Columnist Professes No Valentine’s Day Love

    Dear UCSD,

    I want to wish you a happy Valentine’s Day.

    When normal, self-respecting people think of Valentine’s
    Day, they probably imagine star-crossed lovers, mountains of candy and the
    arrow-shooting cherubs who make it all happen (even though they’re clearly
    armed and dangerous).

    Far from normal or self-respecting, when I think of “the
    other V-Day,” I see unrequited love, dejection and the fear that I am yet a
    year closer to fulfilling my third-grade prediction of leaving this earth a
    lonely, abject old man with only a studio apartment and 18 cats to his name —
    and I hate cats.

    My tone might smack of past inamoratas gone sour, and in a
    way that assumption is more or less in line with reality. But generally
    speaking, I really do hate Valentine’s Day. Call me a walking cliche, but to me
    the holiday is nothing more than an overly commercialized and shameless excuse
    to mack on your beau or belle in public. It’s outright unforgivable.

    As if the general public were skeptical of love’s extent, on
    this day couples nationwide have taken to dispelling any possible doubt with
    rounds of handholding, card swapping and, most damningly, their smug way of
    showing the world how just happy they are together — what’s the deal with that,
    anyway?

    In spite of it all, I just can’t shake my curiosity as to
    the origins of this lovefest. Tell me, was St. Valentine some sort of
    libertine? Did he become the patron saint of sexually transmitted diseases or
    something? How did we come to celebrate this day of lovers and what does St.
    Valentine have to do with it? Of Croatian Catholic stock, it’s embarrassing
    that I don’t know the answers to these questions; but I nonetheless decided to
    find out. Using my best judgment, I turned to two trusty sources: my pious
    grandmother and another authority on all things Catholic,
    http://www.catholic.org. Go figure.

    Apparently, St. Valentine was no philanderer.

    In fact, we aren’t really too sure who he was, as there are
    several men named Valentine in the pantheon of Catholic saints; many of whom
    were priests or hermits — hardly the ladies’ men one might expect from the
    namesake of a holiday dedicated to romance.

    In any case, it seems clear that whoever he was, he did
    something noble enough to score a spot on a very elite list of Catholics.

    In one account, St. Valentine was a miracle worker.
    Allegedly, the night before his scheduled execution (his crime being his faith,
    of course), he restored the eyesight of a small blind girl. In a letter to the
    girl, the saint to be asserted that she should never take the miracle for
    granted, signing the end with “from your Valentine,” leading some to wonder if
    this is the origin of Valentine’s Day cards.

    But St. Valentine surely wasn’t romantically interested in
    the girl, so who came up with the lovey-dovey stuff we commonly associate with
    Valentine’s Day?

    You have none other than Geoffrey Chaucer to thank, who, in
    1381, composed a poem honoring the marriage between King Richard II and Anne of
    Bohemia, an event that took place on the honorary feast day of St. Valentine,
    which was then May 3.

    Because of this, Chaucer chose to include Valentine in his
    poetic homage to the newlywed king and queen, inventively declaring St.
    Valentine’s to be the perfect day for a wedding, as it is the day on which
    birds choose their mates. Sure it is, Geoff.

    After the poet’s death, the feast of Valentine (when “every
    fowl cometh to choose his mate”) was moved to Feb. 14, apparently in a
    misguided attempt to mark the time when birds actually attract their mates.

    And if that seems crazy, yet another theory suggests that
    Valentine’s Day came as a result of a risque ancient Roman tradition. The
    Festival of Juno, which took place every Feb. 14, was a celebration during
    which young Roman men drew names from a jar to see who their sexual partner
    would be for an entire year. Pope Gelasius I, who unsurprisingly took issue
    with the festival, changed the rules so that instead of girls’ names, boys had
    to draw the names of Catholic saints whom they would emulate over the course of
    a year, and the festival became the Festival of Valentine. Major party foul,
    Gelasius.

    I suppose in the end, no one is really sure about the origin
    of Valentine’s Day, or even why it’s associated with love.

    Bizarrely, in addition to couples, St. Valentine is the
    patron saint of epilepsy, plague, paper manufacturing and beekeeping — so love
    isn’t even his main preoccupation. And on this day of romance, it isn’t mine,
    either.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d gladly romance or serenade some fair
    maiden to whom I could dedicate this day of affection, but why bother with the
    hassle of courtship when I could just draw her name out of a jar?

    I don’t know about you, but if the United
    States
    really is the modern equivalent of
    ancient Rome, I think it’s high
    time we get ourselves a Festival of Juno.

    Your loving Valentine,

    Vincent Andrews

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