Their martyrdom inspired the feast of Saint Valentine, which Pope Gelasius declared a holiday in the fifth century, highjacking February 14 from centuries of pagan ritual known as Lupercalia.
Our Hallmark moments swell from Lupercalia, an ancient and gruesome gala where drunk, naked Romans (the original romantics) slew goat and dog, then whipped ecstatic women with dripping hides to grant fertility through sacrificial blood.
Today love’s dawn-to-dark devotional finds honor as one of our most celebrated dates on the world calendar, second only to New Year’s Day.
Everything Old is New Again
By the 12th century, Valentine’s Day lauded courtly love, a Freudian paralysis of platonic passion whose carnal repression drove knights to lunge at one another atop chargers. Champions consummated the G-rated favor of damsels by spearing opponents with lances in a lethal game of chicken called jousting.
Around the 15th century, gentry becalmed themselves to save the date for flowers, candy, and icky-poo sonnets. But marrying outside class or family goals for natural desire brooked scorn for a dangerous revolutionary idea. Finally, the Industrial Revolution arrived in the 19th century, branding amour forever as a marketing tool for mass-produced greeting cards.
Nowadays the true meaning of February 14 remains up for grabs depending on the itch you hope to scratch. A 21st century valentine may patronize a frigid yokemate, naively declare attraction, or reign supreme as your surefire Patron Saint of Impending Climax.
Welcome to the Manti Te'o Dating Culture
Twenty and 30-somethings still rut like weasels, but digital technology guides their awkward romance. Millennials don’t talk dirty on landlines, can’t imagine mixed tapes, and likely haven’t scrawled pen across parchment in lyrical delirium to ignite a flame. They mark territory and pursue mates by planting profiles within the Ether, a binary wonderland where CPUs and servers process limp substitutes for human contact.
For Generation Y, true love may resemble a sly peep across mobile networks to penetrate the 4-inch display of a slightly significant other. Unsatisfied partners often begin arguments by skipping traditional primate behaviors that forewarn failing intimacy. Flagging eye contact, touching, and PDAs have rolled over for click-through rates.
Millennials weigh multi-channel analytics to operationalize undulations in texting, sexting, linking, likes, pluses, e-cards, comments, posts, and syrupy status reports to forecast the ROI of their pair bonds.
Couples, who stay abreast of digital convenience to the exclusion of cuddling or hot-blooded embrace, risk sterilized sentiment that eagerly spawns on any web-enabled device. The moment you stroke your screen as a tool to avoid sticky relationships, you may as well be dating Lennay Kekua.
Make Valentine’s Day About Good Old Analog Love
Sex is 5% of a good relationship and 95% percent of a bad one. Anyone who’s faked an orgasm has slept on the prospect of faking true love. Millennials need more than passion to survive the long haul. Successful unions thrive on intimacy and spring from honest friendships that steel unshakable resolve to annoy beloved partners for the rest of our lives.
If Honeybunch and Papa Bear can’t get smoochy on the 14th, then they should exchange holiday gestures that demand hearts and hands. Digital communication is a poor stand in for bed, blandishments and bruises. Don’t press Siri’s buttons instead of the ones on your lover.
Write, paint, draw, or create personal statements that lay bare your vulnerability and fearless devotion. Years from now your better half will open a careworn box and pore wistfully over letters, poems, and art. Meanwhile, a very different type of significant other will plumb your Facebook profile to scrutinize digital evidence of your forensic affections. No doubt we’ll still call them stalkers.