St. Cyril’s Day and Valentines

I remember separating lacy doilies from their stacks, surrounded by the smell of paste, and cutting folded red construction paper hearts, hoping the crease would go away. There was the problem of pasty fingerprints, and of what to write (“Guess Who?” or, much more daringly, one’s own name). My mother made me send valentines to everyone in the class, which to me kind of defeated the purpose, but not everybody did, as we realized when we counted.

It’s a nice idea, a day for love, except for the pressure to perform: to buy a card, a present; to have someone to buy a card or present for.

It’s also a slightly alarming celebration when you think about Henry VIII, who declared the day an official holiday in 1537, or the 1929 Chicago gangland Valentine’s Day massacre.

And it’s complicated. Even I am sick of reading about the one, or two, or three priests or maybe bishops named Valentine, one or more of whom may have been martyred on February 14, possibly because he was trying to marry Christians (despite Ovid’s warning about those curved spears); but maybe none of them really existed since in 1969 the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from Valentine’s Day, substituting instead St. Cyril and St. Methodius, much less interesting brothers having nothing to do with love or marriage, although Cyril did officially die on February 14, 869.

I’ve bought no cards, no presents; I’ve left offerings on no parents’ tombs. Instead maybe I’ll make myself a goatskin thong so I’m all ready for tomorrow.

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