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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Before You Go: ‘Exploring the Origins of Valentine’s Day’

CRL columnist John Gray looks into love.

Let’s start this month’s column with a riddle. What do you call it when your mom’s sister runs off and gets married? An antelope. Sorry but this is February and something is stirring inside of me. It’s either love or that brown thing I ate at Taco Bell last night. Let’s hope it’s love.

February may be the shortest month of the year but it’s long on tradition and pressure when the 14th rolls around. Guys need to dial it up a notch and do something fabulous in the name of a chubby cherub, and women, well, don’t get me started there.

For many women this can be a torturous month where they stare at the flowers on a co-worker’s desk and think, “Are Suzy’s flowers nicer than mine? She’s not even as cute as me. Oh that’s probably why her boyfriend did this. He knows she works with beautiful women and he’s overcompensating.” At that very moment, Suzy looks up and sees you glaring at her flowers with a look so icy it could reverse global warming so you fake a smile and rapidly say very loudly, “Love those and the top. Is that a new sweater? Gorgeous. You look great in blue. Me, I’m green. Not green like jealous or envy. Why would I be jealous?  OK. Gotta go.”

Ah, love. They say it’s a many splendid thing, but not this month. If you’re with someone, it’s too much pressure to validate the love; if you’re alone, it’s too much of a reminder you don’t have a hand to hold. And if the Beatles taught us anything, it was that “all you need is love” and “I wanna hold your hand.” Unless, of course, you pick the wrong mate; then you find yourself screaming, “help.”

I was curious about this Valentine’s Day tradition so I did extensive research. (OK, I spent 30 seconds on Google.) Apparently it dates back to Roman times when men wore sandals and red capes and getting “stoned” was a very bad thing. Claudius II banned marriage because he liked his soldiers single, but a cleric named Valentine was a sucker for young love so he started marrying couples in secret. Somebody must have changed their relationship status on Facebook or something ’cause old Claude found out, went ballistic, and sentenced Valentine to death. A legend was born.

It was centuries later when Hallmark latched on to this money maker and the heart-shaped candy box was invented. By the way, NEVER trust the guide on the inside cover of a box of chocolates. Much like dating, you bite into what you think is a chewy cream only to get a nut.

This month over a billion Valentine’s cards will be sent and women who constantly tell their partners they are eating healthy and do not, I repeat, NOT want candy, will secretly hope to get just a small box.

You know what’s funny? No matter how old you get or how expensive the gifts become, nothing meant more than you getting a tiny hand-written Valentine from a classmate in second grade. That moment they started passing them out, your little heart went into your throat hoping someone liked you. Maybe that never changes.

In all seriousness, I’m not a huge fan of V-Day because if you do have someone and love them, you should be showing them all year long. And I don’t mean with expensive gifts. Leaving a nice note, rubbing someone’s feet after a hard day–heck, just giving them the last cup of coffee in the pot. Now that’s love!

It also is a tough month to be single with every other TV commercial showing some supermodel getting a thirty-thousand-dollar bracelet. That’s not the real world, by the way, unless your last name is Kardashian, and even then I suspect the stones are more real than the relationship.

Here’s what the Hallmark cards don’t tell you. Love is hard and messy and enough to make you scream some days, but if you find a good person who complements your mess, you’re lucky. And if you are alone, embrace the time to sort yourself out and do things you want to do. Trust me—”alone time” can be a gift.

I’ve been alone and I’ve been together and neither is perfect or awful. You have to accept that this, right now, is where you are supposed to be. If a mistake landed you here, don’t repeat it. If hurt landed you here, move past it. And if you simply can’t, then ask for help. We all fall down and we all need help getting up sometimes. No shame.

In the meantime, don’t take all this Valentine’s stuff so seriously. Flowers die, chocolate makes you fat, and the stupid month only has 28 days anyway. By the way, did you hear what the farmer gave his wife on Valentine’s Day? Hogs and kisses.

Sorry, that was bad.

John Gray
John Gray
John Gray is an Emmy-winning journalist and writer. In addition to his 32 years of television experience, John is the author of three children's books and two novels. He is married with three children. He and his lovely wife Courtney have five dogs, three of them are rescues with special needs. They make their quiet home in Rensselaer County.

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