Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 was my first thought this morning upon realizing Valentine’s Day is less than a week away. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” are words to which most of us are familiar. This being my first thought would suggest to many of you that I immensely enjoy this holiday and all that it entails. I can assure you that I do not. Try and contain your cantankerous comments until you have heard my story, because a happy ending may be coming your way.
I will refrain from using any terminology that denotes it is a fake or made up holiday because Saint Valentine was, in fact, very real. It will never cease to amaze me how Americans decided to dedicate an entire day to celebrating love based on the day a priest was brutally killed. I will give a quick overview for those of you what are not familiar. Long story short, Valentine was a Roman priest and physician who suffered constant persecution and was sentenced to death on February 14th by Emperor Claudius II. It was common practice for death to be a punishment in the 3rd century AD and this priest was obviously held in high honor by the Catholic Church since they created an entire day to celebrate his level of martyrdom. This tragic story is made only slightly less depressing by the fact another gentleman with the exact same name was also sentenced to death on February 14th just a few years later. The irony removes some of the sadness, not the fact that we lost two Valentines.
This post isn’t about death it’s about LOVE! The capitalization and coloring should let you know this story has a very happy ending despite my lack of enthusiasm for the actual holiday merriment. In elementary school, we celebrated by signing our names to various lovey-dovey cards and if memory serves me correctly we gave one to every child in our class. Even at an early age, we were taught to not make anyone feel left out; a trait I have carried into adulthood though not with Valentine’s cards. One year my mom and I made the cutest Valentine box EVER in which I would receive all my Valentines’ that year. It was so precious in fact that it is still alive and well at my mothers house.
Middle school is when the harshness of V-Day sets in for many. The years of girlfriends, boyfriends, going steady and bubbling over with joy when we received a card or a kiss. Some years I enjoyed myself, but even then I knew something was not on the up and up. Why would we celebrate a holiday that was allowing us to exclude people on purpose? The tears and wailing from any twelve-year-old girl is not for the faint of heart. It seemed cruel even then so I made a conscious choice to take a stand.
During my freshman year in high school, I shared my “anti-Valentines Day” speech to anyone who would listen. I vowed to spend it with friends and not let the opposite sex make me question myself or my appearance. You get it – the best defense is a good offense. Then in my eleventh-grade year, I turned into a true turncoat. I bought a new dress, red obviously, to spend the evening with my boyfriend. To demonstrate my outpouring of love I even made him a personalized picture frame that held a picture of us. I thankfully did not save that photo or the dress. It should say something that I have more affinity to my second grade Valentine’s box as opposed to a living breathing boy.
All bets were back off by the time freshman year at college arrived. In all honesty, I don’t remember exactly what I did, yet I know it included my best friend JB, several other female friends and a large bottle of extremely cheap juice. It was completely the juices’ fault that I do not remember the events of that faithful evening. Two years later I spent February 14th with my two roommates, friends from Samford University, and some more delicious juice. The most memorable part was watching an entire season of the show Blind Date. The debonair host, Rodger Lodge, (yes his actual name) would explain how the couple had been paired up and then would step back as the audience viewed a clip of their date. 90% of the time it was a total disaster. The most comedic part was the producer written thought bubbles that would pop out over the heads of the unsuspecting victims. The show went off the air in 2006, but here is a link to some clips on YouTube if the mood strikes. Blind Date Clips I also just learned that the showed experienced a reboot in November of 2019. It sounds like a great V-Day 2020 in the making; just need to find the right juice. Preferably of a much higher quality.
I have had some really enjoyable Valentine’s Days with significant others, nevertheless, it does not have to be spent with someone to which you are romantically attached. It’s about being around the people you love which to me includes family and friends. This year try not to focus on a perfect evening, the right attire, an extra special gift, just focus on spending time with those you love. Don’t allow a Hallmark Holiday to make you feel anything but special. I almost made it the entire post without saying, Hallmark Holiday. Shame on me. Actually, as you may have expected I don’t even feel that bad about saying it.