Wouldn’t you know it: Valentine’s Day has come around again, much the same time as last year. And the year before that. In fact, checking my old diaries, it seems to be a perennial feature of life in the romantic lane. As a social phenomenon, it stretches back centuries and has attracted the interest and witticisms of many a writer, professional and amateur. The key difference of course, is that the amateurs don’t get published much, but probably score more dividends than all the pros put together.
Aberjhani, author of The River of Winged Dreams, waxed lyrical about love, saying, “What a lover’s heart knows let no man’s brain dispute”. This suggests that idiots can function just as well as academics, although there are generations of respectable ladies who would put their money on a romp with a car mechanic in preference to a professor of Ancient Greek. Ah well. The same erudite author ventured that “This is what our love is––a sacred pattern of unbroken unity sewn flawlessly invisible inside all other images, thoughts, smells, and sounds”. Confusingly, this may be more reminiscent of the public loos of Clarens than an ode to love.
Lisa Greenwald, lesser known author of Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes, states the obvious in her own simplistic way: “Today’s Valentine’s Day. There’s a whole day devoted solely to love. Does that make any sense? Nah. Love makes us all crazy. But it’s fun too”. Point taken, but Ernest Hemingway has a strange sense of irony in his 88 Poems, saying “If my Valentine you won’t be,
I’ll hang myself on your Christmas tree”. Jarod Kintz, in 99 Cents For Some Nonsense, gets right to the point and says “Why send roses? Wouldn’t it be more romantic to deliver a dozen orgasms? For only R99.95, I’ll deliver them to your woman any day of the year. But be sure to book early for Valentine’s Day”.
Hardly surprising that Rae Hachton, in Frankie’s Monster, warns “Run, sweetheart, run”.
Then there is good old common sense: “If every lover was treated like they matter — everyday – Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be so special”, according to philosopher Mokokoma Mokhonoana. Well yes, although another philosopher, Mehmet Murat Ildan injects a note of advice to the occasion, saying, “The best thing about Valentine’s Day is that if you don’t have a lover, you badly remember to get one!”
Ooops, almost forgot the gender issue (which is somewhat buggered by the need to avoid specifying the gender of the parties involved). “In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels”, said that arch cynic, Jane Austen. And the French, in the form of Honoré de Balzac, wryly note that “First love is a kind of vaccination which saves a man from catching the complaint a second time”. Samuel Johnson, with history on his side but pursuing the same theme, argues that “A second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”
And in a punt for that timeless illustrated tome, The Kama Sutra, Elizabeth Barrett Browning asks, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”.
Self-avowed genius Oscar Wilde said of love, “They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever”, but covered his back (?) by adding, “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it”. American comic and occasional philanderer Woody Allen confirms his reputation for the obtuse by musing, “To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness”. On a more positive note, Woody added, “Sex without love is an empty experience, but, as empty experiences go, it’s one of the best”.
And the last word goes to a tall anonymous blonde who waxed warmly in the Grouse & Claret about her hopes for Clarens on this Special Day: “Give me Bruce; a picnic beneath a full moon and iridescent stars; black olives; cherries; dark things; a canoe on Lake Clarens…that’s romance”.