In spite of myself, I’m a fan of Valentine’s Day. I really hate anything pink. Sloppy poems that rhyme make me cringe. I wholeheartedly agree that for the most part, this whole thing is a commercially-constructed strategy to get people to shell out for chocolate and flowers. The story about the original St. Valentine secretly officiating for soldiers and their partners is kind of sweet, but it may have been massaged a fair bit too. So if you take the mushy stuff out of Valentine’s Day, what’s left to love?
Here’s what I think is cool about this particular holiday: Humans in love are hilarious. It can be any kind of love- for a partner, for a child, for a parent, for a pet, for a house plant…it doesn’t matter. When hit by cupid’s arrow, we become frickin’ clown shoes. We might as well be wearing pointy hats with bells on them, riding miniature tricycles.
Want some examples? Think of your first awkward kiss as a youngster, and you’ll either cringe or giggle. Funny, right? Go look up the lyrics to “My Funny Valentine” (preferably the Ella Fitzgerald version). It’s right in the title. Want to get a little more intellectual? Read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, in which he basically says his true love is a bit on the gross side, but whatever, he still loves her. Better yet, watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which bunches of semi-clad weirdos buzzed on magic flower juice run screaming through the forest in search of love (you shouldn’t have skipped that week of English class, really). Take your pick of any romantic comedy. There’s a reason why an entire genre has been built on the idea that people in love are basically cute, bumbling little idiots.
I think that as humans, we’re at our most honest, most authentic when we’re being funny and goofy, when our guard is down and the more absurd side of our nature is on display. There’s an awful lot you can learn about a culture, or about individuals, from the jokes they tell and the things at which they laugh. Huge, difficult issues can be more easily digested when coated with humour. I think our ability to laugh at ourselves and at one another is one of the reasons we’ve survived as a species.
We’re really, really good when we’re funny, and humans are never, ever funnier than when they’re in love. Love is one of the few things that hasn’t yet been fully explained by science. Love requires us to be vulnerable, to put aside pride and decorum and accept the possibility that we might be made to look like an ass. During the most serious, sincere, grand, sweeping gesture of love, we walk a very fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous. The passionate, physical stuff is even goofier (just ask any actor who’s had to fumble their way through a love scene). It’s okay that it’s funny, that we’re funny. I don’t think we’re robbed of anything important by thinking of love this way. Stripped of the syrupy cards, the jumbo stuffed bears, and those nasty little candy hearts with messages, Valentine’s day is, at its heart, a celebration of our willingness to get completely dorky about the people and things we care about. That, all by itself, is worth a holiday. Okay, the chocolate doesn’t hurt either, but I digress.
May we all spend today, and hopefully many others, stupidly, foolishly and laughably in love.