Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day, You're Going Down...and not in the good way

On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, St. Valentine's Day, 7 members of Bugs Moran's Gang, were lined up against the rear inside wall of a garage on Chicago's North Side and riddled with machine gun bullets until they looked like human colanders. The hit was executed by members of Al Capone's gang and was called The St. Valentine's Massacre.

Every February 14th, a march occurs in my hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia to protest the large number of women who have been murdered or gone missing in that city.

Valentine's Day is ruefully mentioned by Ophelia in Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, when she says:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

And we all know how well that relationship worked out.

It gets worse.

I grew up in a time before schools mandated that every student receive a Valentine or else no students were to receive one. In other words, the little construction paper envelope (or mailbox) taped to my desk and decorated with scraps of wool and bits of glitter affixed with Elmer's glue (which, by the way, is the tastiest of all the glues) was a little thinner than the envelopes overflowing with gushing homemade lace doily trimmed hearts, chocolates and those heart-shaped cookies with the pink icing and sprinkles. I learned pretty early that some people got lots of Valentines and me not so many... and that this pattern would repeat itself in various aspects of my life over and over and over again until I got a blog. Thus began my strong dislike for Valentine's Day.

But it's not the years of disappointment that irk me, it's the lack of imagination. It seems somehow cold to have one day a year be mandated as the day on which to be romantic. I hate the uniformity of it. I hated getting the same stupid shit year after year when it meant nothing to me. It made me feel like the person giving me the Valentine knew nothing about me, like they were looking at me, but couldn't really see me.

My house is filled with flowers. I fucking love flowers. My favorite is the Gerber Daisy. It's a brilliant color and the bloom is so big and heavy that it tips over like somebody whose brain is so big their body can't support their head. It's the Stephen Hawking of flowers. I also love the brilliant oranges and yellows of the Gerber Daisy and how, after one or two days, they wilt and sag and you need to cut the stem off and turn them into "floaters." I have special crystal bowls that are only used to float flower heads. People buy me flowers all the time and since I started hospice, my house looks like a hippie funeral home. I mention all this so that there's no mistake. I love flowers. I have always hated it though when the men in my life didn't give me shit all year round, and then brought me a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day. It's so trite and boring. I did, however, once date a guy who used to show up at every date with a single flower. Sometimes, a white rose, sometimes a red one, and he actually had the good sense to ask me what flowers were my favorites. I remember one date in which he said, "Whoops. I have to run back to the car. I forgot your flower" as though it were the price of admission to dateland with Carla. I really appreciated that about him.

Let's talk chocolate. Valentine's Day is the one day of the year that people think you want to eat really shitty chocolates instead of the great bittersweet free trade 85% Dark chocolate that you can get all year round. All of a sudden, just because it's February 14th, you get these shitty chocolates that splooge caramel cum into your mouth when you bite them, completely masking the taste of the chocolate despite your best attempt to try to find the one or two fucking pieces with nuts in the middle. I have to tear each chocolate in half searching for the one or two edible ones and leaving a countertop that looks like a battlefield after shock and awe warfare between the cherries and the nougats. And I'm supposed to be excited about this because these cardboard flavored confections came in a box shaped like a heart? Hello! That's not even the shape of a heart. This is the shape of heart:

And while we're at it, here's the Oxford English Dictionary definition:

heart: noun 1 a hollow muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation. 2 the central, innermost, or vital part: the heart of the city. 3 a person’s feeling of or capacity for love or compassion. 4 mood or feeling: a change of heart. 5 courage or enthusiasm. 6 a symbolic representation of a heart with two equal curves meeting at a point at the bottom and a cusp at the top. 7 (hearts) one of the four suits in a pack of playing cards, denoted by a red symbol of a heart.

You will note that it is not 'til the 6th (2nd to last) definition that the shape people refer to as heart shaped is even mentioned. And that's from the Oxford English dictionary bitches.

Now, if someone were to give me a box of chocolates shaped like this:
I would sleep with them right then and there. No questions asked. You see, it's that kind thinking outside the heart-shaped box that turns me on.

And what about the history of Valentine's Day besides the murders and massacres I've already mentioned?

There were at least three martyrs named Valentine, so no one knows exactly which one St. Valentine's Day is named for, but it's widely agreed that the holiday was not connected to romantic love until the time of Geoffrey Chaucer. As much as Valentine's Day wrecked my school years, Chaucer fucked them up even harder with The (fucking) Canterbury Tales. I honestly felt like we were forced to read The Canterbury Tales as punishment because our English teacher secretly hated us. The book is impossible to understand in its irritating old English. For example, here is some Chaucer:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

Do you have any idea what the hell that means? Me neither. Something about birds making cheese on Valentine's Day, which is utterly illogical since birds, to my knowledge, do not make cheese. If this is a clever allusion to birdshit, I'm missing it completely.

One popular theory is that Valentine's Day was named after a priest name Valentine during the rein of Roman Emperor Claudius II. Claudius had an edict preventing men from marrying. Sound familiar? Only in this case, they were prevented from marrying women since Claudius thought single men made better soldiers. Take that, Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Anyhow, Valentine secretly married men to their sweethearts in direct defiance of the Emperor. It sounds really romantic, but if you've been married, you might see things a little differently. If I were Claudius, I would make an army of men and women who'd been married to each other a long time since the front line would feel like a nice break from all the fighting.

Based on all the sordid tales I have shared with you, I am suggesting a mass international postponement of Valentine's Day in which each individual agrees to reschedule it to a day on which they feel romantic toward their partner. We can replace Valentine's Day with Have-an-Original-Thought Day. As for romantic day, pick a day or days and give your partner something they would actually like--like sex or shoes or, if they insist, a dozen red roses and See's Candies in a box shaped like two equal curves meeting at a point at the bottom and a cusp at the top.


Charles Cowling said...

Carla, you are right about everything always, especially Mr Valentine as I suppose he was when underground marriage king of whereveritwas. If you're with the one you love his day feels non-relevant; if you're not it is a prescription for ordeal by playacting. I don't know that Mr (now Saint) V, from his place of eminence in the empyrean, gazes down with much gratification.

Did I say everything? I was merely luring you with false bona fides. Geo Chaucer is GREAT. He is genial and wise and funny and wry and ironical and in no way obscure or heavyweight. Give him another chance. You'll even fall in love with his spelling.

Alison said...

Yay! You're feisty!! I was gonna ask you to be my Valentine, but now I'm a little intimidated. Oh well, here goes nothin'--Will you be my Valentine if I promise never to get you roses and only the darkest of dark chocolate with no caramel! And I have a few CDs of lullabies I want to drop by, and no TV shows you haven't seen--but I do have some very strange movies I've picked up in the bargain bins of Silver Screen video. And if you haven't seen Glee yet that seems like it would be good (I haven't seen it, but I'm a late adopter.) I love you, Ali

Anonymous said...

Wow! Now I feel like I'm in good company about my own attitude toward this day. I'm going to celebrate Chinese New Year instead, which falls on the same day, I totally agree about the Chaucer, what was that B.S. all about anyway? We would have learned more about "English" reading Peanuts comic strips. Gung-hay-fa-choy, Carla! If you weren't born in the year of the tiger, you should have been.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Your condition hasn't robbed you of your eye or your ear or your edge.

Anonymous said...

AMEN...I will celebrate Chinese New Year instead...I HATE these contrived "holidays"...

Anonymous said...

I always see Valentine's Day as the end of the fucking holidays. (I don't pay attention to St. Patrick's day).

by Kim Addonizio

They hang around, hitting on your friends
or else you never hear from them again.
They call when they're drunk, or finally get sober,

they're passing through town and want dinner,
they take your hand across the table, kiss you
when you come back from the bathroom.

They were your loves, your victims,
your good dogs or bad boys, and they're over
you now. one writes a book in which a woman

who sounds suspiciously like you
is the first to be sadistically dismembered
by a serial killer. They're getting married

and want you to be the first to know,
or they've been fired and need a loan,
their new girlfriend hates you,

they say they don't miss you but show up
in your dreams, calling to you from the shoeboxes
where they're buried in rows in your basement.

Some nights you find one floating into bed with you,
propped on an elbow, giving you a look
of fascination, a look that says I can't believe

I've found you. It's the same way
your current boyfriend gazed at you last night,
before he pulled the plug on the tiny white lights

above the bed, and moved against you in the dark
broken occasionally by the faint restless arcs
of headlights from the freeway's passing trucks,

the big rigs that travel and travel,
hauling their loads between cities, warehouses,
following the familiar routes of their loneliness.

"Ex-Boyfriends" by Kim Addonizio, from What Is This Thing Called Love. © W.W. Norton, 2004.

The above is an interpretation of Chaucer.


Anonymous said...

Fuck Valentine's Day.

Anonymous said...

Men are like:
1)Laxatives; They irritate the crap out of you.
2)Bananas; The older they get, the less firm they are.
3) Weather; Nothing can be done to change them.
4) Blenders; You need One, but you're not quite sure why..
5) Chocolate Bars; Sweet, smooth, & they usually head strait for your hips.
6) Commercials; You can't believe a word they say.
7) Department Stores; Their clothes are always 1/2 off!
8) Government Bonds; They take forever to mature.
9) Mascara; They usually run at the first sign of emotion.
10) Popcorn: They satisfy you, but only for a little while.
11) Lava Lamps; Fun to look at, but not very bright.
12) Parking Spots; All the good ones are taken.

Anonymous said...

A good TED talk on ALS story...

Anonymous said...

One more thing about the TED TALK


This is so wonderful for people with illnesses WITHOUT the medical infrastructure. PLEASE watch.

Carla Zilbersmith said...

I love men. Just not Valentine's Day.

Jason E. Smith said...

I'm actually okay with Valentine's Day. Love and chocolate are two of my favorite things.

President's Day, however, is another story altogether. Don't even get me started. . .

Anonymous said...

I'm goin' down in chocolate!
Glad you're still around and sassy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carla,
Check out "Whatever works" directed by Woody Allen and starring Larry David. I thought it was hilarious and thought especially that you, and my smarter friends, would like it. It's WAY better than most of Woody's current stuff.. It's that fine edge of cynicism, realism, and tenderness.
Just be careful not to choke from too much laughing!
love you,
susan P.

Gerry T said...

It's really too bad that more women don't think the way you do. Valentine's Day is one of the most contrived holidays of the year, and millions of American women have bought into it hook, line and sinker. It's so refreshing to hear a woman call this holiday out for the b.s. that it really is!

Lisa O said...

My husband and I never go to dinner on VD, we always go a day or two before or after. I waited tables and bartended once upon a time and remember the slowest money days were just before and just after VD so I try to help the service industry by spreading the love out some. My husband still insists on buying me flowers and chocolates in a box shaped of two equal curves meeting at a point at the bottom and a cusp at the top, along with a sappy card. This year he got sugar free chocolates (yuck!) so he wouldn't have to hear me complain about how fat I am as I eat each one, or how many miles I have to run to work it off. Bless his heart. He says he knows I don't want any of it, I have a habit of ranting about the Hallmark creation of a "holiday" which makes some feel shamed into showing affection, and others sad because they feel forgotten, and how cut flowers just die anyway, but he can't say "Nothing" when asked by his pals what he got his wife for VD. Poor sweet loving man, suckered into buying into the drama that is perhaps the largest sham perpetrated by corporate America...a faux-holiday wrapped up in pretty red velvet and waxy-tasting brown confections making people feel that they can only give their heart (the sweet chocolatey one that tickles the throat at the first kiss, not necessarily the blood-filled squishy one) once a year...I agree with you, Carla. We need to take every day and make it a love fest.

--lisa o

Anonymous said...

I repeat. Fuck Valentine's Day. Embrace love where and however it shows up.

Gerry T said...

By the way...I was also that kid in grade school who never got a valentine, when others got stacks of them. So my distaste for this holiday also goes way back.

Anonymous said...

Hey people, give the day a break. Though it is contrived, it might be just what it takes for someone to tell the other someone that they are in love or to use the day to become engaged or just to declare love where love might not have been apparent. I repeat, give the day a break.

Anonymous said...

I am a very hot, very awesome woman and I do not need "valentines day" to make me feel loved by my partner, or lack of.... I hate Barbie dolls too.
"valentines day" is for the extremely needy. Those of us that are secure in ourselves, and who we love don't need it.
Love me everyday or go away.
Screw Hallmark and the made up day this is.
Right On Carla!!!

Anonymous said...

The number of little cards in your pasted and stapled sparkly 2nd grade Valentine's envelope does not necessarily correlate with later love life. I was a popular kid with a very full envelope. Since then, I've been broken up with on Valentine's Day, had another boyfriend deep into plans to go to Paris with another woman, and this year.... a cute kitty card (interpretation - gee, I really LIKE you). Screw 'em all. Next year I'm taking myself to Paris - I'm that good.

Anonymous said...

Women are Angels
And when someone breaks our wings....
We simply continue to fly.........on a broomstick...
We are flexible like that ....

Anonymous said...

The commentors on this blog have attitude, I love it. Bring it!!

Regina said...

Great, Carla! Beautifully written! Pretty funny too. I am Regina, the wife of Kai Eckhardt, the bass player. I truly admire you courage, zest for life and sense of humor. You are an inspiration! Peace and blessings, R

Anonymous said...

My brother just sent me a treasured gift, a real gift, a gift for no prescribed reason. He's a good man. Excellent really. What he gave me was the link to your blog.

In reading your posts, I have smiled, felt a connection,felt joy, and some sadness. I have laughed and pondered, but mostly I have simply celebrated you. I find myself caring about you, this stranger who has my own voice, who speaks my thoughts.

I've launched more than one rant on virtue-less nature of obligatory holidays. My own riff on V-Day almost directly paralleled yours. Well, except the ALS part.

Life is like a box of chocolates, just like Forrest says. Except you do know what you're going to get sometimes. Odds are pretty fucking good that you'll get some disgusting stuff. But you can decide not to guilt yourself into eating it or swallowing it. Still, it's worth poking your finger in every chocolate, because every once in awhile there's a delightful one.

I never wanted a super sweet life. I sought out a "textured" life... and it left a few marks. Boo fucking hoo.

You reminded me that I have more options than I make use of, more small pleasures than I can ever count, and today is a good day. Just like it is.

A Carla seed has been sown here in Annapolis, MD. I suspect it will bear fruit for a long time. Our gifts, our legacies, are bigger and often simpler than we're ever meant to know.

Cathalynn said...

Can't wait for your next blog entry. Wish you were here getting inspiration for "O" stories--wow, you could really riff on "O"s.

Rupert Callender said...

I am a trustee of a UK charity called The Natural Death Centre and I am editing the fifth edition of our handbook. I am including a series of essays by well known thinkers, writers, artists and palliative care specialists and would love to be able to include some of your writing. Would that be possible?
Yours Ru Callender