Surviving valentine's day - one chocolate at a time

Anne Raso traces the origins of Valentine's Day and its true meaning - chocolate

It's very popular among terminally chic chicks to run down Valentine's Day as a false and meaningless holiday created by unscrupulous greeting card companies to extort beleaguered men to pony up cash for useless cards and trinkets if they ever hope to engage in sexual intercourse again in this lifetime.

And what, I ask, is the problem with that?

Because my philosophy is one of forced, unrealistic optimism in the face of life's daunting circumstances, I say it's time to have a more positive attitude towards Valentine's Day, putting aside the fact that it's often associated with a massacre and its initials are VD.

The simple fact of Valentine's Day is this: Women have huge expectations about it that they rarely feel are fulfilled, and men resent it because, well, generally they're the ones who are accused of not fulfilling the expectations. Men hate that, believing it is their job on earth to fill things full.

Rather than just let another Valentine's Day go by, complete with dashed expectations and frustration, I decided, on behalf of women and men everywhere, to research the origins of this holiday and discover how it came to be a day that causes such resentment between the sexes. I did this so that couples everywhere could finally enjoy the holiday. This is my job, after all, as a self-declared "sex and relationship expert".

The oldest known origin of the holiday was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the goddess Juno Februata (using my natural talent for translating dead languages I don't speak, I'll go ahead and say this is ancient Latin for "June February"). During this festival, girls would put their names into an urn and the boys who drew their names were required to date those girls for a full year, thus beginning the time-honoured belief among men that February 14 is a very high-maintenance day.

Gifts of flowers have been a customary Valentine's offering since the reign of King Charles II of Sweden, who published a treatise on the language of flowers outlining how certain blooms could be used to subtly express specific sentiments. In 18th century Sweden, the gift of a lily meant that the lily giver was conveying a message pledging lifelong fidelity, and rich enough to find lilies in the dead of February in ancient Sweden.

In modern life, this language of flowers has become much simpler. For example, the gift of a garishly dyed carnation surrounded by balloons says, "Hey, I ruined everything, but fortunately there was a guy at the freeway exit selling these!"

My friend Renata, who used to be married to a rock and roll drummer, learned a little about the subtle language of flowers when one Valentine's Day she received roses, which she is deadly allergic to, and on calling the florist about what was obviously a mistake found out her husband had a standing order for a dozen red roses, which he sent to all his groupies. For Renata red roses meant, "I am cheating on you so systematically that I have an actual floral infidelity infrastructure!"

Renata left the drummer, and used the subtle language of a festive display of his drum equipment dumped in their pool to convey her feelings.

Renata's ex would not be surprised to learn that draconian punishments of men who send the wrong present are also part of the rich Valentine's Day tradition. The original St Valentine himself was actually clubbed, stoned and beaten to death just for sending a love letter, and February 14 is believed to be the actual day of his gruesome death. So, in their defence, you can see why some men may be leery of sending cards.

In short, the history of the holiday comprises beatings, torture, martyrdom and sexual enslavement. But I refuse to let that kind of negativity ruin the true meaning of Valentine's Day.

Which is chocolate.

I'm teasing, of course. I know that the true meaning of Valentine's Day is expressing love for those about whom we care the most, but obviously the best way to do this is by giving those we love chocolate. And as any good sex and relationship expert will tell you, you can't truly love another until you fully and completely love yourself.

Which means you need to give yourself chocolate before you give it to anyone else.

It's like that thing on airplanes where they caution you to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others with their masks. By giving yourself the gift of chocolate, you are giving those who love you a gift as well - the gift of you taking the pressure off them to get you the kind of chocolate you want and, quite frankly, need.

Simply put, chocolate is the number one substance that can improve your love life. Chocolate is an emotional nutrition powerhouse.

So now that we've established that chocolate is the most important coping tool for this holiday, let's get to the resentment part. The simple fact is that men truly believe Valentine's Day is a holiday of financial coercion and emotional blackmail. They couldn't be more right.

And yet, you want a Valentine's gift or you'll feel like a loser. I get it. So, tell him he's right, it's a crazy holiday, but you'd like him to give you something anyway.

Then, whatever he gets you, be grateful - he tried. It's not worth clubbing him to death. All you wanted was a gesture, and all he wants is to know you appreciate that gesture, and the way men know this is by you having sex with them. Isn't it cute that this is all they require?

And whether you're with someone or alone, in the end, if you buy your own chocolate you're going to be just fine. Love yourself, buy chocolate and have a truly happy Valentine's Day.

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