Every week in Rambling Dispatches, resident malcontent Quinn McGee rants about whatever he damn well pleases.
Today is Valentine’s Day, that wondrous day all across this nation where it’s impossible to find a seat in a restaurant, people do everything up to outright screwing each other in the presence of others, and, combined with all the sales of medicine for the flu, drug stores see their profit margins soar into the black, on account of all the forgetful and pretty much thoughtless people in the world who buy last-minute cards and chocolates. It sounds like I’m bitter about the holiday, but really I’m not. All of these things really do happen, but this Valentine’s Day is special for me, because I get to see it in a different light for the first time since freshman year of college. I’m something of a serial dater, but that’s really not fair, since I only ever really have long-term relationships. (Serial monogamist probably fits better.) I used to have a real habit of falling head over heels in love and staying in long-term relationships, so Valentine’s Day has kind of always been a constant part of my routine when it comes to February. I just knew I was going to have to put aside a considerable amount of money that I didn’t really have for something that wasn’t really necessary.
This year, though, I’m taking that same amount of money being more creative. I’m withdrawing about $100 in gold coins, throwing them on my bed and diving into them like Scrooge McDuck. It’s something I always wanted to do, and since I’m so used to seeing that much money go toward a gift on this day, might as well do it. I feel like I’ll instantly regret it when I cut myself up on the coins and then proceed to try to spend $100 with a sack of coins that no one wants to waste their time taking. Redbox doesn’t take them either, and those things are nothing but vending machines. My going on about what I’m going to do when I’m single on Valentine’s Day is not the point of this piece, though. Sure, I’d love to rub the idea that I get to be Scrooge McDuck for a day in everybody’s faces, but I’m also supposed to have reason here.
There are a lot of myths surrounding Valentine’s Day and basically how it’s celebrated is just a bastardization of a myth that evolved slowly through time. The original day supposedly celebrated the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (if you grew up around Chicago), except that’s a huge lie that started somewhere, and I believed it for a time because I’m an idiot. It actually celebrates a saint named Valentinus, who was executed for preforming marriage ceremonies for soldiers who the Church said were not allowed to marry and also just for practicing his faith. So the dude died for love in a lot of respects, with his last letter being signed “From your Valentine.” It’s not hard to look at this story and see how the whole celebration of Valentine’s Day started. There are other forms of the story as well, but the Valentine’s Day as it’s celebrated now had its start with the writer Geoffrey Chaucer.
You know that name if you ever took a British Literature class, as he’s kind of the poster child. He’s the one who started the association of the day of St. Valentinus’ execution with the notion of romantic love. Now this all seems fine and good, because that guy literally would do anything for love (Fuck yeah Meat Loaf!). The little tradition that got thrown onto Valentine’s Day, in which people exchange pointless gifts and stuff because just being romantic with someone you care about on the day someone died protecting that right for others got added in the 15th century by a group of people who were probably the ancestors of Hallmark. (Their family crest was created by someone else, but said what they wanted to say, so they signed it and said it was theirs.)
I guess the reason I bring all this up is because this is all new to me. I never had the opportunity to actually think about Valentine’s Day as anything more than a duty required of couples. I never knew why I was doing anything I was doing. This Valentine’s Day, I decided to understand the holiday, and I have to admit, I’m kind of really pissed off we’ve bastardized the true meaning to such a degree. It’s not about gifts and feeling bad about ourself if there is no one there for you. It should be about overcoming any obstacle with someone you’re close to, and if you don’t have anyone, there really shouldn’t be a reason to be sad. Someone died to bring people closer together, so what’s stopping the rest of the world from going out and finding someone to love on Valentine’s Day? Did you know that 50% of the world is single on Valentine’s Day? And they are easier to spot because they’re not the ones sharing spaghetti in one of Chicago’s overly expensive Italian restaurants, Lady and the Tramp style.
So to the single people, if you’re reading now, stop reading and head on out to a bar, or a club, or something, and meet someone (romantic or otherwise) if you’re feeling depressed on Valentine’s Day. There is no reason not to go out and celebrate regardless. If not, then celebrate the message that St. Valentinus was trying to convey. People should be allowed to love each other, and no one should tell them otherwise. I can think of a pretty hot-button topic happening in America right now that relates to St. Valentinus’ divine message. I know this Valentine’s Day, I’m going to think hard about the message, nurse the wounds I am going to no doubt give myself from diving into a pile of coins, and buy 50% off candy from my local drug store tomorrow. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.