According to legend, (and it depends which one you read) St. Valentine was persecuted for being a preacher, but his jail cell had a small window at ground level through which he secretly communicated with neighbourhood children. Wanting to convey his love and concern to the parishioners, he wrote little messages on heart-shaped pieces of paper for the children to deliver. Recipients came to refer to them as valentines, and carried on the practice in his memory.
Today we seldom associate a valentine as being a message from a martyr, although I’ve noticed most men view themselves in that light on February 14. Maybe they are afraid their love life will hang in the balance if they don’t bring their wives tokens of affection on that day. On birthdays and Christmas they may get away with buying some kitchen gadget or other, but on February 14 women are not that easily satisfied.
In a moment of raw exasperation way back in the early years of their marriage, one woman told her husband in not so subtle terms, “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m your wife, not an extension to the kitchen!” and fled from the room in tears. He caught the drift, but shopping for something romantic still seems to bring out the martyr complex in men.
Friend hubby vaguely remembers bringing me cherry chocolates and pink slippers when he was courting me, but now that I’m on a diet (or should be) there’s no use buying chocolates. As for flowers, I remember the way my heart skipped the year friend hubby came past the window on Valentine’s Day carrying a long, slim package. He’d remembered!
Fully expecting a long-stemmed rose, you can imagine my letdown when the package turned out to be a package of sausage casings. Can you think of anything less romantic? He was eventually forgiven only because the timing turned out to be a coincidence. He’d forgotten it was February 14.
No one has ever figured out why the Creator made women so hopelessly romantic and men so frustratingly practical. When He saw the disappointments it creates, maybe even God Himself had second thoughts, which is why He sent along St. Valentine to try and rectify the situation. Here was an ideal role model, a man willing to risk his very life in order to convey his sentiments in a most ingenious way. I can just imagine a woman of his parish gushing over the idea to her husband.
“Oh, isn’t that Valentine fellow such a romantic at heart?”
At which point her husband probably snorted and said, “Romantic? Where’s your head, woman? He sacrifices his life for something impractical and unnecessary and you call that romantic?”
“Exactly, my dear. I couldn’t have explained it better myself.”
– Alma Barkman writes from Winnipeg, Manitoba