THERE are few holidays I dislike more than Valentine's Day. Actually, there are no holidays I dislike more than Valentine's Day.
Perhaps it is the absurdity of couples gushing vows to one another in honor of the brutal killing of a Roman saint. Or perhaps it was the fact I only got two Valentine's Day cards in my box throughout elementary school.
Both were from my mother.
As a Harvard student exposed to enlightened modes of thought through the Core Curriculum, I know it is unfair to condemn an entire holiday on the basis of 20 consecutive years of humiliation. So I spent the last several hours researching the prehistory of Valentine's Day in an effort to justify my prior conclusions.
Primordial dating: Dates between unicellular organisms had to have the perfect chemistry. A macho amoeba would hunker up to a smaller microbacterium, ooze its way around it and ultimately attempt to swallow it whole. This style of dating, known as phagocytosis, made a brief resurgence during the late 1970s.
Dating in biblical times: Adam and Eve did not marry in the Garden of Eden. They dated. In fact, they almost had the world's most perfect date: neither had to worry about what to wear. But perfection makes for boring conversation. In an attempt to jumpstart the evening, Eve partook of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge. The rest is history.
Dating in the stone age: In between the innocent bliss of the Garden of Eden and the advent of bowling, stone age daters pursued inane activities such as catching and domesticating dogs and nagging one another about posture. Romance was dead.
Dating in the middle ages: Evil sorcerers developed the chivalric code in the Middle Ages in order to make life hell for liberal men 1000 years later. At the time, the complex system dramatically reduced the efficiency of dating. Knights spent years on crusades gathering the spices and perfumes needed for gifts, while maidens wasted hours trying to pin boutonnieres on suits of armor.
Contraception, invented in the Middle Ages, came in two varieties: plate metal and chain link.
Dating in the Renaissance: Students of the Renaissance period invented pseudo-intellecutal dating. Strolling from cathedral to cathedral, these lovebirds gabbed on and on about "frescos," their personal relationship with "Leonardo" and their belief in the rationality of humankind. This method of dating--which often turns into an endurance test for the unsuspecting--is preferred by those who get really excited about Philosophy 192, "Thinking About Thinking."
Dating during the American Revolution: Historians do not know for certain whether George Washington asked Martha for a date, or whether Martha first asked George, primarily because contemporary observers could not tell the difference between them. The rest of colonial women dated Ben Franklin, inventor of the power date. Franklin dominated conversations by reciting his numerous inventions, travels and accomplishments in international diplomacy.
To the glee of lonely patriots, Franklin died of a sexually transmitted disease.
Dating in communist Russia: There was no dating in communist Russia.
Marxist ideologists argued that dating was a superficial activity that obscured the true essence ("species-being") of humanity. They contended that capitalists had corrupted dating to the point where the amount of money spent signified a person's romantic commitment.
They were right.
Dating after the Cold War: The prospects look bleak for a return to the golden biblical times of dating. As the probability of nuclear war declines, the carpe diem argument that brought many couples together will no longer work as well. Besides, who would want to go on a date when the world is changing?
Unless Mikhail Gorbachev works some real magic, this Valentine's Day isn't likely to be much better than the last 20.