I have a new nemesis, and his name is Geoffrey Chaucer. So what if he died 600 years ago and may have been one of the greatest poets ever to have walked the earth? We all have some redeeming qualities. Even Mao Zedong gave to a good farming charity or two now and again.
But the secret I uncovered about Mr. Oh-I’m-the-most-accomplished-English-writer-ever has become so entrenched in our culture that almost every American has been affected by its sinister centuries-old reach. And this Thursday, Chaucer’s revenge will again rear its ugly head in schools, offices and even bedrooms all across the world.
Those caloric chocolate hearts that may have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic? Blame Chaucer. Lovey-dovey valentines from stalkers, or worse yet, family members that send your stomach a churn? Chaucer again. And the sacrifice of millions of healthy red roses all in the name of love? The popular poet strikes once more.
Despite all the talk of cupid, romantic gestures and true love, Geoffrey Chaucer is the real reason behind Valentine’s Day. Before he released his 1382 work titled “Parlement of Foules,” history had never associated the holiday with romantic affection. Sure, Pope Gelasius I in 496 established the feast of St. Valentine on Feb. 14. But no furry stuffed animals or sexy lingerie were exchanged to honor the old Saint. Well, at least I hope not.
The church just admired Valentine for going against Rome and marrying Christian soldiers, thus helping to ensure the spread of the religion, and also maybe some diseases as well.
Then along came Chaucer and his idea of courtly love. “For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”
Those two lines started the chaos. All of the sudden, a couple of fowls doing what birds and bees are known to do spark a worldwide love fest. Voila, Chaucer’s little snowball of feathered lust started down its steep descent through the hilly centuries. Now the big whopping boulder of commercialism will come crashing through our lives once again this Thursday.
With all this talk, you might think I hate Valentine’s Day. Hate is a strong word I generally reserve for ruthless dictators and reality television stars, but yes I might have a bitter chocolate chip on my shoulder.
While helping my kids decorate their card boxes for their school celebration, memories flooded my mind from Valentine’s Days past. I expected to turn and see Old Jacob Marley in fuzzy handcuffs readying me for three visitors to come that would change my wicked ways. Instead, all I found was a 6-year-old covered in glue and glitter asking if she could, please sir, have some more heart stickers. The cleanup was frightening indeed.
Anyway, Valentine’s aren’t exceptionally fun for the lonely. I never had a boyfriend until I was a sophomore in high school. Think about it. For 10 years I received those awful “So Glad You’re My Friend” cards in my box. No Xs. No Os. No love.
And while the cute little sassy girls received candy kisses from boys, I sought contentment in my heart lollipop, broken into crystal meth-sized pieces, which the teacher had handed to everyone.
When you get to an age that you actually have boyfriends, it’s not much better. In high school, I remember watching a movie one Valentine’s Day about STDs. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.
Afterward, I stared at my date’s lips throughout the whole movie, hoping the canker sore wasn’t something else in disguise. Well played, educators. Well played.
Even now, with marriage, you can’t be sure what the day will deliver. My husband and I have been married far too long for the flower thing. When you have three kids, wooing kind of loses its touch. And he’d have to sell our oldest son to buy even enough gold for a beaded earring.
So we have decided to forgo the presents and deeds and concentrate on the thing that has kept us together these last 13 years — a good night’s sleep.
So fare-thee-well, young lovers. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day. And if you don’t, blame Chaucer. It’s much easier than taking on a Saint or a husband any day of the week.
— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org