Single White Nerd: Cupid’s Quiver
a blogumn by Michael Kass
As the Single White Nerd, it is my sacred duty to wish you a Happy Post Valentine’s Day! I celebrated by starting a new blog called Cupid’s Quiver. Check it out.
This year, after getting the whole blog thing sorted out, I wanted to get back to basics with Valentine’s Day. I wanted to commemorate it however the very first celebrants celebrated. So I turned to my computer and did some typing.
You might think that Valentine’s Day has something to do with cupid. Not so—he’s just a fat angel drafted into service by the greeting card companies.
You might think it has its origins with St. Valentine. Not so much—he was a Christian missionary who was executed for trying to convert pagans to Christianity in ancient Rome. Either that or he was executed for performing marriages in direct contradiction of an empirical edict. Whatever the reason, the many sources I consulted on Wikipedia assure me that he was executed. And that is not romantic.
The truth, the fierce truth, is that Valentine’s Day is is a commercial appropriation of a Christian rebranding of a Roman pagan ritual called Lupercalia.
Lupercalia was a fertility ritual held between February 13th and 15th. The day started with all the men in town sacrificing a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. The guys would then slice the goat’s hide into strips and run all over town, naked, slapping women and crops with the goat hide. Women apparently loved this because they believed it would confer fertility on them for the coming year. Later in the day, all the single girls in town would throw their names into an urn. The town’s bachelors would pick a name out of the urn and the two would be a couple for the next year.
After uncovering this information, I realized that celebrating Valentine’s Day in the most traditional of manners would entail kidnapping a goat, slaughtering it, running around naked, whapping unsuspecting girls with drippy dead goat, and randomly pairing off. The sheer number of laws that would be broken were staggering. And I had no idea where I could get a goat.
It also occurred to me that by giving our loved ones gifts on Valentine’s Day, we, as a culture, are perpetuating the objectification of women as vessels of childbirth who like to be slapped around. Sure, the trappings have changed. But at base level, is a large box of chocolates or a bouquet of roses really all that different from fresh goat hide flung around by a naked Roman? I think not!
At the end of the day, I did not celebrate Valentine’s Day with a traditional Lupercalian Fertility Rite. I did, however, eat a box of chocolate and drink a box of wine. And under the influence of the boxed goodies, I vowed that if I’m ever dating someone around Valentine’s Day and she gets all gloopy and starry eyed—well, I just lay a little truth on her. Then I’ll probably buy her something tasty or shiny. Because when it comes to love, truth and reason face the same fate as St. Valentine in the land of the pagans. And that’s not romantic.