Maxed Out 

February, the cruellest month

By G.D. Maxwell

Roses are red,

Gardenias are too sweet,

Valentine’s Day deserves

More than a repeat.

And so the day of International Performance Anxiety looms large before us. Every man who can peer into his heart of hearts without having his vision filtered through a gauze of self-delusion – and many a woman to boot – longs simultaneously for inspiration and a fast-forward button, a painless segue to Sunday, a safe trip through the minefield of love.

Alas, the inevitable remains inevitable and forever February will remain the cruellest month. Love Hurts, as Don and Phil Everly sang in their delayed-pubescent harmony more years ago than most who read this can remember. Never more so than on February 13 th as the hours count down and you walk the streets – or pedestrian villages if you’re so lucky – of your town, a growing cloud of disillusion building into thunderheads over your chowderhead as you rack what’s left of your brain for a storm of a different nature.

What to do about Valentine’s Day?

Roses are red,

And ever so handy,

Diamonds are bloody,

But less fattening than candy.

Like so many ills in a world beginning to look like one gigantic Emergency Room, the ills of Valentine’s Day can be laid at the feet of organized religion. It was not always thus.

When Latin was the language of Rome instead of the language that bore those other languages tagged romance , there was no Valentine’s Day, just a Valentine. For more centuries than those of us with no grasp of history, let alone geological time, can imagine, the Romans celebrated and feasted Lupercus. Not a major deity, Lupercus was your basically fun-loving, lower-case god and his celebration was yet another celebration of fertility, an ancient Roman word for lust.

Not fully grasping the notion that February was supposed to be the cruellest month – this period of history having preceded the Julian let alone the Gregorian calendar – those rascally ancient Romans partied like there was no tomorrow, which for many of them there probably wasn’t. Believing gods, like people, needed to celebrate togetherness, they more or less associated Lupercus with Faunus, the god of nature and patron of agriculture, sort of a Roman version of Pan without the annoying flute or Greek accent.

So if you were an ancient Roman and you decided to celebrate the god of lust and the god of nature during the middle of winter, what would you do? Silly question. You’d hold a lottery and let stout-hearted Roman lads draw the names of comely, young Roman girls and pair the two up as sexual companions for the upcoming year. I know that’s what I would have done.

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