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Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day; Chocolate gifts & Waterproof Mascara

So it's February 14th and Valentine's Day. According to Hallmark, flower stores, and candy shops, today is a celebration of lovers that is to be expressed by giving gifts. I'm all for love, and have nothing against gifts, but the pressure of this day can be a little over the top!

It's hard to find the real origins of St. Valentines, but the best I can figure is that around 270AD, the Roman Emperor Claudius banned all marriages of younger citizens because he wanted to build a strong army. He thought single soldiers made better fighters than married ones. A priest, named Valentinus betrayed Claudius and secretly married people as young as 12! in the name of love. Valentinus was jailed for his actions but managed to fall in love with the daughter of his jailer. On the evening of his execution he passed a note to this love interest which said "from your Valentine". How we evolved from that story, to viewing valentines as a symbol of love, is a little fuzzy to me, but that seems to be the thread of it all.

I do know that Valentine's day causes a lot of angst for many, particularly teenagers. Maybe this goes back to that marriage at 12 tradition! I have always been rather surprised by a lot of school themes on this event. They seem to really hype it up, even in elementary school, with valentine competitions, selling chocolate kisses, passing out valentine cards, and valentine dances. Lots of opportunity for drama and trauma. If you want a humorous kids take on Valentine's Day, check out the Junie B. Jones children's books by Barbara Park and Denis Brunkus. This early reader series is fantastic, especially for girls, and the Valentine's Day one titled "Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentines" will leave you with a new perspective.

Teenagers continue to amaze, entertain, and impress me. I believe teenagers are changing the perspective on may things- including Valentines Day. I recently talked to a teenager that had been involved in a very public and rather dramatic break-up during a "pre-valentine" event. The break-up wasn't her choice and she was upset but told me that she must have had some premonition because she had been careful to wear waterproof mascara to the event! After the break-up she called her friends over and together they shared the chocolate gift she had bought for her boyfriend, enjoying ever piece of it. At the time I was talking to her, a few days after the event, she was still wearing waterproof mascara "just in case", but seemed to be taking the whole thing in stride. I was impressed with her emergency management preparations. I never would have thought of the waterproof aspect.

I guess the thing about Valentine's Day that bothers me (and Junie B. Jones) is that it perpetuates that external perspective of love. The traditions suggest we are worthy of love if someone showers us with gifts, proclaims their love for us, or accepts our gifts. But the real gift is to accept and love ourselves regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

Maybe we should look a little closer at that Claudius/Valentinus story. Secretly marrying 12 year old couples is just "wrong" by most cultures, morals, laws, and values today. And really; who would be impressed with a note from a convict the night before his execution? That smells a bit like a manipulation tactic to me! No way, that's going to do anything but either creep the jailer's daughter out, or give her a lifelong complex so that she thinks she can never love anyone else and remain "true" to him. Wouldn't it have been more loving to have just left her alone, knowing he wasn't going to be able to "follow through" anyway? Is this really the guy we want to be celebrating?

Maybe some new traditions around the meaning of Valentine's Day are in order. In the meantime, a bottle of waterproof mascara and some Rescue Remedy might help you get through the day in style! Tomorrow chocolate everywhere will be at least 50% off!!

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