Friday, February 13, 2004

Will U B mine? Truth to tell, just love is fine

Maggie Downs

Valentine's Day, holiday for lovers, romancers and chubby babies with arrows, died today of heart failure. It was about 17 centuries old.

Sickly the last few years of its life, Valentine's Day was diagnosed with terminal "commercialism." After years of suffering, the holiday became one known more for chocolates, flowers and jewelry than for love, romance and passion.

Many believe Valentine's Day was born in third-century Rome, after the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men. When it was discovered that a priest named Valentine continued to perform secret marriages for young lovers, Claudius put him to death.

Before his beheading, Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter. He left her a farewell note that was signed, "From Your Valentine," launching a billion-dollar card industry, which is now known for more flowery sentiments like, "Yes indeedy, you're my sweetie."

Valentine's Day served the public with a sense of joy and love. This work included hooking up medieval people though games - like the one in which suitors randomly drew names from a bowl to select their date, possibly the earliest known version of

In more recent years, Valentine's Day promoted puppy love and innocent canoodling through chalky candies and mailboxes made from foil, pink construction paper and doilies.

Then illness struck. Romance became bedridden. And everyone forgot the moral of the classic flick, Can't Buy Me Love.

Americans began spending more than $2 billion on Valentine's Day trying to make their significant other happy - about $100 per household this year, said the International Mass Marketing Association.

Everyone started sending cards. An estimated one billion valentine cards a year. All with pre-printed sentiments. Everyone ran out to buy roses. More than 110 million roses for the single holiday.

In many cases, this was less of a romantic gesture and more of an investment to avoid trouble.

"My girlfriend always told me that flowers on a regular day meant more than on Valentine's Day," said John Fultz, 26, of West Chester. "But if I didn't have roses waiting for her on Valentine's Day, she'd totally flip out."

He was not alone - even though 94 percent of men and 95 percent of women rate "sentiment" as the most important factor in a Valentine's Day gift, said CoolSavings, an online direct marketing company.

Toward the end of its life, Valentine's Day was used and abused by people trying to fix bad relationships.

"It is fascinating to observe how much money is spent, and often wasted, trying to satisfy the human desire for a healthy sensual and sexually intimate relationship," said Dr. Michelle G. Dolnick, a clinical psychologist for Pure Romance.

By the time Valentine's Day retired, amorous deeds had faded. Trinkets reigned.

"It's like I can't even make a romantic gesture. I'm under all this pressure to find the perfect gift," said Sara Caldwell, 23, of Norwood. "It's almost easier to break up before Valentine's Day and get back together later."

Valentine's Day was the devoted father of Sweetest Day.

Memorial contributions may be made to the sorely underrated Groundhog Day.


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