Valentines Day – Whatever!

Dear Love Ones,

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Let me see; cards, chocolates, flowers, crotch less underwear? Ah Valentines Day! Mystery surrounds the genesis of this quaint ritual of imparting prosaic platitudes. Blame it on St. Valentine but who exactly was this elusive patron saint of love? Apparently several early Christian martyrs were named Valentine but which one do we hold responsible for starting the sending of sonnets of syrupy sentimentality?

Who cares? It’s a “Hallmark Holiday”. The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines, 85% of which are purchased by women, are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest cash cow for the industry behind Christmas.

“Valentine” simply means “persons of value” and seems to be a term used to describe several early Christian martyrs.

Of value alright! Thanks to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine’s Day in Japan and Korea is a day on which women give chocolates to male co-workers, a considerable windfall for the chocolate industry! In Japan this is known as girichoko from the words giri (“obligation”) and choko, (“chocolate”). Obligation chocolates!

Stories suggest that Valentines Day dates back to the Roman Empire and the reign of Emperor Claudius II. The emperor felt that married men made poor soldiers so marriage was discouraged. A priest who defiantly encouraged young lovers to get married, was sentenced to die on the fourteenth of February around 270 AD. Some maintain that this “Valentine” initiated the sending of love messages in which he ended the note by writing ‘from your valentine’. Others say during imprisonment he fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and expressed his romantic feelings for her by writing love letters.

Who knows? In Sweden it is called All Hearts’ Day and was launched in the 1960s by the flower industry anxious to get their piece of the action. It is not an official holiday, but the “k-chings” of cash registers from sales of flowers on this day are second only to Mother’s Day.

A Brief History of the World’s Greatest Lovers

don-juan.jpgDon Juan (first appeared around 1615)
This legendary libertine is a fictional character, who appears repeatedly in literature as an unrepentant womanizer who seduces women either by disguising himself as their lovers or by promising marriage. He leaves a trail of broken hearts, angry husbands, and outraged fathers. His name has become synonymous with “womanizer”.

romeo.jpgRomeo Montague (made famous by Shakespeare in 1695)
Shakespeare’s Romeo is perhaps the single most recognized romantic hero in literary history. Romeo and Juliet is an English play about hot blooded Italians and our Romeo, passionate and emotional is driven by love to perform acts of cathartic insanity including his own suicide. Sadly, he drags the precocious young Juliet (not quite 14 at then time) down with him.

casanova.jpgGiacomo Casanova (1725-1798)
It all began for this Venetian adventurer, “the world’s greatest lover”, when he was seduced by two sisters at the age of 16. He must have enjoyed himself as he went back for seconds, thirds and many, many more. Casanova was always moving around Europe, usually being run out of town. He was arrested on three separate occasions, escaped from prison, made and lost several fortunes but died in relative poverty and obscurity, of boredom it would seem, having reached an age where young women no longer found him attractive.

rasputin.jpgRasputin (1869-1916)
Ra Ra Rasputin, Russia’s famous love Machine. This debauched religious charlatan preached (and practiced with his inner circle of lovely ladies) a secret doctrine for achieving divine grace. He maintained that sin and repentance were interdependent and equally necessary for salvation. Yielding to temptation, which for him meant sex and alcohol, was a necessary step on the road to repentance and redemption. How convenient!

valentino.jpgRudolf Valentino (1895-1926)
Valentino changed his name from Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi. I wonder why? Famous as ‘the Latin Lover’, he was an Italian actor, sex symbol, and early Hollywood icon. Women adored him and men reviled him for his exquisite beauty and metrosexual style. He was once referred to as “catnip for women”.

wilt1.jpgWilt Chamberlain (1936-1999)
This 7’ 1”, NBA basketball player claimed in his autobiography to have had sex with approximately 20,000 women – all I can say is good memory! His exploits and braggadocio however, cost him dear as he became the brunt of lewd jokes and died at 63 of (guess what) heart failure!! His nicknames were “Wilt the Stilt” and “The Big Dipper” – Big Dipper indeed!

mad-max.jpgMad Max (1985 – )
A legend in his own mind! “I can’t help it if women love me” is his famous quote around the age of 16! His most notorious exploit of romantic derring-do was to strew his bedroom with hundreds of red rose petals and 50 candles leaving his “minder” to scrape wax off the floor for weeks after and have the carpet professionally cleaned in order to remove the red rose juice that had been trampled in!

Men and women are like two feet; we need each other to get ahead…….

Big Daddy
I met him towards the end of my second year of University. I was 19 years old and shared a grimy inner city terrace house within easy walking distance of school. My roommate and I headed off together that morning which was serendipitous as otherwise I may never have met him. In front of a grassy patch of campus lawn she stopped suddenly and grabbed my arm. “There’s someone over there I want to say hello to.” I looked up to see two young men sitting cross-legged, naked to the waist, basking in the sun. They had similar lean, athletic bodies and shoulder length hair, one dark the other bleached white by the sun. An arresting site! A year later I was sitting in a lecture when he walked in and took a seat close to the door. He wasn’t the sort you could easily forget, a bleached blond, wild surfer sun-god in a sea of preppy law students. I was sitting with a gay friend who noticed him immediately. “I know that guy” I leaned over and whispered, stretching the truth but he was duly impressed.
Each day he walked in late and left early but I began to notice he was inching his way closer and closer to my side of the lecture hall.
I was 20 years old and over 30 years later my heart still patters when I see him across a room.

I once received a Valentine card from my love interest of 30 something years with 2 dinosaurs dressed in wedding regalia, toasting each other with champagne. The caption read “In for a long time, not a good time!”

For an interesting take on the Nature of Love as well as some very good reading, go the site of Anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher at where she explores the evolution and future of human sexuality, love and marriage and gender differences in the brain and behavior. Helen Fisher has written four books: WHY WE LOVE: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, THE FIRST SEX: The Natural Talents of Women and How They are Changing the World, ANATOMY OF LOVE: The Natural History of Monogamy, Adultery and THE SEX CONTRACT: The Evolution of Human Behavior. She is also the host of a BBC series entitled The Nature of Love.

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