe that reads: Shut your trap, curmudgeon at work.

Yes, yes, genius, let’s get the guy who is one Safeway fried chicken thigh away from full-on cardiac arrest to write a blog about love and hearts and flowers and happily ever ….Jesus, my heart!

“Has he ever been married?” someone asked. And the universe shoots beer through its nose and chuckles.

I’m not going to rail against love or this day that supposedly celebrates love. What would the point of that be? Seriously, those who are in love, love love, and they can be turned from their course by no power known to man. So, love on you, saps and fools. I shan't try to turn you.

However, I will be honest with you. ‘Cause nothing crushes those with fealty to St. Valentine like a dose of heart-ripping truth.

The Origins of the Day

To this day, people have yet to pinpoint the holiday's exact origin, but smart historical money is on the Romans. Cause they were a surly bunch that loved to push their ways on others throughout history.

From February 13th thru the 15th, Romans celebrated The Feast of Lupercalia. During this festive time, men sacrificed a goat and a dog and then whipped women with the skins of the creatures they just killed. And the women, they ran screaming, right? Nope, they lined up for this shit. They took the smacking with the skins of dead dogs because they believed this made them fertile.

Is that all, you ask? Oh no, no, no. There was also a matrimony lottery. In this oh-so-romantic game, men drew names of women from a jar, and they were coupled up for the rest of the festival longer if it was a good match.

And all this was done in Latin. Eesh.

The Romans are also responsible for the name of our modern-day festival of love. In the third century, Emperor Claudius II ordered the execution of two men, both curiously named Valentine. On different February 14ths in that century. The Catholic church honored their martyrdom with the celebration of St. Valentine’s day.

It Spreads, Like a Festering Disease

Pope Gelasius I jumped in and pushed this “Valentine’s Day” myth further. He combined St. Valentine’s Day with the old Roman Lupercalia in the fifth century. This was an attempt to drive the pagan rituals out of the now-growing Catholic world.

It was just a drunken revel; however, Catholics removed the dog and goat sacrificing and the beating of women with their hides and replaced the pure fertility of the day with thoughts of romantic love.

That should have been the end of it, and Valentine’s day would eventually fade away with all other overtly fertilizing rituals, and we’d never have to deal with it again. But then, you know, the Normans.

Around the same time that Gelasius was smooshing Lupercalia and the Love Saint’s day together, the Normans were celebrating Galatin’s Day. Galatin means “lover of women,” and it sounds close enough to Valentine that the two rituals were again smooshed together.

And then those bastards, Shakespeare and Chaucer, came along and made this once disgusting dog-killing, skin-beating drunken lust fest into something romantic, poetic, and … just ick.

Once they removed the bloody skin part and the killing of man’s best friend, this whole Valentine’s Day idea began to spread across Europe, and the next thing you know, handmade paper cards were being tossed across fences and in homes all over the world.

Then the whole idea caught on in the “new world.” The industrial revolution meant mass-produced cards could flood into drugstores, school lockers, and corner markets all over America.

Then, the last straw. In 1913, In Kansas City, Mo, a company called, wait for it, Hallmark began mass-producing Valentine’s Day greeting cards. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Symbols of Love

a fence with the word love and a red heart painted on it.

So Hallmark has foisted hearts and flowers, candy, and cards onto the public; it’s nothing compared to the diamond sham perpetrated upon unwitting men by the diamond company De Beers and advertising agency N.W. Ayer. Diamonds are forever, and diamonds say I love you. Diamonds are so rare. None of that is true.

Diamond dealers tell me that a diamond says I love you. Diamonds, don’t say I love you. You know what says I love you? Someone who loves you. They use their face hole and some language and say I love you. A diamond says, “I overspent because someone told me some f*cked-up rule about three months' salary.” A diamond says, “we could have gone on vacation, bought a house, spent a lifetime creating memories; instead, I blew my savings on a hunk of compressed carbon.”

The whole diamonds are a rare gem, and your partner deserves something rare is crap. According to the IGS International Gem Society, they aren’t rare at all. In fact, on their website, they state:

“ While we have much to learn about the Earth's interior, our current knowledge of gem formation indicates that diamonds are likely the most common gem in nature.”

The Heart Shape

The heart shape candies and boxes of chocolates are a good symbol for valentine’s day; you know why? It’s nothing romantic or even slightly sweet. The heart is an excellent symbol for Valentine’s day because each year, 697,000 people die from heart disease.

Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you; now, here’s a human organ bound to give out and cause you a painful and possibly humiliating death. Much like our love.

To make matters worse, the damn thing doesn’t even look like a human heart. How we got to this point is debated by scholars. Seriously, with all the shit that’s going down in the world, don’t scholars have better things to do than explain the shape of some advertising company’s concocted symbol of love? Yes, the answer is yes, they do, but who am I to judge?

The Valentine’s heart may be modeled after the seed of the Silphium plant. And that’s a stretch. If you look at these seeds from a distance, in the pouring rain, sure, they might vaguely resemble a heart shape. The seeds, by the way, were used in ancient times as an herbal contraceptive. That’s right, birth control—pretty much the opposite of what lurks under Valentine’s day.

The other popular explanation for the shape of the Valentine's heart says the shape comes from the vision of a woman’s buttocks viewed from behind. Nice, right? So, why don’t we say, Happy Butt Day, I love you? Why don’t we share mid-level chocolates in bum-shaped boxes? Or give greeting cards decked out with rosy red bottoms dancing about, farting arrows of love. Instead of saying I was struck by Cupid’s arrow, we can say Cupid’s butt beefed on me.

Flowers, well, they die. Simple as that. Here, honey, I love you, Now put these $175 worth of roses in a vase, and we can watch them slowly wither; their petals drop to the floor and eventually die, just like our love for one another.

Money Better Spent

According to Statista, planned spending for Valentine’s Day in 2023 is 26 billion US dollars. That’s up from 2022 by about 2 billion dollars. What could you spend 26 billion dollars on?

  • For 25 billion dollars, you could hire 50,000 teachers at $50,000 per year to teach for ten years.
  • You could buy about 3.4 million people three meals a day for a year
  • You could run fiber internet services for 8.3 million households
  • Provide 35.7 million laptops to our kids or whoever needs them

And if you wanted to spend only $1 billion dollars at a time, you could

  • You could buy the Miami Marlins baseball team (or 26 of them)
  • You could buy Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (or 26 of them)
  • A private island (or 26 of them)
  • You could buy Balmoral Castle (or 26 of them)
  • A 1963 Ferrari GTO (or 26 of them)
  • You could buy The White House (or 26 of them)

Nope, we’ll spend 26 billion dollars on chocolates, flowers, cards, dinners, dates, and whatever else people choose to use to express their undying devotion to someone they met at a drunken party, made out with, and now feel obligated to mark that barely memorable occasion with some sort of token of love.

More to Think About

These are just off the top of my head, so …

  • We fall in love. We also fall down stairs, fall into a daze, fall for a con, fall all over ourselves.
  • We celebrate our soulmate. I defy you to give me a universal definition of the soul.
  • We find “our person.” They know us and advise us. We can also find that person in the phone book; they’re called therapists.
  • Fact, we die alone. Dying is a singular act. No matter how many “loved ones” gathered, the person dying is the only one dying at that time.
  • A diamond is forever. The human body isn’t even forever. Neither is the universe.
  • Love heals all wounds. Sure, just put a box of cheap chocolates on that gsw, and all will be well.
  • There’s someone for everyone. Very true, especially if you’re willing to pay good money. Basically, a hooker is like Valentine’s day!

Here’s where I’m supposed to say, you know, if you love someone, you shouldn’t have to wait for a day in February to let them know; that’s very true. However, if you forget to tell them, show them, or spend on them on that one day in February, then you can experience love from the sofa or in someone’s rearview mirror, or from the receiving end of a Dear John letter.

Look, the truth is we love love. Hey, it’s a 26-billion-dollar industry, so someone must like it. The thing to remember is we are all worthy of love, all worth someone’s attention, and your relationship status is not an indication of the type of person you are.

The reality is you have a 1 in 562 chance of meeting someone you’ll fall in love with; that’s a 0.177935943% chance you’ll fall in love by the end of any given day. Those aren’t great odds, so falling in love is a bit of a miracle when you think about it.

And, as far as miracles go, finding love in this weird, wide world is pretty good. So, sure, why not? Celebrate the miracle. Spend the money, have the dinner, give the card. And, at some point on Valentine’s Day, take your partner's hand, push the world away and all the you should gives, and you must spend, be with them for a moment, breathe in their love, be thankful for the miracle that you found each other and just be in love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.