Valentine’s Day Quiz

valentine1I’m in love with Love.  I think the word “relationship” is tawdry code for “Maybe I don’t love you all that much.”  So, with only two more sleeps ’til St. Valentine’s Day, it’s time to remember what love used to be in the old days.  But DO you remember?  Here’s a chance to test your own romantic IQ.  See if you can figure out just who these great lovers were.  Some are classic; some not so much; and sorry, no Romeo and Juliet.  Good luck!

A — It was just your average love story.  Boy meets girl; they fall in love.  Nazis invade France.  Boy loses girl.  Girl goes back to her husband.  Boy opens a bar, tries to forget and gets 2 free tickets to Lisbon.  Girl shows up one night, with her husband in tow.  Boy forgets about forgetting.  Girl wants the tickets.  Husband wants the tickets.  Nazis stride around, looking evil.  Husband finally figures things out.  Not very complicated, really, but when you throw in a corrupt French official, some treacherous expats and a dozen or so champagne cocktails, it becomes one of the greatest love stories of all time.

B — He was a bachelor who enjoyed hunting and fishing, lying around in his underwear, grunting and scratching himself.  She was from Baltimore.  It was love at first sight — he’d never seen anything like her before in his life.  Typically, they spent their first date rather awkwardly trying to make conversation, but eventually she taught him how to open up and express himself.  Like most women, she was a civilizing influence on him and eventually he ended up in the British Parliament.  However, they always returned to his bachelor pad, where they first fell in love.

C — Even though it was actually an arranged marriage, it was definitely a match made in heaven.  These two crazy kids were literally in a world of their own.  They had so much in common it was like they were made for each other.  Unfortunately, every romance has its rocky bits, and, although most couples argue about sex or money, these two disagreed over the landlord.  Eventually, to keep peace, he sided with her, and, as a result, they were evicted.   However, they stuck with each other through all the hardships and raised a huge extended family — although some would say they’ve been homeless ever since.

D — She was the most beautiful woman of her age, and he was the world’s greatest warrior.  They were married — but not to each other.  He embodied the hope of a nation at war, whereas she had a reputation that qualified her for a Dr. Phil special (She’d once been used to pay off a gambling debt.)   However, love conquers all, and they ran off together to travel across Europe — oddly enough. with her husband in tow.  When the three of them finally settled in England, his enraged wife and the British public were not quite so sporting.  Still, for a time, they were happy.  Unfortunately, duty called and he was killed in battle, and beautiful or not, she was tossed out on her reputation.  She died in poverty — alone with her memories.

A couple of quickies:

E — It was an arranged marriage that turned into pure love.  Although they were literally “kissin’ cousins,” they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.  The poets sang (in some detail) about their erotic adventures, and they had 14 children.  Unfortunately, she died young and he mourned her for 35 years.  Today, they lie side by side, in a mausoleum he built for her — together forever.

F — It was an arranged marriage that turned into pure love.  Although they were literally “kissin’ cousins,” they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.  They had 9 children and the recorded details of their marriage were so scandalous that their eldest daughter burned the diaries.  Unfortunately, he died young and she mourned him for 40 years.  Today, they lie side by side, in a mausoleum she built for him — together forever.

G — It was a mismatch for the ages.  He was the world’s most eligible bachelor, rich and famous, with all kinds of handsome thrown in.  She was from Baltimore.  He was waited on hand and foot.  Literally!  The guy didn’t even dress himself!  She was more of a hamburger-and-fries girl, from the school of hard knocks.  For example, she learned about love and marriage through trial and error.  Rumor has it that she gave frequent flyer miles.  Needless to say, his family didn’t approve of the marriage, but he insisted and when they said no — he “gave it all up for the woman he loved.”  And they stayed together for the rest of their lives, traveling the world — purposeless and tragically romantic.

H — They met under rather unusual circumstances.  He robbed her, kidnapped her, and took her back to his hideout, but some girls just love an outlaw.  He was definitely a guy who played by his own rules and didn’t like authority, but she was convinced that society had made him that way.  Love blossomed, even though it was a long distance romance with the local law enforcement firmly in the middle.  However, the two of them did manage to steal a few kisses over the years (along with anything else that wasn’t nailed down) and they were happy.  Fortunately, times changed; our boy gave up his thieving ways, and the two of them did finally settle down.  I think sometimes, though, after the kids were in bed, they’d go out and steal something — just to rekindle the romance.

I — They say politics makes strange bedfellows, but when you’re dealing with the fate of the world, love has a habit of getting in the way.  She was a political wunderkind who understood that power didn’t necessarily come out of the barrel of a gun.  He was naive.  She was living with his best friend.  He had an extra-large army.  When politics raised its ugly head and the best friend was killed she didn’t waste any time finding him and getting behind that extra-large army.  But fate wouldn’t rest, and they fell in love.  Suddenly, all bets were off and politics weren’t that important anymore.  He gave her the largest wedding present in history, but in the end, it was she who was naïve and he who couldn’t live without her.

J — Finally, who is the Number One Greatest Lover in all history?  This guy makes Casanova, Don Juan and Johnny Depp all look like clumsy geeks.  He has been curling girls around his little finger his entire life.  He has so much sex appeal the mere mention of his name has virgins quivering.  No woman can resist him, and every man would be happy with the leftovers.  And here’s a hint: according to rumors he’s juggling the hearts of 3 women — even as we speak.

Bonus Question (If you can answer this one, you’re really good.)

K — She was nothing special.  He was from Baltimore.  They met on a blind date: he was blind drunk, and she was working hard to keep up.  From there, they spent the next 30 years madly in love, chasing each other back and forth across America, fighting and drinking, splitting up and getting back together.  He did nothing less than create a whole new style of fiction and one of the most enduring characters in American literature.  She did nothing more than defy the American government, help him get out of jail and stay with him when he became too sick to live and too scared to die.  That’s why they call it love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

(answers on February 14th)

Valentine’s Day: There’s Plenty of Time to Panic

ValentineI don’t care how many Popes resign and, you can forget about your nuclear North Koreans, too; if you’re having a panic attack this morning, it’s because tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day.  It doesn’t matter which side of the hearts and flowers you’re on; Valentine is a big deal.  Once the exclusive province of teenagers and hopeless romantics, these days, he’s strictly uptown and bringin’ the bling.  A simple “Roses are red; violets are blue” Hallmark moment just doesn’t cut it anymore, and most people are looking to De Beers or Alain Ducasse to demonstrate their depth of emotion.  Sounds serious?  It is.  Recent studies have shown that Valentine’s Day is now right up there with St. Paddy’s and Hallowe’en on our festive calendar, with an anxiety rating that rivals Christmas.  Do I have your attention?

It wasn’t always that way, though, St. Valentine himself is practically historically anonymous.  We have no idea who he was, what he was and only the vaguest notion of when and where he was.  In fact, chances are good he was at least three different people cobbled together by a fledgling church in need of some local celebrity.  The story goes that while waiting for martyrdom he “miraculously” cured his jailer’s daughter`s blindness and wrote her a card (which she could then see) signed “Your Valentine.”  It’s the stuff of legend but hardly provable.  Today, Valentine is not on the A-list of Catholic saints, and his questionable relics are in a number of churches, scattered all over Europe.  Actually, if it wasn’t for February 14th, most people wouldn’t pay much attention to the guy.

Our St. Valentine, the secular one that lovesick young people bankrupt themselves over, was born in the imagination of Geoffrey Chaucer.  You remember Geoff, he`s the poet whose long and windy Canterbury Tales has been terrorizing undergrads for the last eight hundred years.  Anyway, before Chaucer ever thought about Canterbury, he wrote something called The Parlement of Foules, which, at 700 lines, is a bit windy itself.  In it, he sets the scene in a throwaway couplet referring to Seynt Volantynys Day (St. Valentine`s Day) as the day when birds gather to chose their mates.  The idea caught on in medieval England (it’s where we get the birds and the bees metaphor from, as well.)  The Christian martyr Valentine became hopelessly confused with the more robust and ribald Roman god Cupid, and by the time Billy Shakespeare was wearing the King’s doublet, Valentine’s Day was universally celebrated as the day when spring fever met courtly love.valentine3

For the next four centuries, Valentine’s Day lounged around as a once-a-year occasion to declare one’s love — usually in the form of a flowery verse or paper card.  By our time, in the late the 20th century, it had been reduced to a harmless Victorian hangover.  We gave out valentines promiscuously, more as greeting than anything else, but nobody minded.  The day was reserved for school children and newly-minted couples who were busy ODing on simpy.  Life was good.

Then, sometime in the late 1970s, when no one was looking, all hell broke loose.  February 14th became the hottest date night of the year, and suddenly Valentine’s Day was the eater of souls.  No credit card was safe.  Dinner and a movie just wasn’t good enough anymore.  Elegant dining was de rigueur with the appropriate price tag.  Paper valentines had better have some jewelry attached, and even weekend trips and car keys were not out of the question.  Lovers and wannabes were expected to fork out some serious cash as a measure their affection, and for thirty years, we’ve been upping that ante.

So, today, as you sit there wondering if tomorrow’s champagne and caviar, moonlight, hot air balloon ride is going to melt your lover’s heart, you need to understand one more thing.  Statistically, more people commit adultery on February 15th than any other day of the year.  If that doesn’t raise your anxiety level, I don’t know what will.

Valentine’s Day: A User’s Guide for Men

I’m probably the most romantic creature on this planet.  I cry during the love scene in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, for God’s sake!  However, it has recently come to my attention that Valentine’s Day has gotten way out of hand.  It used to be that the only people who were getting rich off romance were those grubbers down at Hallmark.  I’m not one to brag, but I’ve bought a card or two in my time.  These days, however, come February 14th, it seems like everybody’s got their hand in your pocket.  Cupid has gone commercial, and he’s charging megabucks for those arrows.

Back in the day, when love didn’t come at the end of an eHarmony questionnaire, people had love affairs.  (Relationships were what you had with your cousins and co-workers.)  For those of you under thirty, a love affair was that brilliant time when nothing mattered to you more than the dull ache of your heart, the sound of her breathing and the solitary sight of her in a crowded room.  In those days, no words remembered love, no action spoke its name and no credit card was its benefactor: the only cure was proximity.  Love meant close enough to touch, and when it didn’t — it hurt.  That was when Valentine’s Day was still special.  It was the unspoken promise that couples made to each other.  But enough about that: I’m here to bury St. Valentine, not to praise him.

(Before I go any further, and the politically correct crowd start organizing the lynch mob, I realize that relationships come in a variety of permutations and combinations.  Unfortunately, I have a limited working knowledge of much beyond the male side of male and female.  Therefore, that’s what I’m dealing with; anything else would be just guessing.  If you’re looking for all-inclusive or if heterosexual offends you, stop now and re-Google.  It will save us both a lot of time.)  Personally, I think it’s a sad day when people need to put a disclaimer on innocent stuff like Valentines, but such is the world we live in.  Anyway …

Recently, Valentine’s Day has taken a distinct turn for the worst.  It has gone from a simple “Be my Valentine” card at dinner to over-the-top romantic gymnastics that would make Casanova wonder WTF.   Here’s the problem.  Regardless of how much they lie to themselves and others, men do not know what women want.  They never did.  They’re never going to.  And that includes romance.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  Men know all about the clichés: those moonlit walks everybody talks about, the candlelight, the roses and the hearts and angels’ music.  But when it gets down and dirty, single tear in the corner of the female eye, 99.99% of men are lost.  However, rather than admit that romance escapes them (like the last inmate going over the wall) they throw money at it.  This is a traditional male strategy that’s been backfiring since before Antony gave Cleopatra, Syria, Persia and all points east to make up for the annoying fact he wasn’t Julius Caesar.  Unfortunately, having once set these cash-eating bolas in motion, it was only a matter of time before they started spinning out of control.  These days, men are waking up on January 2nd, knowing that in six weeks, they better come up with something fantastic and poetic or ladylove is going to be pissed off until way past Labour Day.  And every guy older than Justin Bieber knows that that’s going to take some serious dinero.  It’s an anxiety trap that men have been building for themselves for the last decade, and it’s not pretty.

Therefore, since I am a public-spirited fellow and do not wish to see my brothers suffering needlessly, I’m going to let everybody in on a little secret.  I know what women want.  No, I’m not going to give that kind of information away free, but since I do have it, I can give all men a bit of advice.  Boys, put away your wallets and change your thinking.  Quit having a relationship, and try having a love affair.  Lovers don’t send bouquets of roses. (She’s not in love with the delivery man.)  They hand deliver a single flower.  Lovers don’t make reservations for romantic dinners, weeks in advance; they show up unexpectedly with a two hot dog lunch because it seems like a good idea at the time.  They don’t schedule together time with cooking classes, or dance lessons; they cook, they dance and they prefer the company of the one they love.  They don’t fit it in on Tuesday nights after yoga.  Yes, it’s a busy world, and there are kids and jobs and mortgages and insurance and on and on.  Big wow!  The truth remains that two people playing grab ass for a quick couple of minutes in the kitchen while the pasta’s cooking is worth more than any number of prefabricated date nights.  Lovers don’t have a script, and they don’t have a schedule.  They just enjoy each other’s company.

Tomorrow, guys, remember Valentine’s Day is for lovers – full stop.  It isn’t for people in “a relationship” who “have feelings for” each other.  That’s just a generous way of saying, “Maybe I don’t love you all that much.”  And of all the things that women want, that’s not one of them.