Today is the day in which people will produce convections for their favorite people in the world. It’s the day of the year that men will rush about in stores they’d probably never visit otherwise to acquire underwear they (hopefully) won’t wear themselves and make poor investment decisions in order to win the hearts (and the womanly bits) of their significant others by buying non-consumable goods that have a shelf life of one to two weeks and will end up dying on the kitchen table and maybe be pressed into a diary or journal, all in the name of a few Catholic saints that died more than one thousand years ago.
Originally, Saint Valentine’s day focused on sacrifice and not romantic love. The Catholic feast day celebrated the sacrifices the early saints made, and by that, I mean they were martyred. Real romantic, isn’t it? Baby, I love you. Let’s get stoned and crucified.
Hell, the first recorded association between romantic love and the 14th of February didn’t actually occur until Geoffrey Chaucer wrote Parlement of Foules in 1392:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
I would argue though, that there is a link between sacrifice and love. There exist numerous jokes on the subject. The proverbial “ball and chain” and “my old lady” come to mind, along with the jokes about the single men and the massive fortunes they’ve amassed because there’s no woman around to spend it all. Of course, there are plenty of sacrifices women make on the account of their men too. Relationships are give-and-take. The point is, there is sacrifice in any good relationship.
Sure, one can cheat on his or her lover, but we don’t want to go down that road as it’s painful and absolutely unnecessary. A couple could also choose to become swingers (so it wouldn’t technically be cheating) but that’s not the life I want for myself or my soon-to-be wife. Therefore, there is a degree of sacrifice involved. By being with my fiancée, I have sworn off all other women (and men, technically, although that was never going to be an issue in the first place). This means I can no longer bring strippers and porno stars to my home for the evening to have a drug infused party that ends up sending me to the hospital. This is fine because I don’t need rehab, I don’t have drug-mouth and my name is not Charlie Sheen.
Valentine’s day brings to mind one of the most influential relationships that never really existed: Romeo and Juliette. This movie will sure be playing on all the channels men would never be caught watching today. Girls everywhere throughout history have based their ideas of true love on Shakespeare’s teenage fiasco. Certainly, you could argue that Romeo and Juliette made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love, but you’d be wrong. They didn’t have love. They had teenage hormones and lust. They never experienced love in its truest form. They didn’t have to live with one another through the thick and thin of it all, they didn’t grow old together, they didn’t really share their lives with one another, they can’t be said to have been “best friends” and they certainly never consummated as husband and wife.
As a younger man, I understood that when combined and in true love, a man and woman would make a whole being (and they can, when they consummate, but I’m not talking about that). I thought they would live and laugh and cry and love as one. Think of a battery. It has both a positive charge and a negative charge. I figured that if I was the positive, my significant other would be the negative. If I was black, she’d be white. And there are quite a few poems and songs that reflect that same idea. I’ve found something out. They’re wrong. If people are like batteries, we each already have a positive charge and a negative charge, built into us individually. We are already a complete person and we don’t need someone to fill the gap, because the gap isn’t really there. Sure, we live in a society in which relationships with the opposite sex (or same-sex, for all I care) are valued. In our society, it’s wrong to be single. Why? I don’t think you can actually love someone if you depend upon them to be your opposite anyway, because that means that person can’t grow or change. And if you depend on them to create a “full person”, the relationship will become a power struggle. Who’s going to control this complete person we’ve created together? When one side’s in control, the other isn’t. This creates animosity, and I’m fairly certain that love has no room for animosity. Realistically, I think true love means allowing one’s mate to be his or her own person and loving them because of that. Like the AA batteries in my remote control, each person is complete and he or she already has a full charge. They each carry power. But they’re far more powerful together than they are when they’re alone. Separate but together… kind of like the Holy Trinity. An enigma then.
Vergiss Romeo und Julia,
Wann gibt’s Abendbrot?
Willst du wirklich tauschen?
Am Ende waren sie tot,
Ich werd’ immer für dich da sein,
Bist du dabei?
In dem Gefühl, wir wären zwei.
The lyrics above are from Kettcar’s Balu. Translated, they say “Forget Romeo and Juliet/When is dinner?/Will you really share?/In the end, they died/ I will always be here for you/ Are you there?/ In our feeling, we are two”.
Separate but together.
Leave it to the Germans to understand love. Honestly though, I’m not joking. Many Germanic authors have commented on love in its truest sense. From Goethe to Schiller and now to Kettcar, centuries later, the German artists seem to have this love thing figured out.
Goethe wrote about a destructive relationship in Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers, AKA The Sorrows of a Young
Werther, in which a young man falls into a one-sided, long distance relationship with a woman who strings him along like a puppy on a leash until he becomes so distraught by the whole ordeal that he ends his life. Yes, it ends in a typical German fashion, but that’s not the point. The point is, love shouldn’t be painful or unhealthy.
It is a gift.
I understand the reasons for providing items for someone in order to show affection, to say “thank you for being here with me and supporting me in my journey through this thing we call life.” Animals do it during courtship. Cavemen did it with dead animals, and we still enjoy doing it today.
But from where did the Valentines Day tradition of buying our lovers fattening chocolates and flowers that are just going to die in a week come? I’m half-joking here, but I would think that we men would try to remove the chocolate from our significant other’s diet for fear she’d get large and we’d end up dating someone who has the likeness of Jabba the Hut… especially if she’s to fit into that skimpy little outfit from Victoria’s Secret for which we paid an arm and a leg.
But it makes sense… kind of. As a male, I understand the pleasure of looking upon the beauty of a stunning woman. We men are lucky to experience their radiance day in and day out. I also know that (typically) men can be handsome, but not beautiful.
The beauty of a woman’s figure has been the subject by artists for centuries. Rarely though, is there a beautiful depiction of a man. Men seem to symbolize strength, courage, sometimes ferocity and determination, and certainly awesomeness. But beauty? No. War and destruction; That’s the man’s domain. Females though; they are the gentler half the species.
Maybe gifts of flowers are men’s way of apologizing for our lack of beauty, for our brute-ness. We men experience our women’s beauty every day, but all women have to look at (realistically) are our hairy bodies, the awkward floppiness between our legs and our beer bellies.
… or, if we look at Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of flowers, there might just be a subliminal message…
Either way, I have learned through my current relationship that love isn’t really about flowers or chocolate or shiny bits of hardened carbon or sacrifices. The reason a great relationship is so great isn’t because the woman is beautiful, the man is handsome or the sex is great (but it helps). These can all be had in a trip to the massage parlor. No, the greatest thing about a good, healthy, communicative relationship is that the participants cause each other to be better human beings, causing them to love each other more and more each passing day.
Thanks Auds, for really teaching me that.