I was peacefully perched on a stool at the kitchen counter enjoying a ham and turkey on rye, with a slice of Swiss and a schmear of horseradish sauce, when the voice in my radio announced “Now we’ll take time out for one of our obscene profit breaks.” It wasn’t kidding either, because what came next nearly spoiled a great sandwich.
No one should be surprised that ads for Valentine’s Day have now reached fever pitch … but what happened to giving your loved one traditional stuff, you know, like flowers and candy? I hadn’t even swallowed my first bite when a commercial suggested that I give my special someone a certificate to have her toe nail fungus removed. That was followed by one from another doctors’ group stating if I had “performance difficulties” they could have me “ready for action” after my first visit … if my caring Valentine would give me the loving gift of their vast experience with “ED.” I found all this kind of puzzling since I don’t even know anybody named ED and the only performance difficulty I have is that I can’t tap dance. As for Vigi’s toe nails, they’re always polished with that red stuff. You don’t suppose she’s trying to hide something, do you?
The spot that almost caused me to cancel lunch came right after the “Give her the unique gift of naming a rare, hissing cockroach” ad from some zoo. A soft, sultry voice began beckoning me to buy my Valentine one-piece pajamas featuring a hood and attached feet. Oh, they were guaranteed to “keep her snug and warm,” too. Now, there were more than a couple of things wrong here … forget the cockroaches. To begin with, I always thought keeping Veege snug and warm was MY job. Did this mean I could be covertly retired by a few measly yards of synthetic fuzz? I’m not even sure they had that little door in the back! The pronouncer never said so, anyway.
My sandwich was now drying out in my dish and my cold cuts becoming warm cuts, as I was forced to admit my real objection to this mummifying toggery. I had dedicated the better part of 33 years to finding sheer, filmy little frocks for Vigi, that would peel off easily … even with my teeth if necessary. Now that my smooth, catlike movements are all but gone and a certain level of stiffness has set into my fingers, I’m supposed to schlep my way through “hoodies and footies?” And what about all those other guys whose impatient fingers no longer adapt well to buttons or zippers?
Besides Hallmark and a bunch of Madison Avenue Marketeers, I began to wonder exactly who or what was behind this whole Valentine thing in the first place. I tossed my last crust of bread to the dog, headed for the computer and Googled around a little … only to discover there may be more than one explanation for our February 14th madness. Nothing I read, however, provided insight as to how a buck naked little cherub with archery skills got mixed up in the celebration.
One legend has it that Valentine was a cleric who served during the 3rd century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than men with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, continued to perform marriage ceremonies for young lovers in secret. When Claudius the Deuce found out about this, he ordered the cleric to be put to death! While languishing in prison, legend has it that St. Valentine actually sent the first Valentine greeting himself. It turns out his jailer’s daughter visited him frequently and they became smitten with each other … but before he literally lost his head, the starry-eyed romantic wrote her a love letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.” For obvious reasons, no known royalty arrangements were ever made on the phrase.
Another legend doesn’t say much about St. Valentine but claims the holiday was held around this time of year because it was the beginning of Spring, considered by the Christian church to be a time for purification and fertility. The priests would sacrifice a goat, as a symbol of both, slice its hide into strips and dip them into sacrificial blood. Then, they took to the streets gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the bloody strips. Women, in particular, welcomed being slapped with the bloody goat hide because they believed it purified them and would make them more fertile during the coming year.
Having shared Vigi’s every mood and preference for more than three decades, I somehow feel it is safe to say that she would rather celebrate Valentine’s Day with a dozen roses, some chocolate-covered cherries, or even the P.J.s without a door in the back … and leave the rest of ancient Christianity’s holy ritual to chance!
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