The Pressure of Valentine's Day

paperhearts.jpgSo when did Valentine’s Day turn into such a big deal? Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve been bombarded like me by spam email soliciting for various gifts of flowers, candies, cards, chocolates, clothes, hats, and stuffed animals. Commercials everywhere are constantly warning us not to forget our loved ones. Whatever happened to the good old days of cutting out simple paper hearts, scarfing down a couple of powdery candies stamped with “Be Mine” on the side, and calling it a day? Nowadays, even entertainment companies are getting in on the act with TV series offering special holiday centered programming and movies such as New Line Cinema’s latest, “Valentine’s Day,” hitting theaters this weekend. And don’t forget the restaurants offering a simple night out for two starting at $200 and going up from there.

Does anyone remember the origin of this day and what its original intent was? According to Wikipedia, Saint Valentine's Day (commonly simply Valentine's Day) is an annual <holiday held on February 14 celebrating <love and <affection between <intimate companions. The holiday is named after one or more early Christian <martyrs named <Valentine and was established by <Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by <presenting flowers, offering <confectionery, and sending <greeting cards (known as "valentines"). The holiday first became associated with <romantic love in the circle of <Geoffrey Chaucer in the <High Middle Ages, when the tradition of <courtly love flourished. Modern Valentine's Day symbols include the <heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged <Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have largely given way to mass-produced <greeting cards. No kidding…

godiva.jpgWhile I am feeling jaded and cynical right now, I gotta admit I can be just as much of a sucker for this time of year as the next guy. In fact, one year my partner Chris, knowing I am a self-professed chocolate slut, had hand-delivered to me at my office, the most offensively large box of Godiva chocolates ever.

Blinded by the seemingly endless amounts of gold foil encasing the humongous box, I am quite certain its contents were meant to entertain a party of ten or more people, with plenty left over. While I don’t remember the exact count, I know its gooey layers ran at least six deep and I showed no restraint.

The thing that stands out in my mind about that year was how I joyfully dug into the chocolates, in a fit of gluttony, until I got so sick that I had to leave work. And when I came in the next day, I have to admit, a mere twenty four hours after almost sliding into a diabetic coma, I found my hand going back for more.

Mercifully I kept myself from going off the deep end again, but the box continued to glare at me for days until finally I started taking it to meetings where I offered/pushed pieces on anyone I could find. It seemed to last forever, and in fact, it did. Chris and I still laugh about it to this day, but it was definitely the most decadent, disgusting and delicious Valentine ever.

eiffel-tower-picture-2.jpgPerhaps my favorite Valentine’s memory is from when I “kidnapped” Chris from work, drove straight to the airport, got on a plane and flew to Paris where we spent Valentine’s Day and his 40th birthday. We had an amazing time eating Nutella crepes, wandering agenda free around Montmarte, scouring the Louvre from beginning to end, and freezing our tails off high atop the Eiffel Tower. The trip was such a success, that unfortunately I think I hoisted the bar so high that year, that I have never been able to live up to it since then. But with only a few days to go, the pressure is on and I’m taking suggestions.




Seale "Brother" Ballenger is a twenty+ year veteran of the book publishing industry and currently works as Vice President and Group Publicity Director for the William Morrow Division at Harper Collins Publishers. He is the author of HELL'S BELLES: A Tribute to the Spitfires, Bad Seeds, and Steel Magnolias of the New & Old South. Seale, his partner Chris, and their two French bulldogs, Maddie and Petey, live in New York City.