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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 soul.

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 Valentine’.

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










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