An official day dedicated completely to Love -- what a concept. While a Roman priest named Valentine might have been responsible for the original inspiration, the celebration, as we know it, might have disappeared if not for the invention of the printing press and the entrepreneurial ability of a company named Hallmark. Think of Valentine's Day and you immediately think of a Valentine's card. Candy? Yes, of course. Dining out? By all means. Other shows of affection, subtle or passionate, will find their way into the arsenal, but the good old Valentine's card will rule the day.
I am reminded of this every year as I recall my initiation into the ways of first love. The object of my enlightenment was a young lass in third grade named Amy Settle (a lovely creature). I received a card from "A Secret Admirer" and quite naturally assumed it was an acknowledgement of my many stares and sighs aimed directly at her. She cured me of blind faith by later refusing a small kiss at recess. "What makes you think I sent you that card, you Dolt!" was her sweet way of letting me down gently. Later it was discovered that everyone in the class received such a card --given by our saintly teacher, so no one would be left out. Seeking a kiss from Miss Armentrout, however, was out of the question.
I wish I could say that Amy went bad and lived on the road with a failed rock musician, but I actually learned that she later became a Dallas cheerleader and married an oil tycoon. I hope he has the vows on tape.
Anyway, Valentine's Day (aka: Saint Valentine's Day) is most welcome and comes at a very auspicious time. The highs of Christmas and the New Year's celebrations are often swept up in an undertow, which crashes along about mid-January. Bills are showing up in the mail, and, unless you are a fan of old movies, television sucks. Outside, it is cold, and the days are still short.
Did you know that most statistics show January to be the slowest crime month? Even criminals are depressed. The quick fix of Super Bowl sustains us temporarily. Then -- ah! -- here comes Valentine's Day to rescue the human drama.
I mention "Saint" Valentine's Day, because its roots can possibly be traced to a Roman priest (later proclaimed a Saint) who defied Julius Caesar and continued to conduct marriage ceremonies for soldiers before they went off to war. The military was against the practice, believing soldiers would run home at their first opportunity. Priest Valentine disagreed, and thought marriage might even strengthen a soldier's resolve to fight. Failing that, soldiering might prepare him for marriage.
The day itself (February 14) has been recognized since the year 496, when the Pope at that time made it an official Saint's Day. Chaucer mentions it in early writings. Shakespeare certainly was aware of it, and courtly love almost demanded the discreet passage of a passionate note of some kind between lovers. Today, we can thank Mr. Hallmark for doing our discreet thinking for us.
"Be my Valentine!" has gone down in the archives of renowned sayings as one of the greats. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, of course, on a literal level, but is completely absorbed and translated in the brain as: "You have the goods to satisfy my desires -- interpret this as you will." The sender can plead complete innocence or follow up on a lead. It should be noted, however, that "Sent by a Secret Admirer" is totally misleading and possibly inflammatory.
Good night, Miss Armentrout, wherever you are.
Valentine's cards within families or a close circle of friends are allowed, but are "air kisses" at best. Why not a hearty, "Happy Valentine's Day!" In fact, why do we not share this greeting in the same manner that other greetings are shouted -- Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Fourth of July! as we stroll the happy sidewalks of town. Try it on your next trip to the grocery or drugstore. I admit, I tried this the last time I had an oil change and a tire rotation, but I suspect my bill was $25 higher. Beware.
Whatever your thoughts or inclinations, Valentine's Day is a nice opportunity to be nice to someone. The degree to which you attach "nice" is absolutely at your discretion.
Seems like a good idea, though.