THE Romans weren’t stupid.
They had Valentine’s Day under control. They called it the Lupercian festival. You bunged the names into a hat. The names of all the women, mark you, and whichever name you drew out was yours for the purpose of sexual favours for 12 months.
Before you hark for the good old days let me just point out the flaws. First… you might have got an ugly one. Second (and worse!)… you might have got the woman of your dreams, but unless you were luckier than a Gold Lotto winner, and drew her name twice, you’d have to give her up after 12 months.
Then 1500 years ago Pope Gelasius cleaned the whole thing up. He changed the women’s names for the names of saints. And no, you didn’t get to sleep with a saint, you were expected to follow their example.
Not very bright in the case of Valentine, who was executed for marrying young lovers against his emperor’s wishes.
Now I am not suggesting we return to the male-oriented domination of the festival that Romans enjoyed. Well, male Romans, anyway.
But I want to know why we have abdicated our authority in matters of the heart.
Tell me, if you can, why I would send a Valentine Card to a woman anonymously?
Women are not easy to come by, and I am not going to risk the one I’ve got in mind thanking the wrong bloke.
But I was subtle. I didn’t actually sign it. Well, I did: “an anonymous admirer”.
But I wrote the return address on the envelope.
Whatever happened to the business about faint hearts never winning fair ladies!
Call me old-fashioned… I just believe that when you’re trying to win a woman’s heart, you get brownie points for courage.
Okay, if you come right out and say it face to face she might say no.
But how much worse will it be, halfway through next week when you’ve grown tired of waiting, when you say: “Did you get my Valentine Card?”
And she says, with a face as bleak as the rocks of Mars, “Oh… was that from you…?”
It’s even worse when it’s your wife.
And anyway, Valentine’s Day is no longer all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, why would you be making overtures to a lover in the kind of sweltering heat we can expect in Townsville on February 14. It would be like trying to embrace a wet jelly.
And have you noticed how the spirit of the thing has changed? It used to be that blokes wrote poetic cards about the pain of separation. Now the cards are all about the joy of fornication.
And it’s the women who are sending them! Anonymously!
That’s almost as risky as anonymous cards from men.
The whole thing’s a lottery.
Which brings me back to the Lupercus, the Roman god who came up with the idea in the first place.
He was named after a wolf which, when you think about it, probably sums the whole thing up.