Valentine, circa 1938, from the collection of SWMBO’s late Dad.
There’s a deeply cynical part of me that resents Valentine’s Day. But before you smack me, you Love-Lovers, let me ’splain...
There is a slew of Modern Holidays that represent the end-stage of a process of evolutionary adaptation. You start with an old-timey pagan celebration: Saturnalia, Lupercalia, Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, Bacchanalia, et al.; then you graft on a layer of Christian theology, and - presto! - a New Holiday is born. Then, add the heady pong of Creeping Commercialism and the smoothing effect of Rampant Secularism to arrive at the current mix of Western holidays.
Thus you have Easter and Christmas, the two most sacred days in the Christian calendar, with their peculiar mix of pagan holdover customs (tree and egg decoration) and Modern Bidnis. Without Christmas, the film and recording industries (just to mention a couple) would shrivel up and blow away, having no need to produce or market Santa Claus Films and Seasonal Music.
Saint Patrick’s Day (formerly Bacchanalia) holds true to its pagan roots as a day of alcohol-fueled debauchery...especially in Boston and Savannah. Kiss me, I’m Irish...but let me rinse the Puke-Taste out of my mouth first, OK?
Saint Valentine’s Day (formerly Lupercalia) has precious little to do with Saint Valentine any more. But it has been subsumed by a flood of Modern Marketing, for products as varied as Romantic Weekend Getaways, greeting cards, chocolate, booze, and K-Y Jelly. (What, you haven’t seen that ad yet? No, I’m not making it up.) It’s been secularized to the point that, as a Jew, I don’t give its pagan/Christian origins a thought. It may have been goyische narrischkeit a few hundred years ago, but now all the potentially objectionable Religious Elements have been completely sanded away. It’s...safe.
OK, so I’m cynical. And yet...and yet...
There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside one day a year to celebrate Romantic Love. Especially when it’s concatenated with nice things like candlelit dinners, plenty of chocolate, satin sheets, and all of that other Lovey-Dovey Stuff. But (and there is always a But), one day a year of romance is not going to make up for 364 (365 this year) other days of inattention and For-Granted Taking. Like all men who are in marriages of long standing, I find that it’s all too easy to forget that keeping the romantic fires burning is a job to which attention must be paid every day.
I hope I’m doing a decent job...because my Valentine is special.
We’ve shared our lives now, either as brash young lovers or as a married couple, for over 32 years now...and she is as beautiful to me as on the day we met. No: more so, because with maturity comes intelligence, confidence, and radiance; she is blessed with liberal doses of all three.
She has given me two children, the finest children I could ever desire, children that I would be proud to know even had we no blood relationship. My Other Valentines, if you will.
She still makes me laugh at least as much as I do her, and she’s not afraid to use a little salt in her food...and her language. She will go to the Kitchen Device Emporium with me to shop for colanders, even though she knows the nefarious uses to which I will put them. And she makes coming home after an out-of-town trip something to be devoutly anticipated.
I know I tend to repeat myself; it’s an affectation of Advanced Age. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: With my love, every day is Valentine’s Day.
(Which may explain my chocolate-fueled Fat Ass.)