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Love is in the air, it must be February

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By John Pawlak

My love is like an artichoke.  It may sound strange, but true.  I keep the outer leaves for me.  But the heart I give to you.

Ah, love is in the air and men of all ages become poets extraordinaire. I better keep my day job, eh?

Valentine’s Day is marked with candy hearts, freshly cut flowers and nearly a billion cards each year. Will you be my valentine? That question presumes a romantic gesture, but what if your honey is asking you to meet him at one of George “Bugs” Moran’s garages?  History does have a way of repeating, you know.

The holiday dates back to the Middle Ages, with romantic middle-agers giving gifts to prospective lovers. The holiday’s origins vary, but my favorite version is that it evolved from worshipers of the pagan Lupercalia festival. Lupercalia commemorated the beginning of spring, celebrated on the Ides of Februarius (the 15th), and was considered a time for purification.

Dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, it was a fertility festival.

The city would sacrifice a goat. Then two sons of noblemen would be drenched in the blood, they’d wipe most of it off with skins ripped off the dead goats (which would first be ceremonially dipped in goat milk).

The boys would be paraded around laughing — apparently it was a particularly important aspect that they laugh. I guess goat blood and milk dripping off your head could be considered pretty funny.

Then the boys would be stripped and they’d run around the city naked while hitting people with whips. If you were a young woman, getting lashed by the boys was considered good luck for future conception (hopefully for having kids who didn’t find it laughable to lash their mothers).

Ah, yes, the gods were a lot more fun back then.

So where does St. Valentine come into all of this? Well, most people don’t know even who St. Valentine was or what he did. There were in fact three St. Valentines.

All of them martyrs  — aren’t they always? The most likely candidate lived in the third century and having been found guilty of sedition against the prefect of Rome, was beaten with clubs, stoned, beheaded, chopped up and fed to the crows. What better character to symbolize love?

Today of course, Valentine’s Day is a day for young boys to sheepishly give the gift of chocolate to that cute little girl in the next seat in class. It only costs them a few dollars, but its adds up. Some $15 billion is spent each year on overpriced cards, chalky chocolates, dying flowers and cheap jewelry, all in the hopes that Cupid’s arrow finds its mark and the following months of spring will bring better luck than the cold months of winter.

Well, it’s all become a bit too commercialized for me. Being whipped by young streakers is one thing, but heart shaped boxes of Chinese chocolates is asking too much.

Will my honey really adore me more if I ask her to be mine once a year? I mean, does this stuff really work without the goat milk-drenched skins?

It took two nanoseconds for stores to pack up the Christmas paraphernalia and bring out the stale chocolates in late December.

Big holidays partition the year into shopping seasons and on Feb. 15, stores will shine green with cards and trinkets to buy for St. Patty’s Day.

And why does Valentine get all the press? What about Dwynwen, patron saint of lovers?  Why don’t we celebrate St. Dwynwen Day instead? Maybe if she had an easier name to pronounce? Would St. Nick have made it as big if his name had been Kleindopperplusenflake?

Now I have to admit, I kind of like those Red Hots, the cinnamon hard candies you can get all year long. I’m not talking about the heart shaped, pasty “conversation hearts” stamped with deep thoughts like “Be Mine” or “Sweet Talk.” 

The fact is, hearts aren’t shaped like that. If you really want to buy your sweetie a “heart shaped” box of chocolates, it should look more like a cross between kohlrabi and a Jerusalem artichoke.  The classic heart shape is an implicit mathematical function called an epicycloid with one cusp.

So anyway, what does all this have to do with love? Did Van Gogh understand the true nature of love when he gave Gauguin his left ear lobe? One would hope that we men would have a better option.

Maybe if I surrender the TV remote for a day, wouldn’t that prove my eternal love?

Give up my remote? Hmmm ... let me rethink my options. Do I really need that ear lobe?