I’m going to get a bit personal today folks, because, well it’s Valentines Day, and I CAN.

Yesterday the boyfriend (M) and I were heading over to a friend’s house for a Sunday barbecue. While sitting in the passenger seat examining myself in the flip-down mirror, the ever familiar thought that 99% of women frequently have (damn you Giseles) popped into my head: Ugh.

And of course, being a woman I often wonder if the thoughts I have about myself are all in my head, if the breakout I see under the makeup is actually visible, if the frizz on the back of my head is a hallucaintion.  This prompts me to ask M, “Do I look gross?”

– Now, let’s be honest, if a man has any semblance of a brain he will answer “Of course not!” quickly – but not too quickly, lest he appear false and lying. And this M did; he replied “No, you look good!” And then he paused and said, in a well-natured tone, “You complete me.”

He said it with a smile, almost in the way you might say something silly and exaggerated, like “you are the most spectacular quarterback in the world!” (me to him on that one), but there was something behind the laugh that made me think that there might be a grain of truth there.

And let me also say I had, not five minutes ago, declared that he “was the most annoying man on the planet.” But in this  moment in the car, I had the feeling that maybe it was true, not in the cloying-and-annoying-co-dependent-relationship way, but in an actual partnership sort of way. The I’ve-hitched-my-wagon-to-yours-because-I-want-to kind of way.

So maybe Valentine’s Day is an excuse for companies to sell massive amounts of candy, flowers, and the like, but before you dismiss the whole day, think that maybe, behind all that commercialism, there is genuine thought or emotion. That maybe when you’re buying candy for your significant other because society “forces you,” you choose their favorite kind.

And even if the thought ends up being from you to yourself, to quote Martha Stewart, “Its’ a good thing.”

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Sometimes I think that the only way to get through life is with a revolving sequence of Monty Python sketches.

Because really, half the time the world seems to be governed by this kind of logic:

Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front?
Reg: Fuck off! We’re the People’s Front of Judea.

And what does the New Year bring? Change? Growth? Resolutions people abandon in February?

Maybe.

This holiday season, it seems to be big on engagements. Couples all around me are getting engaged, and I find it both very happy and also a little sad, considering my boyfriend and I haven’t really been speaking to each other for 2 days after an argument over a ceiling light in the bedroom.

So I don’t think I will be getting married in 2011. Which is fine. I will, however, be giving birth to a thesis – and it’s already about half-written.

And in an important way, this means more to me than a ring!

I also think that I’ve finally – finally – figured out what I would like to do with my professional life. Therefore, I am christening 2011 as the year of the career, in which  I will not worry about what is happening to me romantically.

Cheers!

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For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

~ Parliament of Foules, Chaucer

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On this ever-popular day of “love,” it’s nice to remember that there was a real person behind all the hearts and flowers: St. Valentine. 

My mom always told me that Valentine was arrested by the Romans, and sentenced to be thrown to the lions. While he was in jail, he wanted to get a message out to his people, but all he could get was a piece of something to write on, without anything to write with. So he cut his hand and let some of the blood fall onto the paper, which he folded in two, and when he unfolded the paper he revealed the shape of a heart, which was the first Valentine ever sent.

There are several versions of this infamous story, but who was St. Valentine, really?

According to history.com, one legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. (What a jerk, no?)

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured. (ek, I’m studying Latin now, but this makes the Romans look like…not nice people)

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor’s daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It’s no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial — which probably occurred around 270 A.D — others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to ‘christianize’ celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

So, overall, there were likely three different possible St. Valentines, all matyrs, which, to some people, probably seems like a good match for the holiday. Then there’s the festival connection, to pairing birds and such (hence the Chaucer quote). But whether you have someone to hang out with today or not, and remember you can always hang out with yourself, I hope you enjoy this lovely, sunny day! (Plus, you can always use today as an excuse to eat excessive amounts of chocolate. Yum)

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P.S. even though Valentine’s day is one of the worst reviewed movies that I’ve seen in awhile (something like 15% on Rottentomatoes.com) is it wrong that I still kind of want to see it? If I like it though, what does that make me?….

It should come as no suprise- after all I’ve been devouring (with an intense literary appetite) Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings for years. But, on a whim, I picked up the latest craze and decided to read. Fast forward to 3 am that night, and I am fully involved in Twilight. And why? If you aren’t really into books and I can’t quite begin to explain. But – I did find this lovely quote

“Meyer and Rowling do share two important traits. Both writers embed their fantasy in the modern world–Meyer’s vampires are as deracinated and contemporary as Rowling’s wizards. And people do not want to just read Meyer’s books; they want to climb inside them and live there. James Patterson may sell more books, but not a lot of people dress up like Alex Cross. There’s no literary term for the quality Twilight and Harry Potter (and The Lord of the Rings) share, but you know it when you see it: their worlds have a freestanding internal integrity that makes you feel as if you should be able to buy real estate there.”

And, although Meyer’s books are quite “clean” in that kids won’t really get what all is going on, underneath “they are absolutely, deliciously filthy”(according to newsweek). Honestly there is some raw emotion being expressed there, even if there isn’t that much physical touching. But, in my opinion, those books that make you feverishly turn the page just hoping that something will happen between the couple can be much more erotic that when you get every detail. Besides – I’m sure there are many fanfic people out there writing enough sultry material to satisfy any over-curious reader.

I did find Meyer’s religious background a bit unsettling at first, after all I didn’t expect her to be Mormon when I was reading, especially compared to other works that have been written by very religious writers. Some Christian fiction can be so heavy in ellusions to what a ‘proper’ Chrisitan should be that the text loses it ease, and trades effortless narration for overwrought prose. However, aside from the no sex till marriage thing I haven’t found anything nagging. In fact, the sheer force of the book is enough for me to forget the author entirely. Honestly, the few Mormons I actually ever knew were a bit odd, and weren’t allowed to go to dances or even group dates, which seemed silly. (But then, these people may have been odd all on their own, faith excluding.) One family would stand in their driveway every October 31st, saying “We don’t celebrate Halloween” to trick-or-treaters. I’m glad to see that Meyer has not shyed away from anything supernatural, but rather embraces it, and even prefers it to humanity.

There is an odd effect produced when a book attempts to appeal to both teens and adults alike, like Harry Potter and Twilight. Somehow there is a fairytale-like sense of realism where things can happen which we yearn for but know can’t happen, for whatever reason. And it is odd that in this realm of magic and vampires that readers can find actual human passion and truth, in their most basic form. And I think that is what grasps the modern reader. So many more realistic adult novels are wonderfully expressive, dark or not, but some lose that universality that comes from more fantastic stories.

In any case, these books have a hold on me, as many already do. I have already “devoured” (sorry, couldn’t help it) the first two books, two to go. And I’m quite happy that I came upon this series late in the game, because there is NO WAITING! The final book comes out in ONE day, and I already reserved it. No more waiting for years….because waiting for Harry Potter was tortuous enough.

All this excitement about books has me extremely encouraged, because it means the public can finally get excited about something that doesn’t have to be plugged in. It means that literature still has a power over us…

…It means there is hope that someday, after all my years of pricey education, that there will be a job waiting. It means there is hope for humanity.

Last year, I read an article which declared that this was the year where “Harry Potter Saved Reading.” I sincerly hope this is true – that people are reaching past television and video games for something more substantial, something that can reach our minds, and persuade them to come alive.