Monday 9 December 2019

John Daly: Valentine's Day: More drive-by shootings by Cupid and once more he'll probably miss

Valentines day flowers
Valentines day flowers

John Daly

'Are you lonesome tonight, do you miss me tonight, are you sorry we drifted apart?' The lyrics from that 1969 Elvis hit will hum in many a head this weekend as another Valentine's Day rolls around - especially if you're a forlorn Irish male.

Bad enough that thousands of us might yearn for a non-existent squeeze tomorrow morning, but now we've chained to it the added albatross of having been voted the ugliest mugs in the world as well. After the elite dating site, beautiful, gave its seal of disapproval to nine out of 10 single Irish males who applied to upload their profiles last year, February 14, 2016, has been designated a Valentine's Day massacre, even before we struggle into our heart-shaped boxer shorts. With nary a single card on the mantelpiece, us singletons will emerge into a garish red and pink world tomorrow, raining curses down on the head of that short-sighted little fecker called Cupid, shooting his arrows everywhere but here. Is there not something slightly disturbing in the notion of a naked cherub whizzing about hither and yon with an unlicensed bow, anyway?

The original St Valentine rebelled against a Roman edict preventing soldiers from marrying. Imprisoned for performing secret marriages, the Christian priest got a lot more than a velveteen box of chocs for his troubles - scourged, stoned and decapitated in 269AD - leaving behind a note signed 'From your Valentine' to a young girl whose blindness he cured.

"What Valentine means to me as a priest is that there comes a time where you have to lay your life upon the line for what you believe," said Father Frank O'Gara, of Dublin's Whitefriar Street Church, which contains the saint's remains. It's a strange kind of homage typical of our material age when millions across the world instead put their credit cards on the line for surge-priced fuzzy-wuzzy teddy bears and €100 rose bouquets.

Everybody has their favourite Valentine's quote, and Peanuts creator Charles M Schultz fairly seconds that emotion: "All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."

Unlike Pooh Bear's AA Milne, who must have been passing the sick bucket when he opined: "If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you."

One of 2016's most unlikely candidates for love quotes is none other than Donald Trump, especially after a London creative agency launched an ironic Valentine's campaign, printing cards updated with some of his more outrageous comments. "The beauty of me is that I'm very rich, but you are just plain beautiful." Awwww. Or how about: "I'm the worst thing that's ever happened to Isil, but you're the best thing that's ever happened to me." Stop it, Donny. Please.

In the end, we're all prisoners of our genetics when it comes to love, it seems - human lab rats sniffing the corners of our cages for a similar rodent to make whoopee with.

"When we are meeting someone, we are assessing whether or not we find them attractive," says dating coach and registered family therapist David Kavanagh, author of 'Love Rewired'.

"These amazing feelings have nothing to do with finding your one true love; rather, the brain is releasing a load of chemicals just so you might mate with this person."

These chemicals include oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine - the latter being the same one unleashed when we scoff chocolate or have sex.

While romance is an intrinsic part of the experience of falling in love, it will not last forever unless we, ahem, put our backs into it.

"Physical contact with our partners is essential. I'm not talking about sex, but cuddling too. Kissing is so important for our relationships. The kisses should be longer, more prolonged," Kavanagh says.

Often it's the great doomed love stories that fire the imagination on February 14 - and Ireland has more than a few of those. Kitty O'Shea wrote of an assignation on a train from Charing Cross Station with Charles Stewart Parnell in 1880: "As our eyes met, he turned and walked by my side. He tucked his coat round me, and leaning over to fold it more closely whispered 'I love you'. I slipped my hand into his and I knew I was not afraid."

In another dangerous romance 40 years later, another couple held each other tight as darkness loomed in the distance. "How I wished to be near you so that I could put my arms tightly around your neck and that nothing could happen to you," Kitty Kiernan wrote to Michael Collins shortly before he was killed.

"I wouldn't be a bit afraid when I'd be beside you, and if you were killed I'd be dying with you and that would be far better than if I were left alone behind."

In the end, maybe the best Valentine result will come from forgetting the grand gesture and opting instead for a breakfast tray of toast and a cuppa as the optimum expression of those three little words.

Irish Independent

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