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Patron Saint of Bee Keepers

11 Feb

Here’s something you already know about me: I’m an unapologetic, unabashed romantic. I cry. Easily. At books, movies, real life. It’s one of the reasons I love airports so much. And why it was so much better when you could escort a traveler to, or greet them at the gate. Reunions, partings, those raw moments of life, played out in a public forum. Love, tension, anger, relief, fear. All the possible emotions of a separation or reunion. Simple gestures of love, a sloppy grin, tear-filled eyes, a tenderly taken hand, a token tucked into a bag or a beloved’s hand as you part from that last embrace. The one where neither wants to let go first. The frantic eyes searching for and then blazing with happiness when they light upon the object of their affection. The dropped bags as they rush into a loved ones’ arms.  Again an embrace where neither wants to be the first to let go. So, yes, I am a cliché. A die-hard romantic. I will go see “The Vow” and I will cry freely. I am physically incapable of changing the channel when “Last of the Mohicans” comes on TV. I have sat up in bed, a Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult novel across my lap, sobbing so hard that I have trouble catching my breath. And I have found myself tearing up in the grocery store for witnessing the simple gesture of an octogenarian lightly resting his hand on the shoulder of his wheelchair-bound spouse.

But here’s something you might not know about me: I hate Valentine’s Day. Hate. It. With a passion. To me there is absolutely nothing romantic about it.

To me the most romantic gesture is the one that is not expected or dictated. I don’t want an ornate card with a saccharine love poem that you picked out from the store. I’d rather you jot something real on a post-it note. I don’t want to get dressed up and have dinner in a restaurant packed with other couples, the air thick with expectations, many of which will be disappointed by the end of the evening. Instead let’s order pizza, sit on the floor, watch a slasher flick so I can bury my face against your chest during the scary parts. Instead of buying me flowers at the grocery store that will begin to wilt and die the minute I unwrap them, why don’t you just pick up some Slim Jims. If you truly loved me, you’d know how much I love those disgusting things. Or maybe bring me a fountain Coke, or perhaps a cupcake. That’s a perfect way for you to express genuine affection: here’s something I know you love, and I don’t care if you get fat.

Life is full of opportunities to express affection and love. To be thoughtful. That to me is the ultimate expression of affection: thoughtfulness. Something that can and should be exercised every day, not just on February 14th. I don’t want to be anyone’s Valentine. I want to be their partner every day of the year. I don’t want you to be sweet and romantic on Valentine’s Day just because you think you’re supposed to. If that’s not who you are, it rings false.

You know I looked it up. Again, in my slipshod internet “research” sort of way. Apparently there is a lot of confusion and disagreement over who Saint Valentine really was. In fact, there are no fewer than three men recognized as Saint Valentine. Of course most of us have been told the tale that he was a Roman priest who was such a fan and supporter of love that he was willing to go against the state, to marry young soliders despite a military ban on marriage. (Apparently the Romans believed that a single man, one without a wife or family back home, made a more fierce warrior.) And that’s a great story. Not sure if it’s enough to spawn the Hallmark holiday during which an estimated billion cards are sold, but who doesn’t love a great, rebellious love story? Then there’s the story about a priest named Valentine who was jailed and fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Before his execution he sent her a love note signed, “From your Valentine.” Which is ironic. That the first “valentine” was sent by a man. Since it is estimated that women purchase over 85% of all Valentine’s cards. Saps that we are. But to me, the most humorous Valentine’s Day find was on the website catholic.org. There it is said that Saint Valentine is “the patron saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people.” Hmmm. Yep. Sounds schizophrenic to me. So, maybe he is the right guy to stand as a symbol for love after all. It’s a condition that makes most people crazy. Or at least act crazy. And I’ve often thought bee keepers were crazy.

So, for all you lovers out there, I hope you don’t have a good Valentine’s Day. I mean, I hope February 14th is a nice day for you, don’t get me wrong. But I hope that instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day with some overblown romantic scheme, that it’s just another day of the year. One among 364 others where you do something that truly expresses your love, something that can be genuinely appreciated. Like take out the trash just because it needs to be done.

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim