I saw a Whitman’s Sampler heart discarded on the asphalt this weekend. Obviously someone’s pre-valentine’s binging has gotten out of hand. Is it any wonder? No holiday short of New Year’s has more pressure and expectation dripping off its hungry jowls than the beast that is Valentine’s Day.
According to the always reliable interwebs, this celebration is littered with martyrs. As luck would have it (um, probably not for the martyrs) many happened to be named Valentine. Including a fellow who was due for a beheading when he miraculously healed the jailer’s blind daughter. (Better than a Whitman’s sampler but probably not as good as a box of Godiva.) Of course, they still lopped off Valentine’s noggin, but hey, as long as some heart-shaped candies that taste like toothpaste are sold in your honor, there’s always a silver lining.
Speaking of which, did you know the very first Sweethearts had sayings like: Married in Pink, He will take to Drink, Married in White, You have chosen Right, and Married in Satin, Love will not be Lasting. Or my personal favorite, Unmarried alas, Perhaps it’s your sagging Ass. Okay, I made that last one up but still, you gotta love those Victorians and their light heartened sense of humor…
So somehow this St. Valentine celebration which was all about religious sacrifice became drenched in ooey gooey sticky sweet relationship-testing love, thanks to Chaucer. That’s right, Chaucer. The rat bastard responsible for all those AP classes about The Canterbury Tales. He writes some poetry about lovebirds and St. Valentine’s Day, and the next thing you know all his medieval cronies with an itch are banging off verse after verse about unbridled Valentine’s day enthusiasm. But unlike mead, serfdom, and a torture device called the Pear of Anguish, Valentine’s Day did not die off like a plague infested house of ill repute. Instead, as we all know, it flourished.
The most shocking discovery of all has got to be that it is an unmarried Victorian woman who is responsible for mass producing this heartpocalypse in America. Esther A. Howland is known as the “Mother of the Valentine” As the story goes, Ester’s father, a stationer, had a British friend, let’s call him Colin Firth, who gave Esther a beautifully made Valentine’s card. The gal was so taken with “the card” that she began selling her own lacy versions. In a time when most women were expected to concern themselves with marriage, virtuous living, and the size of their bustles, Esther became a hugely successful businesswoman. But let’s be honest, it is a well-known fact that American women are suckers for a handsome man with an accent. It’s like Superman’s kryptonite for us. Setting aside her impressive contribution to our economy, I think it is Esther’s unrequited angst over Colin Firth that probably propelled her into greeting card rock star status.
At least that’s my theory.
In case you wanted to buy Madame Paradox a Valentine’s gift, the most expensive chocolate in the world is $2600 a pound. Chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt calls it Chocopologie. Which begs the question why is this word not in the Oxford dictionary? Chocopologie: noun 1) Worlds most impressive apology involving artisanal chocolate.
Also, if you’re looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift may I suggest these dark chocolate covered zombie heads filled with red cherry brains? It either says, I-think-you’re-swell-but-if-there’s-a-zombie-apocalypse-I’m-outta-here or, I-love-you-so-much-I’m-willing-to-lick-your-brains. I’m really not sure which to be perfectly honest.
By the way, I should probably mention that I’m going to be moving out of the apartment I’ve lived in for 17 years. So be warned my next few posts may consist of lists that say things like: pack dishes, forward mail, figure out what the hell to do with king-sized bed that won’t fit in any other apartment. Actually, I think I just figured out what to do with it. I’m going to float my mattress into the east river, plant a flag, and declare it the Isle of Paradoxia. Of course, as Queen of Paradoxia, once a year I will demand a national holiday celebrating my reign. I’m a bit vague on the particulars at the moment, but it will undoubtedly involve dunking Colin Firth in dark chocolate whilst he recites passages from Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, and gives me a foot rub.
The queen has spoken, long live the queen.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.
PS: Once a month I go to this fantastic event called The Secret City. Here’s the description from their website:
We are a community of artists and those who believe in the arts as a powerful connecting force. We gather once a month and hold a service that is part salon, part cabaret, part tent revival. Featuring live music, singing, a food offering, visual art, performers, stories and interaction, our services leave people feeling inspired, engaged and reconnected.
Every time I attend, I leave with an ear-to-ear grin. It is truly a celebration of artistic inspiration that feeds the soul. The Secret City is having a fundraiser on Valentine’s evening, as well as an online auction that runs until February 17th. If you are interested there are a variety of unique items including books autographed by Neil Gaiman, tickets to see Rosanne Cash, and a private dinner for 10, cooked by celebrity chef Amanda Freitag (frequently seen on Food Network’s, Chopped). Please check out the site here, and consider bidding. Thanks!
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