Tell a FriendLeigh AnneLeigh Anne Jasheway ~ Queen of Stress

Roses Are Red and So Is Blood

Today is Valentineís Day and we all know what that means -- store clerks everywhere are busy putting out their Motherís Day cards.

It also means that all over the country, people are declaring their love to each other with flowers, candy, and a rhyming thesaurus. This is the time of year when everyone from Zoologists (Roses are red, violets are blue, I love you more than a wooly gnu) to cast members of the Sopranos (Roses are red, and so is blood, do you know what made that "thud?") send sweet poems to their loved ones.

I donít know about you (really I donít, even though Iíve tried to find out on the Internet), but Iíve always wondered why February was chosen as the month of love and romance. After all, by the middle of the month, winterís bad weather has kept us cooped up with each other so long that weíve had to hide all of the cutlery for fear of a game of spoons gone bad. And thereís nothing really sexy about the smell of mildew. Unless of course, youíre a member of the mildew family. And you know who you are.

Well, I did a little research, and it turns out that February 14th, 269 A.D. (or, as they say today, was the day a Roman priest named Saint Valentine was executed. So, naturally, we celebrate his death by sending chocolates and cheesy lingerie. It makes perfect sense.

Hereís the whole story: Emperor Claudius II (no relation to Emperor Claude Von Dammius I) wanted to expand the Roman army, but was having trouble getting anyone to sign up. He tried everything: Expensive ads with catchy jingles: "We smite our enemies before most people get up in the morning!" Promises of worldwide travel: "Join the Emperorís Army and see the world! Bring comfortable sandals." He even let up on his "Donít asketh, donít telleth" policy. But all to no avail. For some reason, the men of Rome preferred to stay home all day, being fed peeled grapes and having their feet massaged by the servants.

This made Claudius really angry, and, unfortunately, all the anger management classes were full up, so he decided to ban marriage throughout the Roman Empire. Needless to say, there was much rejoicing from men throughout the land! In the end, the plan worked, because the men spent weeks in bacchanal celebrations, and when they were just drunk enough, Claudius sent his footmen (the predecessor to leg men) out to sign them up. And before you know it, the Roman Army was the largest in the known world. They were also the most hung-over, which is why all military orders had to be whispered.

What Claudius didnít count on, however, was the tenacity of Roman women in making sure they, too, got their man. Not to be thwarted in their efforts to drag their intended to the alter, the women arranged secret marriages, the ceremonies presided over by priests who had extra time on their hands, what with the Inquisition still a long way off. Saint Valentine was one of the priests who married couples in private candlelit rooms.

Unfortunately, however, Valentine was eventually found out; he couldnít get the smell of the candles Ė sandalwood was the preferred scent -- out of his toga. He was hauled before the Prefect of Rome, not to be confused with the Perfect of Rome, Ms. Martha Stewart ĖIV, and condemned to death with a nice white wine and a few chintz throw pillows. While in prison awaiting death, Valentine was befriended by the daughter of the prison guard, who supposedly sent him a nice note on the day of his execution. It said: Roses are red, violets are blue, it could be worse, you could have the flu.

And that started the tradition of women falling for guys on death row and sending them bad poems. Which, less than two millennia later led to the greeting card industry boasting a profit so large they could no longer hide in tax shelters and Swiss bank accounts, so they decided to buy Microsoft and Time-Warner.

Well, now you know the whole Valentineís Day saga. So, remember, even if you are lonely and miserable on this Valentineís Day, youíre bound to have a better day than olí Saint V. Unless of course, you get so drunk you end up enlisting.

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