Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My V-Day Essay Wasn't Good Enough

But I like it. Also, it's seasonal, so I figure it's fine to post it here. I hope it entertains you.

Love Gladiators

Since Valentine's Day seems to be a holiday designed to torture the single (or make it easier for men to seduce females with no interest in a long-term relationship), this essay aims to assure the date-less that they are not unnatural. Everyone has trouble in the arena of romance. We are all trained by media influences as to what romance is supposed to consist of, and then we jump into the amphitheater, bearing our breasts, and are quickly stabbed by more experienced lovers, who know how to aim for the heart. Unfortunately, the Emperor feels that our training has been too costly and extensive to allow us to die, and so we are just tortured, repeatedly, because most of us cannot bear being alone.

Yet, do not despair! For even the goddess of love, and her son (who prefers arrows to pierce the hearts of people), have had trouble with their own love lives. Surely, if the gods themselves endure difficulties, we mortals should not feel too terrible about being single for one night of the year, even if that day is dedicated to a Christian saint who thought getting laid was so important, he defied a Roman Emperor, and married couples behind Claudius' back.

In one of the oldest known poems in the Hellenistic culture, one of the Homeric Hymns to Aphrodite, a tale of one of Aphrodite's disastrous romantic relationships is recounted. According to our poet narrator, Zeus, tired of Aphrodite's supercilious manner, caused her to feel love for the mortal Anchises. The consummation of Aphrodite's desire for this mortal resulted in a son, Aeneas, and the feeling of shame in Aphrodite herself. As a goddess, it was beneath her to make love to a mortal. The Valentine's moral that can be gleaned from this tale, of course, is that it is better to celebrate the holiday by yourself, than to cave in to loneliness and have a one-night stand with someone who is beneath you. Such doings can, if proper precautions are not taken, result in bastard children, sexually transmitted disease, and, regardless of whether or not a prophylactic is used, shame.

Not yet cured of Valentine's Day depression? Then take heed from the tale of Cupid and Psyche. Psyche's so beautiful she makes the goddess of love jealous. So, this brave, calculating goddess tells her son to avenge her (there's some feminist action for you). While originally intending to do his mother's bidding, the son, Cupid, falls in love with the transgressor instead. Cupid and Psyche marry, and he gives her riches and luxuries. Psyche, however, thinks she's married to a monster, and at the urging of her sisters, looks at Cupid by candlelight. Wax slips from the candle, however, awaking her husband, who flees, and causing a quest on Psyche's behalf to get her husband back. From this tale, the observant individual notes that beauty can hide horrible things, chief among them, a curious person who will burn you with candle wax.

Doesn't the word "single" have a ringing tone of purity to it?

Then, of course, there's the tale that, while not dealing with a Greco-Roman love god, is still in the Greco-Roman mythological family. Pluto, god of the Underworld, sees a pretty girl picking flowers in a field, and "falls in love" with her. His amorous feelings cause him to rip asunder part of the earth, from which he emerges in his chariot. He kidnaps the beauty, Persephone, and hauls her back to the Underworld with him. This tale reminds us all that it's better to be at home watching romance movies and munching popcorn, instead of on a date with some jerk who, before the evening ends, will rape you.

Thus, the Greco-Roman tales recounted provide evidence that Valentine's Day, while revered for its' romantic connotations, might really be better ignored in favor of being alone. While the candy boxes and cute stuffed animals smirk at the single from the aisles, the single should simply smirk in return, remembering that romance has its hazards. Better to avoid the dating scene on this day, rather than perpetrate acts unnatural to one's moral fiber, and result in feelings of shame, be burnt by curious (or kinky) lovers, or suffer that ultimate act of depravity at the hands of a jerk. These mistakes can easily be avoided by refusing to date someone just because it's Valentine's Day.

The End

Sources: The classical analysis comes from my own education from good ol' U of M, where I received a Bachelor's Degree in Classical Civilizations in April of 2008.

The snarky little remark about the origins of Valentine's Day, on the other hand, was derived from History.com (specifically, http://www.history.com/minisites/valentine/). While I really already should have known this tidbit of information, I didn't, and had to Google it, like many others.

And here's a link to the possibly winning essays, poems & letters, which are, of course, duly superior to mine: All About V-Day; it's not a war, though it sounds like it.

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