USA & Ireland Little Difference #20: Valentine’s Day
What’s wrong with America on Valentine’s Day, is what always reminds me of one of so many meetings I had with the British police.
It’s a small room in Holyhead. Just me, my bag, and a box of books. Once again the North Wales Police Force have made me miss my train. I’m used to it.
“What’s this?” asked the policeman as he tried to rub off from the little map in my diary the white substance I’d placed over both the border and the ‘London’ that some monarch had stuck in front of ‘Derry’.
Resisting saying, “It’s the very reason you’re questioning me”, I said simply “TippEx”.
“Now let’s have a look at these books of yours”.
Whoever thought Peig would get you into trouble with the British police? He spent ages on Scéalta ón mBlascaod by Kenneth Jackson (do scríobh ó bhéal Pheig Sayers)
“Why do you read this stuff?”
“Because she was a big fat liar, and that makes me laugh” is not what I answered. Instead I was down to shrugging, and worried about what the police might make of my small collection of pulp horror novels at the bottom of the box.
And then the most fuss was caused by Basil Chubb’s The Government and Politics of Ireland. In common with many books about how government and public administration are structured, the name of the country was in very large letters, coloured to look like the national flag. Obviously a terrorist handbook by the reknowned number-cruncher.
“Why are these parts highlighted?” asked the officer of the section on how to blow up Downing Street. Or maybe it was the section on the distinction between local and national government.
I asked if I could have my book to look at what I had highlighted. Over the next few minutes I read a couple of pages, flicking backwards and forwards, pointing at words with my finger for my own benefit, before finally answering:
“It’s because they’re salient points”
Which only meant I had to then defend why I hadn’t highlighted all the non-highlighted sentences in this chapter. Clearly the police weren’t going to accept the reverse logic of these sentences not being salient points, so instead I tossed a great wisdom at them:
“When you highlight everything, you highlight nothing”
And then I was released.
Unless things have changed since I left, Valentine’s Day in Ireland is something for people who have other halves, to celebrate or not, with their other halves. And for people who would secretly, and not so secretly, like to have other halves - and truth be told, all kinds of fractions of which the sum of most certainly would exceed one.
Beyond being the secret desire of the mathematically and socially challenged, Valentine’s Day only affects you by way of horrendous evening traffic as so many people try to get home and out again because nothing expresses true love like over-priced food cooked by strangers.
But here in America it’s different. All the above more or less applies, except the socially and mathematically challenged don’t bother sending secret cards when they can get their message of love across instead by going on a killing spree.
Kansas City might be the home of Hallmark, but last time I was in Eason’s it wasn’t like they were short on Hallmark cards.
No, the bigger differences are differences that apply to much of life here in the middle of America. Two things. And as you know me so well, you know I struggle with them.
1) It’s all about the kids
2) Everyone’s a winner
So children exchange commercially made fold-over and tuck-in cards to every other kid they know. In schools, in neighbourhoods, wherever children congregate, cards and candies are given. Second only to Halloween, Valentine’s Day is another excuse to fill children up with rubbish. Like Easter, the Fourth of July, St Patrick’s Day, Christmas, and any event you care to think of.
And because nobody can be left out and face the challenge of being left out - because that will never happen when they grow up - when a kid gives a card to one child, cards are given to all children. This is a real shame because it robs parents of the chance to realize their kids are actually highly unpopular and probably the ones planning killing sprees of their own to combat alienation and low self-esteem.
I’ve watched little kids play soccer in the US, and the losing team gets cheered off and congratulated just as much as the winning team. Even though they were rubbish and should probably be grounded for playing so poor. And then, in case they actually gained any benefit at all from running around in the outside, they are filled up with greasy snacks that will give them the sort of skin condition that only premature contraception can fix.
Hey little Johnny, you really should have scored that time. You only had the keeper to beat. You played rubbish. You’re not a winner. You lost. Your team lost. And it’s mostly your fault. Now give me that piece of pizza.
So Valentine’s Day is for everybody. Because everyone’s a winner. Speaking as a loser, I don’t like this. I don’t like that when I woke up yesterday morning a great big sign across the road with a whopping big heart on it told me to have a happy Valentine’s Day. How can I? I don’t do fractions.
All day, emails, the radio, websites, everybody wishing everybody a happy Valentine’s Day. People eating heart-shaped pancakes, pizzas and cookies. They are not lovers and will never be. Cupid is missing. It’s a day of appreciation. I really love you for what you are. No you don’t; what I am is a loser.
Valentine’s Day here is a day that you tell people how much they’ve helped and made a difference. Who has gone above and beyond the call of duty for you? Or, who or what are you taking for granted? Nobody misses out. It’s a stupid day, robbed of meaning by spreading it so wide.
And if Valentine’s Day is for everybody, then surely it is for nobody? Imagine if the entire population shared your birthday. Would you be special then? Or would you be out buying candy for the kids?
This happens with everything. People can’t be left out. Especially kids. So every event is about everybody. And nobody is special anymore.
Mother’s Day is no longer about the unique relationship between you and your mother; it’s about mothers in general. Motherhood. Pick a mother, any mother. Here, pick another one. You can wish a happy Mother’s Day to a woman younger than yourself, not related to you in any way, simply because she’s conceived in the last 24 hours. Or she’s planning on starting a family. Because it would be a shame to leave her out.
This will happen with birthdays.
-It’s not my birthday
-I know, but it’s Georgina’s birthday so everybody should have a happy birthday, a happy birthday of Georgina’s
Nobody wins if you don’t have losers. And Valentine’s Day is all about losers. And to be a real loser you need to have at least reached puberty.
It’s not about the kids. Stop stuffing their faces and telling them they’re special. They’re not. They’re kids.
Give Valentine’s Day back to the losers. The grown-up losers.
Oh, and apologies for not writing this anti-Valentine’s Day diatribe yesterday; I just didn’t have the heart.