VALENTINE – WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE PINK?
by Aida Greenbury
Sitting alone in the corner of a dimly lighted restaurant in
central Jakarta – as pathetic as Michael was – he just realised that it was the
14th of February. Nothing is worse than being caught having dinner
alone on Valentine’s Day. Everybody just seemed to stare at him with pity. Hell,
he is white, has a job and is single – and as far as I am concerned he is armed
with adequate equipment. What’s so difficult about grabbing a chick from a bar
somewhere – and paying her a generous tip to sit and eat with him? Think of it
as charity, I said to him a few days later. No, no, those relationships only
complicate things, he replied.
He had nothing else to do while waiting for his food to arrive,
aside from sending the latest Bin Laden jokes through his mobile phone’s SMS to
everybody on his list, so Michael scanned the room. Some of the couples he saw
were very romantic, obviously already under the influence of the aphrodisiacs
they had consumed. The solid evidence, empty oyster shells, were piled up high
on their plates. Some of the couples looked like they were in a staring contest,
only they didn’t look into each other’s eyes. Phew, they were funny. The ladies
looked as if they wished their spouse had given them a diamond ring, instead of
a box of full-cream fat-saturated chocolates. And the guys looked like they
wished they were at home – being couch potatoes – watching a football match on
television with a cold beer in their hand. And – all the ladies were dressed
like Bubble, the pink Powerpuff girl. Michael thought hard, trying to remember
whether Saint Valentine actually wore a pink robe while he was alive. Bless his
Talking about Saint Valentine, little did he realise that the
whole world would recognise his name and use it to decorate millions of frilly
heart-shaped pink things below a picture of a naked flying chubby baby who’s too
stupid to know that it’s dangerous to play with a bow and arrows?
According to the legend, during AD 270, while Valentine was
still imprisoned by the evil Emperor Claudius, he fell in love with the blind
daughter of his jailer. His love for her, and his great faith, was said to have
miraculously healed her blindness. Before Valentine's sentence was carried out
and he was stoned and beheaded, he signed a farewell message to her, ‘From Your
The legend is so sweet and divine. It makes me wonder - how can
some men have the heart to use Valentine’s name to get into a girl's pants?
As a teenager growing up in Indonesia, I remember Valentine’s
Day as a day when I received – again – pink cards with pre-printed text in
English, ‘Be My Valentine, yada ... yada ...’ I don’t think that my admirers at
that time even understood what the words meant. Bluntly translated, ‘Be My
Valentine’ could mean ‘Be My Beheaded Saint’.
Indonesians, mostly youngsters, celebrate the sacred day on
February the 14th as a Lovers' day. A day when they express their
feelings toward the people they love and care for by giving candies, flowers,
cards or taking them to a restaurant for a romantic dinner for two. But why? Why
such loving acts only on February the 14th? And why pink, I wonder?
Most of them do not even know the story behind the celebration.
Do these people realise that Valentine’s Day originated from a
pagan celebration, practised by the Romans eight hundred years before the
establishment of Valentine’s Day itself? In those days, the Mid-February
celebration was held to commemorate young men’s rite of passage and worship the
god Lupercus. The celebration featured a lottery in which young men would draw
the names of teenage girls from a box. The girl assigned to each young man in
that manner would be his sexual companion during the remainder of the year.
Nowadays there are people who practise a similar method to obtain green cards.
In an effort to do away with the pagan festival, the Pope
ordered a slight change in the lottery system. Instead of the names of young
women, the box would contain the names of saints. Both men and women were
allowed to draw from the box, and the game was to emulate the ways of the saint
whose name they drew during the rest of the year. You can imagine how excited
those hot-blooded Roman lads were about the changes. Then, instead of the pagan
god Lupercus, the Church named Saint Valentine as a suitable patron saint of
love, to take his place. And that’s how the Love Day started.
As for my cheapskate friend Michael, he believes that
Valentine’s Day is just another day when guys have to reach deep down into their
pockets. Hey, pink roses, chocolate, or worse - a Bvlgari pendant still costs a
helluvah lot of money. Yes, just like other celebrations these days, the Lovers'
Day has been heavily commercialised too. That’s why I sort of agree with
Michael, it’s a good idea to stay away from complicated things. Do people
actually believe that they need a specific day, or an excuse, to express their
feelings toward the people they say they love? Honestly, if you love somebody so
deeply, do you only show your appreciation once a year, or three times a year or
five times a day? Don’t you think that you should express your affection every
chance you get – or at least as long as the feeling of love lasts?
As for me, I am convinced that Valentine’s Day was actually
invented for those half-witted people amongst us who actually need to be
reminded that it’s time to say ‘I love you’.
But I still can’t figure it out – what the appalling pink colour
has to do with it?
Copyright © 2002-2005, Aida Greenbury