Love is in the air and your paycheck is about to finance an evening of disappointment. Why, it must be Valentine’s Day! Just in case you’ve secretly been loathing the whole enterprise, don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Just show this to your significant other, and when they stop crying, maybe you won’t have to buy them anything.
Dark origins: Lupercalia
What would a holiday about love and relationships be without shadowy origins involving beating women into submission? Yes, those ancient Romans certainly had a way with sex and violence. Basically Lupercalia was a big naked pastoral festival that lasted from Feb 13-15, where everyone got trashed and banged.
The main event included lining up all the single ladies at the party, where they would wait in line for the men to whip them. This was done in the belief that it would make them more fertile.
After that there was an old school swingers party raffle, where everyone paired up for the rest of the holiday.
Scholars have debated forever if Lupercalia is in fact the original representation of the day of love, but what is proven is that in the 5th century Pope Gelasius I officially merged the Christian St. Valentines Day with the Lupercalia in order to suppress any pagan rituals that may have been lingering about. Thus, they became one and the same, and many traits of the holiday as we have it today originated in the ancient debauchery.
Dark origins part deux: St. Valentine's martyrdom
The figure of St. Valentine has been difficult for historians to peg down into one specific person, rather there were several throughout history, with various backstories and supposed miracles taking place. However, the tale that seems to have superseded the rest is completely abstract and ridiculous.
Cue the Passion of the Christ music – the year is 270 AD, and Christianity is under persecution from Emperor Claudius II who rules with an iron fist. Our hero Valentine, a true practitioner of the teachings of Christ, has been marrying Christian couples and soldiers, which is strictly banned under Claudius. He’s apprehended and brought before the emperor, who takes a liking to the lad...but things go south quickly because Valentine can’t keep his mouth shut about Jesus, and tries to convert Claudius II. He is sentenced to death.
Now it gets convoluted. While in prison, he ends up healing one of the jailer's blind daughters…because apparently he has powers all of a sudden. This compels the jailer to free all the Christian prisoners, Valentine included, and his entire family converts to Christianity.
Somehow after being freed, Valentine is arrested again, and is again scheduled to be executed. While he awaits death, he sends a love letter to a judge's daughter, closing with “Your Valentine.” Then he gets beaten, stoned, and beheaded.
St. Valentine then remained basically forgotten until 496 AD by the aforementioned Pope Gelasius I, when Valentines Day was recognized and merged with Lupercalia.
So here’s the quick version: Valentines Day is the celebration of a Christian martyr who sent a love letter to a judge's daughter while imprisoned and then was brutally executed for previously attempting to convert the emperor to Christianity. Forgive me for not seeing the romanticism in this.
It turns your girlfriend into a hooker
Thank you so much for the overstuffed teddy bear, I now feel compelled to blow you. That’s the message of a lot of Valentine's Day advertisements and movies. That and the idea that your girlfriend will be wearing some kind of satin jammies when you get it on. Basically anything you choose to purchase for your significant other will be marketed with sex, and that’s fine, because that’s not exclusive to Valentine's Day. But making gifts appear as a prerequisite for intimacy is a recipe for disaster.
First off, it suggests women will engage in sex only after receiving material compensation. You can go on and on about how taking a woman out to dinner is the same song and dance, but Valentine's Day takes this concept and runs with it – right over the edge. Every year the presents have to be more expensive and grand, with the promise the sex you receive will be even more so mind blowing because those earrings were really expensive. If you get her a ring, she’ll probably invite her twin sister over and start wrestling in Jell-o.
It's national break-up day
There’s something no one tells you about Valentines day when you’re in a relationship – it’s a lot of f#*%ing pressure. The mandatory romance shtick gets old real quick when you’re rushing to make dinner plans and get the perfect little something for the girl you’ve been exclusive with for a whole eight minutes. All the hearts and flowers will do nothing to quell feelings of your relationship free falling from casual fun to commitment town. Maybe that’s why it’s one of the most popular days for relationships to end.
Or what about the other side of the coin? Maybe you’re in a serious relationship that’s endured to the point that you’re farting in front of each other. Now, instead of your comfortable routine of snuggling up to reality television, you’re getting dolled up to try and impress someone you’ve already bagged. Nothing screams “our relationship has deteriorated” more than going through the motions on national take the old girl out day. Why how special, you took me to Manzo out of some pedantic obligation that has no real connection to either of us. Jesus, it’s depressing just thinking about it.
It's a painful reminder of your loneliness
Ever been single on Valentines Day? That’s tons of fun. As if the marketing machine that is the Valentines beast isn’t already soul crushing enough, hearing the message of “are you ready for love?” is a bit heavy when you’re nibbling on a plate of Kraft singles with your four cats.
The loveless community has responded with such converse celebrations as Singles Awareness Day, which mostly involves single people buying chocolate for themselves and talking about how glad they are to not be in a relationship. That sounds like a blast.
Depression is a common symptom of being alone on any holiday, but Valentines exacerbates those feelings by heavy handedly suggesting everyone else is in love, and that being in a relationship is the ideal state to be in. Try typing "Valentines Day Depression" into Google and the 2.5 million hits will give you a range of articles from helping people cope with their sadness, to angst ridden tweets about “how he broke my heart.”
Retailers jack up prices
The National Retail Federation is predicting consumers will spend near $18 billion this year for Valentines day. That’s almost $130 per person spent on flowers, chocolates, jewelry, and probably some really sissy cocktails. Think it’s coincidental the prices for these goods skyrocket on the big day? Of course you don’t, the airlines have been pulling the same gag for years.
Those roses you’ll be procuring on the big day will spike by about 33 % from their usual price range when you hastily order them just hours before the V-bomb goes off. As for the gender divide on spending, men will average around $180, with women at $88. This difference can be explained scientifically with the MenDon’tGiveACrap theory. Retailers essentially have customers by the balls in regards to spiking prices for the holidays.
Chalky heart candies
Specifically I’m referring to NECCO Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, which of course adhere to the classic recipe of soap flakes and arsenic. Actually that’s not true, as of 2010, NECCO changed the flavors and messages on their hearts to adapt to the times. You know, cool hip new sayings like “Text Me”, or “Table 4 Two.” Apparently the changes to the recipe and appearance has not sat well with fans, and a switch to the old pastel approach may be in the works. Which begs the question, who the hell ever liked these things?
They’ve somehow been around since 1866, tormenting children with their campy sayings and lodging themselves in the throats of anyone foolish enough to ingest them. What was the rationale behind their creation? “Hey, I’ve got an idea, lets make a treat that looks like candy, but tastes like Comet bathroom spray.” Sold.
If you can imagine the next part in your best James Cagney impression, it may help. It’s 1929 in Chicago and the North Side Gang is headed by Bugs Moran nearly five years after the murder of Dion O’Banion. Entrenched in a battle for turf with Al Capone’s outfit, the North Side boys are about to get more than they bargained for. Dressed in police uniforms, Capones men corner seven of Moran’s cronies, including one they mistakenly assumed was the boss man. They lean them against the wall, and the bootleggers think it’s just another shakedown in a city based on kickbacks and under the table deals. Only this aint no handout, this is a bloodbath.
Capone’s men open fire with two Thompsons, letting loose nearly seventy rounds into the Chicago night. They follow it up with two volleys from shotguns to the faces of two victims, all but destroying their identities. Amazingly one man, Frank Gusenberg, survives the incident despite fourteen bullet wounds. As the cops question the gravely wounded gangster, he utters just one phrase, “no one shot me.” Gusenberg dies three hours later.
I could follow this up with an account of how this affected the political landscape of Chicago, or the fate of Capone’s outfit, but maybe this will get you to actually read a book. So I’ll just remind you this happened on Valentine's Day and it's now known as the Valentine's Day Massacre.