Instead of Valentine’s Day, Why Not Celebrate The Pagan Holiday That It’s A Cover For?

A couple of years ago, I got invited to a “single ladies outing” on Valentine’s Day, which sounded good until said single ladies informed me that we’d all be getting together for an evening viewing of the romantic moving picture “Dear John.”

I declined.

There is no worse way to spend Valentine’s Day than crying over a second-rate version of “The Notebook” alongside other single women in a theatre full of couples. Valentine’s Day isn’t fun for single people, but there’s no need to make it worse by doing things like this.

I asked three single men what they do on Valentine’s Day if they don’t have a date, and they said they either go out to prey on lonely women at bars, or play with their Xboxes. Seems reasonable.

Some people base their stance on Valentine’s Day on their relationship status. I do not. I’ve come to enjoy the day for its chocolate offerings, and as a chance to throw shade on those canoodlers who put their love on display on park benches and at busy coffee shops; mostly though, while I am fond of love and romance, I dislike February 14th.

My disdain for Valentine’s Day started in the Second Grade, when, being the new girl at school and not privy to the ways of the Valentine’s Day card game, I arrived to class on February 14th with Mickey and Minnie “Be Mine” cards for everyone. We had all made little red paper heart cardholders and taped them to our desks the day before. As I went around delivering my cards, a pretty blonde girl named Lindsey I desperately wanted to look like and be friends with said, “You brought a card for everyone?” I found the envelope with Lindsey written on it and handed it to her. “Yes, here you go!” I said. She laughed and turned to her cool friends, proclaiming: “Carla loves Nathan!” Nathan was the dirty-faced booger eater who made honking noises during prayer time that I had just delivered a card to.

The world turned very dark the day I learned about the Valentine’s Day card hierarchy. These little monsters only gave cards to certain people, and they selected different cards based on whether the recipient was a friend, acquaintance, or crush. At the end of the day, everyone counted their cards, and the kids with the most were the Valentine’s Day winners. The kids who received the least cards either cried, pretended not to care, or did as I did and drew pink hearts being pierced by blood dripping daggers.

I got four cards that day. One was from my teacher, one from my friend Mary, one from Soon, who was also new to the school, and my last card was from Nathan, the booger face. He had made it for me out of black construction paper, glue, and white out after I gave him mine, and now we were officially “dating,” which meant he pulled my hair a lot and pushed me off the tall slide on the playground at recess.

Image

I’m my own Valentine, ok?

In the years that followed, the teachers adopted a rule that you either brought a card everyone in your class, or no one at all. I’d like to think that I helped instigate this change, but I did not. Valentine’s Day sucked for most of us. Imagine if your entire office had to bring everyone a Valentine’s Day card? It would be a brilliant reenactment of elementary school politics complete with the dude who totally forgot to buy cards and scrambles to make his out of used computer paper and highlighters.

I did some V-Day reconnaissance, because despite what you may have heard, Saint Valentine is not exactly a sweet, rosy-cheeked cherub with magical arrows.

Depending on who you talk to, St. Valentine was either a Roman priest practicing in the Eternal City, or a bishop in Umbria. He either got in trouble for performing Christian marriages, or for healing people while serving Jesus. Either way, Valentine ended up in a Roman prison circa 270, which wasn’t the best place for a Christian to be at that time. Emperor Claudius II was said to have taken a liking to the charming Valentine, but Claudius’s affection for V waned when the smooth talking priest tried to push his Jesus agenda on the pagan Emperor. Love might conquer all, but had little effect on Claudius. Valentine was soon bludgeoned and beheaded.

The patron saint of love has an exceedingly vague history, stacked with contractions. Seems about right.

So little is known about the details of St. Valentine’s life that it is widely rumored he was chosen by the Catholic Church for his relative anonymity to cast a Christian shadow over the Pagan holiday Lupercalia. Here’s were things get a bit more exciting, because wolves. This festival was celebrated from February 13th to the 15th each year as a way to ward off evil spirits and purify Rome. It also honored the she-wolf, who, according to Roman lore, suckled Romulus and Remus when they were wee abandoned babies. Romulus would go on to kill his brother and found Rome.

St. Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14th each year, under the guise of love and hearts and cherubs and romance, is actually the Catholic Church masking a much cooler holiday that featured feasting and used a wolf for a mascot. If you’re into folklore, or 80s animal t-shirts, or the film Moonstruck, a wolf says more much about passion and love than a curly-haired man in a diaper.

There’s a town in Italy’s Abruzzo region called San Valentino. You might think that San Valentino would be a town brimming with romance, a little love settlement in a country that lives for romance, but you would be wrong, because it’s basically the opposite of that. Every year, San Valentino hosts a parade called Festa dei Cornuti (the Festival of the Cuckolds), which honors, or mocks, men with adulterous wives by parading them through the streets.

As you know, despite this town, and St. Valentine’s sketchy past, Feb 14th has become a celebration of love.

Fine. Celebrate love on your made-up holiday.

BUT. Shouldn’t every day be a celebration of love? Not just romantic love, but love in general? You can’t just go around being cranky, stealing dogs, yelling at baristas, and kicking the backs of people’s chairs at movies, and then go buy your girl diamonds on Valentine’s Day like you’re Saint V’s gift to humanity.

I have nothing against the idea of celebrating love, and I like to think I do so in the way I live my life, day-to-day, so there’s no need for egregious gestures to make up for a year’s worth of ass-faced behavior come February 14th.

This year, instead of Valentine’s Day, I will be celebrating the Pagan wolf holiday Lupercalia. I won’t be sacrificing goats and dogs, but I will be warding off evil spirits and purifying my soul by eating a lot, praying to pagan gods, and drinking enough wine to happily howl at the moon.

Honor Valentine’s Day if you must. Go ahead and hand your wife flowers. Give your husband some chocolate, but also write your mom a letter and tell her why you love her. Call your dad to wish him a lovely day because you were thinking of him. Kiss your grandma if you can. Be extra nice to strangers. Hug a damn dog.

Whether you are single or not, make the day about loving everyone, including yourself.

If I had to do second grade again, I’d do it just the same. Cards for everybody.

Bad Love

I just watched the film Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. A terribly stark look at the sun-kissed glow of love at the beginning of a relationship contrasted with the souring stench of a love gone bad in that same relationship years later.

It was a sad, uncomfortable movie to watch, but one that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since it finished. So please excuse me while I get a little philosophical on you. Actually, let’s invite 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche into the conversation.

He was famous for his “God is dead” theory, but Nietzsche also said: “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”

We hunger for love, look for it, maybe even need it, and have the ability to feel it so profoundly. To intensely connect with another human on that level might be the most beautiful, fulfilling thing in life, and yet equally as great as our ability to love is our ability to hurt and devastate those same people we loved. No one wants to cause someone they once loved so purely pain (well, usually not), but it happens. We take advantage of each other, we stop appreciating each other, we cheat on each other, we fall out of love with each other, we ruin each other.

Since we do this to each other over and over again knowing what we’re getting into, we’re all a little mad, no? Anyone who has ever had his or her heart broken knows full well the terrifying pain and torment it is to go through that loss, and yet, many of us can hide the scars of past hurt and jump right back in when the opportunity for love presents itself again. To me, this is a brave, courageous thing to do, and one I’m trying to be better at.

Dr. Maya Angelou says: “Have enough courage to trust love one more time. And always one more time.”

In honor of that, and living through love gone bad, here’s Arcade Fire’s Crown of Love:

Mosquitoes and Men

Last night, I dreamt that I was sleeping and then woke up (waking up in a dream while still dreaming is always trippy, no?). I woke up in my dream to find a mosquito resting on my breast while I was laying in bed.

It was one of those very large, talking mosquitoes that you sometimes meet in dreams. So, I started talking to the little fella, who said his name was Fred.

“I’m finished with your country and I’m leaving,” Fred said to me in a very deep, raspy voice with a hint of an accent. It sounded like Javier Bardem meets Tom Waits. Save for the fact that it was coming from a mosquito, the voice was actually pretty sexy.

As I lay there listening, Fred, that little bastard, proceeded to sting me before flying out of my window, leaving behind an itchy red bite on my right boob.

Now if this dream were really about a mosquito, we’d be good. Weird dreams that you can remember when you wake up make for quirky, entertaining stories you can tell to your friends and laugh about.

But this dream was not just about mosquitoes. Apparently my unconscious mind has created a hybrid of mosquito and man for me to dream about and made it an actual metaphor for my experiences this summer. Clever little unconscious, isn’t it?

Actual mosquitos have feasted on my flesh all summer to a ridiculous degree. They have stung me everywhere, repeatedly.

And men. Well, the experiences I’ve had with them over the summer have been about as annoying and as gratifying as mosquito bites.

I think Fred the Mosquito man was trying to tell me something. You see, while some girls have a “bad boy” problem, lately, I have a “project” problem. I seem drawn to those men who are lacking something within themselves and haven’t realized their full potential. Unfortunately, most of them don’t even have a full potential. These blood-sucking selfish specimens need constant ego stroking, pep talks and tending to and usually, when they’ve got what they needed, they sting me. I’m sure this habit of falling for ‘not quite right’ men says something about my masochistic personality, but that’s a whole other issue.

I’m not using stinging as an analogy for sex, either, because that would be a pretty awful way to describe sex. By “sting me” I mean they tend to do damage, emotionally.

I am now taking full responsibility for this. I have been too nice, too accommodating, too understanding. Too stupid. I’ve let those damn mosquitoes sting me over and over again.

There was a (literal) mosquito hiding in my room for the entire month of August. He was hungry for blood and when he got tired of dotting my body with his itchy red markings, he bit my forehead while I was sleeping, which is just bad manners. When I finally killed that fucker with my Breakfast at Tiffany’s novel, the mess its squashed carcass left behind was thrillingly disgusting. A huge bright red splatter of my own blood strewn across the wall. Never have I felt such joy after killing an insect or at the sight of blood.

Unfortunately, in real life, men are not mosquitoes, and most don’t have Javier Bardem/Tom Waits voices. You can’t just swat them away and when they sting you, they leave behind real emotional pain, which is harder to get rid of and way worse than an annoying red bump that fades in a week or so.

Even if I wanted to, I can’t kill any real men using a classic novel as my weapon, as I did my mosquito, but if I were a superhero, that is totally what my weapon of choice would be. I’d be called the Lit Bitch or something like that. What I do want to do is make a conscious effort to stay away from those men who I already know are “mosquitoes.” Lets face it, girls, deep down, we ALWAYS know when we’ve met one.

I’m also going to be more open to dating Italians here in Rome, because so far, I have pretty much avoided it. They can’t all be Don Juan style mammas boys who dress better than me, right?