There were 14 saints martyred in Rome under the rule of Claudius II and one of them was the first known Valentine, so says wikipedia. The name was associated with valor and the man was arrested for marrying christian couples in secret. He was killed by being beaten with clubs, then stoned, and finally beheaded. There were other St. Valentines, but nobody knows anything about them. Anyway, it wasn’t until the 14th century that romantic love was linked to the holy day. Chaucer did it; no surprise there. Other writers ramped it up over the years until, in 1969, the catholic church removed it from the liturgical calendar. Now, you know, it’s the commercial gambit that stocks shelves between Christmas and Easter.
I’m all for expressions of love, verbal or confectionery, but Valentine’s Day has become a loaded dilemma. We’re taught to bring a paper heart for every kid in the class, but when you grow up it’s all about pairing off in order to avoid contemplating romantic disappointment. (Unless of course you’ve already paired off long-term.) And there’s no fun in that. Honestly I feel relieved when the day is over, not because I’m a curmudgeon but because it’s a little weird to start dating someone between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. This awkward feeling was best expressed by Max in Kicking & Screaming when he finds out, on a first date, that the girl’s birthday is coming up.That’s terrible. That’s just the worst. Now I won’t know what to get you. If I get you a big gift, it looks like I’m overcompensating and coming on too strong. If I get you something small… I look cheap. I’ve inherited a tragedy. It’s like a venereal disease, a birthday at this point.
This often overwhelming anticipatory anxiety can be applied to Christmas gifts, New Year’s Eve parties, having to meet someone’s family way too soon because they’re in town for the holidays, etc. It’s just a mine field of potentially awkward circumstances. So I look forward to Valentine’s Day because I know on the very next day I can go back to dating with a more modest potential for awkwardness. And then I can start decorating eggs.