My Old Kentucky Homesite

Indifference Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/13/2010

In case you haven’t already been glutted with ersatz love on TV and at the mall, I want to remind you that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

Valentine, as everyone knows, is the patron saint of goo. But you may not realize that there are actually two different canonized martyrs with that name. One, according to legend, was a Roman physician and priest, who was beaten and beheaded on February 14 many years ago along the Flaminian Way. The other was the Bishop of Terni, who, according to conflicting legend, was beaten and beheaded on February 14 many years ago along the Flaminian Way. You might have noticed a certain similarity between these two myths, and jumped to the conclusion that they’re merely variants of the same story. Maybe they are, but it is possible that the same exact thing happened twice, because it’s a well-known fact that bandits in those early days could become pretty violent when travelers refused to part with their Whitman Samplers. Whatever you believe: If I were you, I’d wait until Monday to go for a stroll along the Flaminian Way.

To find the real origin of Lovey-Dovey day, we have to look at February 15, the annual date of an ancient Roman fertility feast called Lupercalia. That’s not to be confused with Lou Percalia, one of the characters from The Godfather,  a sub-capo killed in the early pages when he was overwhelmed by assassins who skipped to him. “Perky” had absolutely nothing to do with St. Valentine’s Day, because, on the morning of the massacre, he arrived at work inappropriately prepared, under the mistaken impression that each killer was supposed to dress as Cupid.

No, Lupercalia was a randy old holiday honoring Lupercus, the god of overpriced flowers. His special day was celebrated by lots of hoo-ha, some of it sexual in nature. Christians realized that there was no way the rabble was going to give up an occasion dedicated specifically to physical fun, so the church fathers stole and adapted the idea. They watered it way down, though, by scrawling it inside a sacred heart on their sacred calendar, and blaming its origin on one or both of the guys who got mugged on the highway. The name change worked out particularly well for Rodgers and (not sacred) Hart, who didn’t have to write a song called “My Funny Lupercalian.”

Despite its impressive background, Valentine’s Day doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some people wonder: Why let the greeting card companies decide that on a given date each year you’ll suddenly be overwhelmed by a desire to send a sweet message to the person who spends a lot of her time criticizing the way you dust?

However, the main objection to the day is that it’s too exclusive for our egalitarian society. What should you do about all those people you merely like. Don’t they deserve a little recognition, too? Is it their fault you can’t get really excited about them? What makes you think you’re such a prize?

But even that kind of holiday would entail too much activity for the kinds of festivals I like: blissing out all day with Sudoku puzzles, and then sitting down at the table for some serious overeating.

So, in the hope of creating an ideal holiday for everyone, I’d like to suggest a sensible alternative to Valentine’s Day. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an occasion each year for acknowledging those people about whom you’re totally apathetic? Just think of how many folks in your life fit into that category! I bet you don’t get too worked up one way or the other over the kid who asks you if you want paper or plastic at the grocery store. When was the last time you had a powerful surge of emotion for, say, your dentist? What about your spouse’s cousin in Cleveland. Or, for that matter, anyone in Cleveland?

We could call the new holiday: I Don’t Care About You and You Don’t Care About Me, But Here’s Some Ridiculously Expensive Roses” Day. I suggest you find someone about whom you have no feelings at all. Take him or her to dinner. But sit at separate tables. If you’re really concerned with observing the true meaing of the day, you and your unloved one could even go to two different restaurants. Synchronize your watches to make sure you don’t arrive at the same time. In absentia, sing each other songs like “What I Did for Apathy” or “You’ve Lost That Unenthusiastic Feeling,” or even “I Didn’t Leave Anything in San Francisco.”

And while we’re on the subject, please accept this candy heart from me that says: “Be Somebody Else’s.”

10 Responses to “Indifference Is a Many-Splendored Thing”

  1. And a happy Not Disgusted by You Day to you, too.

  2. Des:
    And to you as well. Give nobody a kiss for me.

  3. I just don’t like being told what to do on any given day. I’ll treat my momma when I want, honor my dad when I want, give a gift to someone when I want, tell my wife I love her whenever I want, give a nod to veterans, past presidents, civil rights leaders, or anyone else when I want and as frequently as I want and I’ll certainly have turkey more than once a year. Holidays are nice if they’re time off from work type of holidays but other than that, I hate the idea that one day a year is when I’m SUPPOSED to do this or that. Why aren’t the teabaggers complaining about that? Sounds like big government fascism to me dictating when I’m supposed to do what (although a ‘know the title of ANY newspaper day’ might be good, and “all of ’em” isn’t an answer).

  4. the chaplain said

    I’m feeling indifferent today, so I won’t bother commenting on this post.

  5. Philly:
    I share your sentiments — except for that business about turkey. If it were up to me, I’d ban it entirely. It’s not mentioned in the bible, is it? So why should anyone be allowed to eat a food Jesus and I don’t approve of?

    I won’t bother commenting on this post.
    Good. Apathy makes the world go ’round.

  6. srsny said


    Why aren’t the teabaggers complaining about that?

    This is just what the tea baggers believe DEFINES America – unbridled commercialism. They don’t want you to mess with their time-honored “traditions” of spending money on the things that reflect and reinforce “traditional American values.” Sad, isn’t it.

  7. I thought the teabaggers celebrated St. Valentines Day by shooting competitors in the back.

  8. Srsny:
    What I want to know is: Do the teabaggers realize that their beverage of choice is an atheistic commie drink, consumed every day by millions of Chinese infidels?

    I think you’ve got “teabaggers” mixed up with “rumrunners.”

  9. Heather said

    There’s an alternative Welsh version of Valentine’s day so there’s a different day to be indifferent on.( Dwynwen’s day )

  10. Heather:
    Oh, no! Since I wasn’t aware of Dwynwen’s Day on January 25, I may have failed to be disinterested. Just give me a second to check my journal …

    … Phew. According to my notes, I was romantically indifferent, apathetic, detached, and impassive that entire week.

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