The One Where I Celebrate Lupercalia Damnit

As I write this post, which I’m going to dignify by calling a Polemic Against Standardized Romance, but which is probably just an Angry Rant, I confess I am actually celebrating Valentine’s Day. If drinking champagne straight from the bottle with your fuckbuddy’s girlfriend and geeking out all over TV Tropes counts as celebrating. But we’ve jointly decided that honoring our mutual appreciation of Alexander’s cock by sharing a fizzy, alcoholic beverage is subversive enough to be okay. I don’t lose any of my manly points for this.

Anyway, on to the polemic part of this post. Fucking Valentine’s Day! How does it work? Well, allow me to provide you with an abridged history. Valentine’s Day was originally a Christian holiday devoted to St. Valentine. No surprising there. This St. Valentine, however, was actually a whole bunch of different guys. There are at least three known martyrs by the name of Valentine. Yes, martyrs. Valentine’s Day began as a celebration of horrible death in the name of religious adherence. I don’t know about you, but I do not find that romantic.

At some point, the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine’s Day from their official calendar, sighting the fact that they didn’t know shit about the guy. The holiday had already stuck, though, and they allowed it’s continued celebration.

And, since the association with romantic love had already become firmly entrenched, folks took to retroactively changing their lore. The new and improved version of the Legend of Saint Valentine goes like this: the Roman Emperor had set up some kind of law against marriage in order to help fill his army’s ranks. Because single men make way better soldiers and all. Saint Valentine’s Christian morality would not allow him to deny the purity of young love, and so he performed super secret illegal marriages. When he was found out, he was sentenced to death, and on the eve of his execution, he wrote the world’s first valentine. Isn’t that charming.

Alright, the sarcasm is all mine, but that really is the story. And everyone acknowledges that it’s completely unsubstantiated and that it was altered retroactively. Yes, it’s all made up, and everyone knows it.

So, where did the connection between February 14th and lovey-dovey love originate?


Fucking Chaucer.

The earliest recorded mention of Valentine’s Day in reference to romantic love is found in the poem Parlement of Foules by the one and only Geoffrey Chaucer, inventor of Courtly Love. The passage in question (translated) reads:

“For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, / when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”

That’s it. Those two lines of poetry are the entirety of the source material for this holiday.

What’s worse? Birds in England do not mate in February. Chaucer was probably referring to a different Valentine’s Day which took place on May 2nd.

You’ve probably gathered by now that I don’t much like Valentine’s Day. A lot of people really don’t like Valentine’s Day. Admittedly, a lot of them are wangsty singles. But plenty of them aren’t.

Some of them, like me, are aromantic. If you’ve heard the term before, it’s probably been in the context of asexual aromantics. Which I’m not. Mostly. More on my sexuality later. Probably a lot more on it, since that’s primarily what this blog is about. But, what’s relevant to this post: aromantics are not exclusively asexuals with no interest in dating. In fact, some aromantic asexuals do date. And there are plenty of sexual aromantics. I’m one of them.

Being aromantic can make it really difficult to identify with most aspects of our culture, since conventional notions of love are just so pervasive. They’re in all the songs on the radio, all the TV shows and movies we watch, and, of course, our family’s ever hopeful, ever guilt trippy expectation that we marry and bear them grandchildren. It’s fucking everywhere. But the absolute alienation I feel as an aromantic is at it’s worst on February 14th.

It would have pissed me off enough back in the day when folks sent handmade valentines to the objects of their affections. When you made your cards and gifts specific to the individual and when it was not necessarily (all but) mandated that you do so at all. But now we have these standardized, cookie cutter valentines. Elementary schoolers give out cartoon themed cards, cut out along their perforated edges, to every single member of their class, complete with a taped on piece of candy, the same for everyone and Ghod forbid any contain peanut butter. Aside from the overpowering consumerism of the holiday, I am absolutely horrified by the undeniable brainwashing inherent in such practices. I suspect many more people would be aromantic if we weren’t socialized so militantly to place the value we do on romantic love and matrimony, let alone to feel and express it in a specific set of ways. I suspect even romantics would exhibit a lot more natural variety in manifesting their orientation if we weren’t socialized this way. And I suspect current divorce rates are, in part, a reflection of this fact.

So, I do not, despite the Champagne, celebrate Valentine’s Day. I will not accept gifts of chocolate, flowers, or cards as tokens of affection from friends or lovers (unless they are sufficiently interesting or atypical as to hold my attention). I will, however, eat, drink and be merry. I will take any excuse for a shindig with my people. In that vein, this year I am starting a new tradition. I will celebrate Lupercalia, an Athenian festival which ran February 13th to 15th with the primary goal of warding off demons. Alternately, I’ll be celebrateing Communist Martyrs Day, a far left Iraqi holiday which coincides with the infamous Day of Saint Valentine. Or both. Either way, I intend that the revelries might include inebriation and casual sex, and no notion of institutionalized romance.


~ by onetiddlyridley on February 14, 2011.

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