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Vinegar Valentine

Perhaps uncharacteristically, I am a big fan of Valentine’s Day.

IT’S MAYBE MY FAVOURITE HOLIDAY.

galentines-day

Of course, I’m sitting here at work wearing red lipstick and multiple shades of pink and every British person I smile and wish a happy Valentine’s Day to glowers at me, rolls their eyes, and grunts in repulsion.

Hatred of Valentine’s Day really annoys and bores me.

I just typed a tirade about people who hate Valentine’s Day (wahhhh couples, wahhhh commercialism, waaaaaaaahhh I show my love every day not just one day a year, waaaahhh sexist expectation), but I have deleted it because I’m not here to yell at you (I guess). I’m here to change your mind!

To summarise my feelings, long before Leslie Knope coined ‘Galentine’s Day’, I embraced an idea that Valentine’s Day is about the celebration all love–not just romantic–and who the hell could have a problem with that?! Of course we should love each other all year ’round blah blah, but why not take a day to be happy and celebrate the concept of love in a general sense?

cat-valentine
You can even celebrate your love for you cat!

I mean, if I had my way, every day would be filled with lace and floral patterns and hearts and beauty and intricate Victoriana. Plus, it’s the ultimate crafty holiday and I love doilies and construction paper and making things! Sadly, due to this awful thing I do five days a week called ‘going to work’ I don’t have time to make another Victorian theatre for you whilst drinking wine and watching Lifetime original movies with punny titles. Tragic, I know.

But instead of going on and on about why I love Valentine’s Day or making something out of paper for Edward to eat, I’m going to share some things with you that prove this is a holiday for everyone, haters like YOU included. 

First, I will tell you the saddest Valentine’s Day story I know, as recounted to me year after year by my mother (it obviously had no lingering psychological effect on her).

So. It was Valentine’s Day in the 1950s and my mom was maybe 10 years old. Knee socks, Mary Janes, a head of curly hair. All innocence and sweetness as we know her today and as her daughter grew up to be (that’s me) (we aren’t really those things).

elizabeth-taylor-lassie
My mother pictured here with her dog Lassie. Just kidding, this is Elizabeth Taylor you dummy.

As is (or was) traditional, my mom’s Elementary School class exchanged valentines.

Now, on this particular Valentine’s Day, my mom was nursing a crush. Yes, she was crushing pretty hard on a little boy in her class named (this is not a fake name chosen to protect the innocent, this is his actual real-life name and he’s probably on Facebook but hopefully he’ll never read this) Frosty North. I’m not kidding, Frosty North was this guy’s name and my mom had a crush on him.

[Side note: As a child I naturally pictured Frosty North looking like this snow monster guy from the Rudolf movie.

rudolf-snow-monster

Of course, as an adult I can assume that my mom had better taste than to crush on the snow monster guy from the Rudolph movie.]

So anyway, to recap, my mom was crushing hard on this kid named Frosty North who (we think) did not (contrary to popular belief) resemble the snow monster guy from the Rudolf movie. And to continue, on Valentine’s Day, valentines were distributed in my mom and Frosty’s classroom.

Guess who received the largest, most expensive looking, store-bought envelope in her pile? And guess who this enviable missive was from? That’s right, it was my mom who clutched a big beautiful red envelope in her hot little hand and it was Frosty North who was responsible for the valentine’s appearance on her desk.

Ooooowwweeee were the other girls jealous! They quickly gathered in a semi-circle around my mom and breathlessly begged her to open her valentine. And boy did my mom feel special, let me tell you.

Smug and justified, my mother slipped the card out of the envelope, cleared her throat, batted her eyelashes, and with a tremulous voice read the words:

I would climb the highest mountain,

I would swim the ocean blue,

I’d do anything in the world

[opens card]

To get away from you!

What the hell is wrong with you, Frosty.

snow-monster-laughing

Yeah, real funny. You’re hilarious. LAUGH IT UP, FROSTY.


To backtrack a few years for historical context…

punchs-valentines-day

The introduction of the Penny Post in 1840 caused a massive increase in valentine sending, and there were a wide range of love missives available to Victorians for print and purchase. Many were made of beautiful lace paper and featured symbolic flowers and cupids and kittens and church steeples (fidelity!).

Aren’t these nice? Aren’t they pretty? Classy!

You don’t think so? You still hate Valentine’s Day and love and people? Never fear — there’s something for you too!

I’m sorry to say that there was another kind of valentine out there wreaking havoc on the streets of London. A century later, it turns out that my poor mother was the recipient of what was known by Victorians as a ‘vinegar valentine’. Vinegar valentine is basically just another way to say ‘I’m-a-jerk-valentine’ and they were really popular in the 19th century. They were cheaply printed on thin crummy paper and featured ghoulish illustrations accompanied by horrendously cruel poems that deeply mocked the recipient. They were usually sent anonymously.

For example, check out this incredibly nasty card:

puss-valentine

Jeez louise! I mean…. I feel like this is just excessively brutal. It’s too mean even for Frosty North!

But never fear, Victorian men felt their share of rejection with several variations of the ever popular ‘snake in the grass’ valentine (because being ridiculed for being lubricious* is totallllllly equal to being told you’re not funny, smart, or physically attractive and no one will want you ever and you will die a virgin):

 

Ouch!

These vinegar valentines were not solely exchanged between members of the opposite sex. A whole range of cards mocking various professions were popularly traded between the menfolk and you can bet that women didn’t turn down the opportunity to shame rival ladies by sending them insulting post.

Now, aren’t you glad you haven’t received one these this year?!?! Aren’t you grateful?! Is there really anything to complain about this Valentine’s Day??? Things could be a lot worse, couldn’t they?!

Gah!

So my thesis has deteriorated a little bit, but my general conclusion is: tell your friends and family that you love them! Why not? My favourite valentines growing up were from my mom and sister. I think we should all try and spread the love whenever we can. You Valentine’s-Day-ruining assholes.

Anyway, I suppose I better get back to celebrating this holiday that everyone hates by myself at my desk. But it’s okay…. in my head I’m actually safely ensconced in a Wardian case and all the haters are on the outside and it’s warm in here and I’m surrounded by green moss and luscious foliage and I can quietly write in my Morocco leather journal and admire the non-vinegar valentines that I sent to myself in the palm of my kid glove.

wardian-case

Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤

xWG // #dazeandweekes


*I know I’ve droned on, so just a quick Weekes Word here snatched from within the post.

Lubricious: late 16th century from the Latin ‘lubricus’ meaning lecherous, salacious, smooth, slippery quality. Ex: Know of a lubricious gent trying to have it on with one of your gal pals? This Valentine’s Day, be sure to send her a ‘snake in the grass’ valentine so she’ll be duly warned!

6 thoughts on “Vinegar Valentine Leave a comment

  1. What a wonderfully written, hilarious tribute to Valentine’s Day!

    That name, Frosty North—what parents in their right minds would do that to a kid? Yikes! Well, at least that kid was guaranteed to to suffer at least once in his life because of that name… karma is not kind to those who tromp all over the heart of a trusting little girl.

    Liked by 1 person

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