February 2007 Issue: For the Love of Love
Valentine’s Day has become such a monstrous cliché by now that even criticizing it is a bit played out. Luckily, you committed readers know that the gem you hold in your hands is nothing if not original – visionary, it has even been said. So instead of just whining about how much love stinks, we have asked the lowly peons in the XelaWho research lab to dig deep into history to uncover the hidden roots of, and breathe new life into, the day so many unnecessarily dread.
It all began in pagan Rome with the February Lupercalia celebration. A communal frat party of sorts, Lupercalia involved rich young men running the streets naked and striking passersby with thongs. This was followed by a lottery during which each boy drew the name of a teenage girl who would be his sexual companion for the year.
In the fifth century, Pope Gelasius, better known as Pope Party Pooper, altered the lottery so that youth chose saints to emulate instead of partners with whom to fornicate. Gelasius hyped St. Valentine, an adorable third century martyr who married people in defiance of a decree, passed by Emperor Claudius, banning the institution. It seems being in love made men less excited about killing people.
Valentine was executed, but not before falling in love in prison, and signing a farewell note “From Your Valentine,” thus inspiring centuries of sentimental letters and crass commercial ventures. At present, most arrive at February 14th dreading one of two scenarios: expressing love with some wonder of mass production or drowning loneliness with some form of mass consumption.
Another world is possible, my friends, a world in which we reconnect to what’s really important about love and the day we celebrate it. And, as usual, XelaWho is leading the revolution with this starter list of suggestions for how to both reconnect Valentine’s Day to its roots and revitalize it for the 21st century:
* Martyr someone. Celebrate.
* Strip naked and run through La Demo until you find true love.
* Bring back the lottery, but in a hybrid form that placates both Catholics and dirty heathens. Pick a saint’s name from a hat. Sexually covet him or her all year.
Whether or not we act on these specific ideas, let’s make sure to avoid either blandly commodifying or cynically hating on love. It deserves better, and so do we. Big hugs from XelaWho to you.