Saturday, February 11, 2012

Valentine's Foolishness

Elizabeth and I have been married for twenty-two years, and we have long since passed the time when celebrating Valentine's Day is a big deal.  Some might find fault in that, but our attitude has been "If you stop to celebrate love on February 14th, what are you doing with the remaining 364 days of the year?" Not that we're the lovey-dovey, wear matching sweaters, PDA-flaunting kind of couple either.  It's more that, instead of sending her roses at scheduled intervals, I would rather bring home flowers five or six times a year "for no reason."  Occasions can become rituals, and there's nothing ritualistic about love.  It also tends to keep things a little fresher, and after this long, trust me, fresh is good.

Anyway, this year I wanted to do something I haven't done in a long time.  I wanted to give her a love-letter, in my own peculiar way.  And what better way to send an intensely personal message to someone than on a blog?

So, honey, Happy Valentine's Day!
You know you love me.

Thus does love make fools of us all.

So the greatest scientific mind since Albert Einstein has admitted that the greatest mystery in the universe is not how it started, or how it will end, or exactly what dark matter is, or if there is a theory of everything.  It turns out that man’s greatest unsolved mystery is what we were afraid it would turn out to be all along:  woman.

When asked what he thinks about most during the day, Mr. Stephen Hawkings, who just celebrated his 70th birthday in January, responded simply by saying:  “Women.  They are a complete mystery.” 

Okay guys, that makes it official.  If the greatest mind we can muster from amongst our ranks is incapable of making any headway into the area of feminine mystique, what chance do we have?  We might as well call it a day, uncap some beer, and see if we can find a game on TV. 
In all fairness to Mr. Hawkings, he’s not the only great male intellect to be completely undone by women, just the latest to come out and admit it. 

The Roman poet Ovid wrote of women:  “What one beholds of a woman is the least part of her.”  Well thanks, Sherlock.  That’s like shouting, “Don’t let those lions get you,” to the huddled victims in the Colosseum, or “You know, these salted almonds are salty.” Stating the obvious in a quotable way doesn’t shed any light on the question, it only reminds us how far we are from the answer. 

Sigmund Freund, the famous psychiatrist who finally got us to start talking about sex, must be able to provide us with some words of wisdom on this topic, right?  “The great question which I have not been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is What does a woman want?”  According to the detailed notes he left behind, at the time of his death he had ruled out all of the following:  perfume, candy, flowers, all small furry animals, and psychiatrists. 

The Romantic poet, Lord Byron, who had experienced great intimacy with a great number of different women, sums up all he has learned: “What a strange thing man is; and what a stranger thing woman.”  Oscar Wilde, the Victorian playwright and great wit of his day, had this to say on the subject:  “Women are made to be loved, not understood.”  These are pithy offerings, to be sure, but they confirm nothing except how pathetically little we know.  So much for artistic insight.

Pop culture icons have fared no better.  Will Rogers once said, “Money and women are the most sought after and the least known about of any two things we have.” 

How about Frank Sinatra?  “I'm supposed to have a Ph.D. on the subject of women. But the truth is I've flunked more often than not. I'm very fond of women; I admire them. But, like all men, I don't understand them.” Here’s a guy that women loved, thrilled over, even adored, and even he didn’t know why.

Honestly, though, I think our biggest mistake is in the assumption that we can use our brains to figure women out.  I don’t know much about anything, but I know enough to know that if you’re relying exclusively on your brain to understand a woman, you’ve already passed the last exit to Sanityville.  Unfortunately, aside from our brains, we have very few other things that we can think with.  And even more unfortunately, those other things are the very ones responsible for most of this trouble with women in the first place. 

No, understanding women, like understanding modern conservatives, is not a brain-based activity. 

I don’t mean that in a degrading way, at least not to women.  It’s just that reason doesn’t ultimately appear to carry the day with either group.  For conservatives it’s the notion that it’s okay to dictate what everyone else can and can’t do while reserving complete autonomy for themselves.  But for women it’s something else entirely.  Figure out the something else, and we’ll finally have our first real break in the case.

When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different.
George Santayana

I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The woman who is known only through a man is known wrong.
Henry Adams

It was a woman who drove me to drink and, you know, I never even thanked her.
W. C. Fields

The bottom line is this:  women confound us; they antagonize us; they unhinge us.  They reduce the best of us to babbling idiots.  Women turn us inside out and upside down, sometimes without even knowing it.  They frustrate, infuriate, incapacitate, discombobulate, humiliate.  Women are God’s constant reminder to men that we don’t know a damned thing about the only thing that really matters. 

And that’s why we need you.  If a man is ever going to learn anything about how to love, a woman will teach him.  Not because women have mastered love; oh no, far from it.  It is my secret suspicion that women are quite possibly just as messed up as men when it comes to love, although in ways I’m probably incapable of understanding.  It is your existence, your mad, confusing, heart-breakingly, mind-bendingly beautiful existence that matters, and how that existence proves that man needs more than what is contained in his own skin, muscle, bones, brain, and breath.  That a man cannot live entirely within himself.  That we are here to draw each other out.  That, together, if we can learn to love well, really do it right, we can find freedom from our own internal prisons, and gain intransitory happiness.   

Women lead us to love; once there, we can then begin to learn how to live in love. 

With all that as preface, I ask you yet again, and for the first time:

Woman, will you be my valentine?


  1. I understand that the conservative comments were just innocent victims of the greater message of this blog, but one could hardly exclude liberals from the list of those groups of people who are void of reason. Their definition of tolerance seems to suggest tolerance for every group of people except the ones that they themselves accuse of intolerance. Hey kettle.....

  2. Zakiv – It appears as though you may have missed the title of the post, which is ‘Valentine’s Foolishness,’ as well as the blog’s byline, which clearly and sternly informs all readers to expect a “stiff dose of nonsense.” I suppose that in taking a swipe, playful or otherwise, at modern conservatism, I might be overstepping the natural boundaries of nonsense and foolishness, at least as they are defined in these thin-skinned times. Be assured that if I have given offense to your nonsensibilities, I do apologize. Perhaps I had best leave the nonsense and foolishness to the professionals within our political parties. All that aside, I’m glad to know you’re there. I hope you’re enjoying the blog and I hope you’ll keep reading.

    1. Kevin,
      Great as usual. Although I do remember a time when the two of you were lovey-dovey & it's a great memory. Keep up the terrific writing!

    2. Anonymous - so sorry I missed your comment! This must be our Montgomery Wards (and fellow Glen Square resident) Becky! So glad you found the blog and are enjoying it. Thanks for the compliment about my writing! And by the way, after all these years Elizabeth and I are still lovey-dovey more often than not! Thanks for reading and hope to see you soon, when we have a few minutes to slow down and talk.