Cupid's Arrow

Negligence in relationships occurs in two dominant varieties. Most of the time, two people discuss the situation and rectify it in some fashion. Sometimes, however, one party consistantly denies the existence of a problem yet embraces every possible chance to remind the other of his transgression. This is the fate of a man who forgets St. Valentine’s Day.

First, I start with an explanation of this curious holiday. The celebration of St. Valentine’s Day dates back to Lupercalia, an ancient pagan celebration honoring the goddess of fertility. During this celebration, men and women would draw names out of a box, court each other during the festival, and often ultimately wed. As a modern day comparison, just think of the recent HBS Section Love phenomenon. For many, the Lupercalia celebration continued until 270 A.D. when Claudius II, the war-loving emperor of Rome, prohibited marriage for young men, arguing that bachelors made better soldiers. Believing in the sanctity of marriage, a Roman priest named Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies until he was apprehended and killed. 220 years later, Pope Gelasis I declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day in honor of Valentine.

This is how it all got started. Later, roses, greeting cards, chocolates, jewelry, and heart-shaped items on every street corner; difficult restaurant reservations; lack of baby sitters; and booked-up singing telegram services. And, it all started with Lupercalia.

For me, February 14th, 2004 was a terrific Saturday in New York City. There was no blizzard…there were plenty of drinks…we had an excellent crew meandering through the East Village for most of the day and night. It more or less resembled an HBS-style pub crawl with slightly less romance and gossip, but similar just the same. What I did not do that day was call my sister to wish her a Happy Valentine’s Day. The good news is that she was not upset, as I have been continually reminded all year.

So, you have a week. Whether you will be practicing your case interview techniques, dancing all night at Carnival, or sipping beers beachside, remember one thing: do something for your mother, sister, and girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. If you are a minimalist, you can emulate Steve Earl who sang a Valentine’s Day theme to his ex-wife: “I ain’t got a card to sign, roses have been hard to find, I only hope that you’ll be mine, On Valentine’s Day.” While this strategy (and most strategies for that matter) will probably not be enough to satisfy expectations, they may keep you in the discuss/rectify side of the two by two I have outlined above. From my experience, this is a better place to be.