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Now, I know what you’re thinking. Always raining on every holiday that comes by (like how Christmas has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus). If it makes you feel any better, I think it’s reductionist to say Valentine’s Day is meaningless because of its history. I simply think it’s important to know more rather than less.
So, we come to Valentine’s Day – a day of roses, chocolates, flings and confessions. Was this always the tradition? Certainly not. Like many holidays, this one has its roots in Christianity. It was originally a Christian feast to celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Valentine. Unfortunately, the true story behind this holiday is a bit uncertain because there a few Saint Valentines recorded by the Church, all of whom could have been the subject of the original celebration.
As things go, this is the most popular and widely accepted story:
Roman emperor Claudius II had imposed a ban on marriage due to the concept that unmarried men made better soldiers. During this edict, a Christian priest named Valentine married couples in secret within the Christian church, thereby converting them to Christianity. He was sentenced to death upon being caught and was executed on the 14th of February.
A bit darker than the bubbles, rainbows and unicorns you’d expect of such a holiday, right? Most people recount this version of the Valentine’s story but there are two more.
A Christian priest, also by the name of Valentine but a different person to the first story, was jailed for helping Christians (which was a crime in his time and place). He fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and miraculously cured her eyesight. During his imprisonment, he sent her love letters signed “From your Valentine”. Eventually, he converted her father to Christianity (it helps that he magically cured her eyesight), and was later beheaded.
By now you’re probably noticing a huge religious influence behind these stories. The main theme is pretty much the conversion of faith, which is understandable. Many holidays were about that (again, refer to Christmas) and it makes sense for any organisation to require a method by which to spread its influence and popularity. On to the last story.
This one is a bit lacklustre compared to the others. The third Valentinus was a Gnostic teacher in Rome. He rejected the idea of celibacy and argued that marital love was central to Christianity. Gnosticism was later declared a heresy.
I can’t help but think maybe the last Valentine was just horny. I wouldn’t put it past a horny guy to go through a very indirect route to get what he wants. Forgive me for tarnishing his name but it makes me chuckle.
So those are the original stories of Valentine’s Day. Keep in mind, if they appear to be completely unrelated to the modern day equivalent, it’s probably because they are. The holiday itself was not established until almost 200 years after his death (270 CE) when Pope Gelasius the first wanted a holiday to replace the Pagan festivals to the god Lupercus. By establishing a feast for Saint Valentine in 469 CE, Pope Gelasius succeeded in converting many Pagans to Christianity by replacing their old celebrations of love and fertility. Again, the parallels to Christmas are remarkably strong.
In terms of symbols, hearts and chocolate fall very short. Traditionally, Valentine is represented by birds, bearing a sword, restoring sight to a blind girl and being beheaded.
So here we are at the contemporary Valentine’s Day, fussing over all manner of commercial goods. The profit margin for roses triples for a single day and the world’s insulin levels spike dangerously high as we indulge in chocolate. Many frown on this holiday because of that very same commercial aspect to it. Others say it is no special day because they love their partner every day of the year. I agree with both.
However, that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be defiant of the holiday. You are “free” every day of the year but you can still celebrate an Independence Day. The holiday itself is only symbolic – it doesn’t mean “I only love you today because today is about love”. In the same way that Dawkins celebrates Christmas, there is nothing wrong with knowing the roots of this holiday being founded in Christian conversion and still celebrating it for what it is today. Symbols only have whatever meaning we give to them.
To the lonely, I say enjoy tomorrow’s cheap candy prices. Remember, you can only know love if you’ve known what it is like to be alone. When you find somebody, your love will be all the sweeter.
To those who are spending their day with their partners, yes, it is ridiculously commercialised, labelled and expensive, but there’s nothing wrong with joining in the spirit.
To those who have someone but are unable to see them today, just remember, you have another 364 days to try. Valentine’s Day is only a symbol, and a symbol only has whatever meaning you give to it. Make another day special and give it the same meaning. It can be your own, private Valentine’s.
I love the end of this paragraph:
I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.
It must be hard to be a realist but love her so much. His logical mind would refuse to believe in an afterlife or any way to connect with her but his emotional mind would have been weeping.
Do I have anything to say about this? Well, you can take from it what you will. I’ll let the letter speak for itself.
Chocolate is one of those clichés we often see in movies as the go-to food for heartbroken women, but how much truth is behind this response? A lot more than one might think.
Chocolate is a psychoactive/psychotropic food containing more than 500 natural chemical compounds, many of which are categorised as mood and pleasure increasing. A psychoactive compound is one that crosses the blood-brain barrier and acts on the central nervous system where it affects brain function. There are a variety of chemical substances in chocolate. Essentially, the ingestion of chocolate replicates good feelings that can imitate those of happiness and even falling in love. Interestingly, over 52% of women in the UK stated that they preferred chocolate over sex.
This chemical is released by the brain when falling in love, and is probably the biggest contributor to chocolate making us feel good. It releases dopamine (the happy chemical) and endorphins into our pleasure centres and peaks during orgasm. It helps mediate feelings of attraction, excitement and euphoria.
This is an essential amino acid that enhances serotonin function which helps diminish anxiety.
A lot of people should be familiar with this chemical – it makes you feel good and warm. Endorphins reduce sensitivity to pain and are the body’s endogenous opiates.
This chemical is an endogenous cannabinoid found in the brain. This can have a small effect of promoting a feeling of well-being. The presence of N-oleolethanolamine and N-linoleoylethanolamine also inhibit the metabolism of anandamide, prolonging the feeling.
Theobromine and caffeine:
We all know the effects of caffeine – it stimulates the central nervous system, increases blood flow to the brain, and increases serotonin production. All that basically amounts to increased alertness. It’s worth noting that there is only a very small amount of caffeine in chocolate though – much less than what you’d get from other sources (coffee, etc.).
Theobromine is a chemical cousin to caffeine and is found in greater concentrations in darker chocolate. Theobromine has similar effects to caffeine, to a much smaller degree, but is also a cardiac stimulant. It has been shown to reduce coughing and is also thought to pay a role in regulating moods.
Binge eating chocolate can be explained by the above effects. Psychologically, people attribute a cause and effect relationship between chocolate and feelings of anguish, in which chocolate appears to make the consumer feel better. This is not a placebo effect (as demonstrated by the chemicals above), and thus makes the subconscious association stronger – resulting in cravings when things are going bad. However, it’s common knowledge that binge eating chocolate will lead to obesity, causing self-esteem and image problems, as well as inhibited production of certain chemicals such as dopamine, and basically ending up in feeling worse for a lot longer, so let’s take a look at the health issues of chocolate.
Surprisingly, chocolate is good for your health. The distinction we have to make here is the type of chocolate you’re eating. Dark chocolate is good for you. It can lower blood pressure and improve blood circulation, preventing the formation of blood clots and arteriosclerosis. We also know from above that chocolate contains phenylethylamine, releasing endorphins and dopamine. It also helps control blood sugar by reducing insulin resistance and is full of antioxidants, as well as vitamins and minerals (potassium, copper, magnesium and iron).
Modern day chocolate dates back to the addition of triglyceride cocoa butter by Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in 1879. Since then, chocolate has been made sweeter and sweeter so that the concentration of cocoa is more and more diluted. It’s this chocolate that’s bad for you – the one that’s basically just sugar and cream. White chocolate, specifically, has no cocoa solids in it at all. Milk chocolate (obviously) has milk (or condensed milk) in it and a lower cocoa percentage.
Given the health benefits, I would advise adding darker chocolates to your diet in moderate amounts. Personally, around 60% cocoa and I can still enjoy the sweetness of chocolate. Any higher and it’s too bitter for me. I’ve stayed away from white chocolate for a long time now but I eat a lot of dark and milk chocolate, even during cutting when I’m trying to lose weight. I haven’t personally found any fat gain problems with eating a whole block after training, but obviously, chocolate is a calorie rich food so if you’re not active, you should eat less but not avoid it completely.
Etymology of cocoa:
While I’m on the topic, I’d like to point out that although I’ve used the word “cocoa”, it’s believed that this English word was a result of English traders misspelling the original word “cacao”, taken from the Olmec civilisation.
The internet is experiencing an ever-growing phenomenon of lonely people complaining about their inability to attract the opposite sex, a movement that is championed by the “forever alone” meme. The vast majority of these are males, so I’m here to clear up a few things that may be confusing guys.
1. “I want a girl to love me for who I am”.
This is often used by guys who refuse to change parts of themselves, whether psychologically or physically. It’s also an excuse for making no effort. The entire concept of “loving you for who you are” is rubbish because no matter what you do, you are still you. Using this excuse to salve your conscience about being in poor physical shape and being a mental wreck is not going to make you attractive. The ability to change is also part of you – and if you are unwilling to improve yourself (by changing) you send a very poor message to the opposite sex.
A man that is willing to endure the physical hardship required to improve his physical image demonstrates that he is willing to make an effort to look presentable, has the knowledge and mental fortitude to suffer through training, and as an added bonus, appeals to the latent female instinct for being attracted to an alpha male, protector and provider. Maybe some of you are complaining how superficial and unfair this is. Get over it. Life is superficial and unfair, and if you just want to sit back and complain, life will leave you behind. You either play by the rules or lose the game. Maybe this will help guys understand – imagine if girls made no effort to look good. Old sweats, no makeup, no skin care products, blotchy faces, lumpy bodies and hair growing out the wazoo. Not very attractive any more, huh?
There’s also the psychological aspect, including habits and outlook in life. A man willing to change his bad habits is one that demonstrates a drive to constantly improve himself – something everyone finds attractive. A man working towards a good career demonstrates his ability to work hard to be a provider, and to prove to himself that he can be successful. What woman wants a guy who has no future? Who is unwilling to improve himself? So the next time you refuse to do something because you want a girl to “love you for who you are” think to yourself, what are you exactly? A stubborn little boy who refuses to grow.
2. “There was no chemistry”
This is actually one that girls use more, typically to tell a guy why they don’t like the guy. The guy, being a gullible, innocent little boy, believes her and thinks “there’s nothing I can do, there just wasn’t any chemistry”. Wrong. Chemistry is a lie (not the science behind it, just the way the word is used when dealing with attraction). I’m going to focus more on initial chemistry (so mainly, the first date). A girl’s idea of chemistry is perfection; they want to feel an unexplainable connection. But what is that connection exactly? Well, most girls don’t know but if you prod them enough, they might give physical examples. The guy looks at her the right way, talks to her the right way, says the right things, touches her at the right time and is confident, teasing and naughty to the right degree.
But wait! Those are all things the guy can do. You know what that means? You make your own chemistry. Chemistry can happen by chance, but why lose countless girls waiting for that chance to happen? Do those things and be that guy.
3. “Just be yourself”
This is another piece of advice that typically originates from girls. It’s almost useless. As mentioned above, you are always yourself. Even if you talk yourself up, you’re still you – you’re just showing the side of you that can sell yourself. If you overcompensate for your weaknesses, you’re just being the you that is protective of his own insecurities. No matter what, you’re always you. The point of this advice is to be confident – which is one (of many) attractive trait. Being confident is good but it’s not enough. This advice would be more accurate if it was reworded to “just be the best you can be”. Show the sides of you that are more attractive. Everybody is capable of being confident and fun to be with (usually dependent on your external environment and internal mood); just make it happen. Easier said than done, I know, but in the end you’re the only one who can change you.
4. “Be really nice/Be a jerk”
This one has many faces to it. Girls will tell you to be nice, but by now you should know that girls don’t give good advice regarding this topic. Some guys take it the opposite way and act like jerks. I definitely hear a lot of guys complaining that girls always go for jerks. Well guess what, at least being a jerk conveys self-worth and confidence. It’s better than what a lot of guys do – enslave themselves. There’s a difference between being nice and being subservient. I had a huge rant on this in my post “Why You’re to Blame for the Friendzone”. There are heaps of pictures of guys grovelling in an attempt to be nice – there are guys letting girls sit on them like chairs, holding all their stuff and doing their mundane tasks for them. That’s not being nice, that’s being a slave. Guess what? Slaves aren’t attractive, especially not to women. It demonstrates a huge weakness in your self-worth and confidence when you’ll lower yourself to such a pathetic level. By this stage, the girl has already lost all interest in you as a partner because you haven’t demonstrated any male characteristics worthy of being attractive (or if you have, you’ve undermined it by being a pathetic slave). How do you tread the line between being a jerk and being a slave? Well, a friend of mine put it this way: “don’t do anything for a girl that you wouldn’t do for a friend”. You are the most comfortable and natural when with your friends, and most of the time, that’s when you’re also the most attractive and balanced as a person. No special treatment (until you’re already in a relationship).
5. “I don’t care about looks or money – I just want a guy who is …”
Another thing girls say that is a lie. Now, this might offend some girls but I’m going to be brutally honest about it. Everybody cares about looks. Guys are just open enough to admit it (though males are becoming more feminine these days so there are guys who will claim otherwise). You’ve probably all heard that girls don’t know what they want. Well this actually applies to most people. Nobody knows what they want until it appears in front of them. And I can back this up with science.
“People will readily tell you what they value in a romantic partner,” said Eli Finkel, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern and co-author of the study. “But study after study shows that those preferences don’t predict whom daters are actually attracted to when they meet flesh-and-blood partners.”
There’s a whole article here entitled “You Say You Don’t Care About Dating a Hottie?” (article from my friend Nav; thanks!): http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-01-dont-dating-hottie.html
Looks will always be important because by definition, someone you find good looking will trigger chemical reactions in your body making you like that look (dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin, etc.), so looking at something good looking will naturally make you happier and lustier (lust being an important first step in the love cycle). There’s also the primal instinct of people to want the best genetic pool for their children, meaning height, symmetry and other physically attractive traits are premium goods in the attraction market.
As for money? Well, who doesn’t like nice things? Money may be more or less important to a woman (or man) depending on the individual (most women love it), but it will always play a part in the selection process. Think about it. Two identical guys, except one is broke and the other is a millionaire. Who do you pick? Exactly.
Money represents the ability to give women things that they want that can make them happy. It also tickles the fancy of that primal urge to find a provider as a husband. I’m not saying flaunt your wealth – that’s an arrogant dickmove – but you should have a foundation of confidence based on the successes you’ve achieved in your life, and monetary wealth is one of them. In fact, women can smell money from a mile away so really, you don’t have to flaunt your wealth. You’re probably better off trying to hide it. Just don’t give the impression you’re a bum.
So, hopefully that clears up some of the confusion out there for guys. In the end, the crux of the matter is that you’re the only one that can make you more attractive, so moping around isn’t going to solve your problems. In fact, since negativity is an unattractive trait, by complaining instead of doing something about it, you’re actually making yourself more unattractive – thus adding to your problem. Even if you think you don’t show that side of yourself, this kind of negativity is undermining; it seeps into your personality and into everything you do.
Be attractive by making yourself attractive. Nobody is going to do it for you.