Valentine’s Day is upon us and I am unprepared. My cupboard is bare, devoid of a single romantic thought. It wasn’t always so. In the days of my youth, before age imposed disinterest, I went to the dime store to pore over little cards with red hearts and imploring messages of admiration. There was always a pretty girl or two to whom I appealed, though I was invariably rewarded with disappointment. There was always that boy with the chocolate brown eyes, slender of build, with a statuesque mother. I didn’t stand a chance!
The age of chocolates and flowers came and dissolved in the mists of disillusionment. At one time, I vaguely, if erroneously recall, chocolate was considered an aphrodisiac, or love drug. At the least it was persuasive, if patiently administered. Nevertheless, the thought of a love drug, reaching as far back as Cupid, is corroborated by George Bernard Shaw’s description of love as “a state of temporary insanity.” If it has faded it can be restored, or at least some other drug can distract the afflicted from his loss.
I suppose that’s the reason for the persistent commercials and telephone calls about “reptile dysfunction.” I am mystified. What do reptiles have to do with valentines? Reptiles are normally dysfunctional this time of year if not frozen solid, at least in these parts. That is not so in Florida, where Burmese pythons are squeezing out indigenous wildlife. So, maybe permanent reptile dysfunction is desirable in some places.
Hot on the heels of “reptile dysfunction” remedies came a pitch for “harmonica replacement therapy.” I haven’t lost a harmonica and do not, therefore, need a replacement. When I unceremoniously dismissed the caller, he took revenge by giving my name to a Beltone agent, who offered to improve my steering. There is nothing wrong with my steering, at least nothing that putting $5,000 worth of gadgets in my ears will help.
The best they did was to distract me, much in the way Congressmen sneak pork into bills that have nothing to do with the subject under consideration. Our subject is Valentine’s Day, imposed as Saint Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius I in 496 only to be decommissioned by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Somewhere along the line Valentine’s Day was linked to Cupid, much in the way chocolate and peanut butter were joined because of an auto collision. [Well, that’s what the commercial purports. - *]
Cupid, meaning “desire,” is of ancient origin, straddling Greek and Roman mythology, just as the Colossus of Rhodes straddled something or other. He began as a slender youth, (or ‘yoot’, if you’re from New Jersey) and became a chubby toddler fitted with a bow and arrow. His eventual donning of the diaper subtly warned of consequences.
Cupid appears in many an old story, such as Vergil’s “Aeniad,” in which Dido kills herself in romantic despair, retold in later sequels such as “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Westside Story.” Enough already!! The plots thickened as the influence of Cupid expanded. Ovid made him the patron of poets, says Wikipedia.
Geoffrey Chaucer glommed onto it in the age of courtly love, and John Keats utterly melted into Shavian insanity. “Woman, when I behold thee flippant, vain … To be thy Calidore …” Byehhh!!! “Calidore” is the name of an unfinished novel by some guy named “Peacock.” That’s all I could find. Like Keats, he must have cherished immature, tantrum-prone women, but let’s get back to Cupid.
Cupid had an envious mother, unheard of in our day. Venus, bitterly jaundiced towards Psyche, a “fox,” instructed Cupid to zap her with a drug-tipped arrow and make her fall in love with the vilest creature on earth. (Wikipedia) Alas, Cupid scratches himself, Psyche falls in love with him, and a daughter is born [See “diaper,” paragraph No. 6]. The daughter, Hedone, proves to be something of a romp, a pleasure seeker, the root of a lifestyle called “Hedonism.” Hedonism was the warp and woof of Epicureanism, which taught that pursuit of pleasure is the only intrinsic good.
So ends my brief history of Valentine’s Day, rooted in antiquity, endlessly combined, twisted and developed with symptoms of apotheosis (the process in which men are transformed into gods). That’s all I found in my cupboard today. There wasn’t a hint of passion fruit.
Jim Stockton is a retired bookkeeper who lives in Belding. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.