Do you want to know something about this Valentine’s Day?

L. J. and Kat Martin_n

Do you want to know something about this Valentine’s Day?

By

L.J. Martin

(from a speech given a woman’s club)

Aw, Saint Valentine’s Day!

         Love may not make the world go round, but it certainly makes the ride more fun!

         There is no question that women are more romantic than men, at least than most men. There’s a chance, albeit only a slight one I’m sure, that a couple of you ladies might go home and spend the rest of the day awaiting the florist delivery truck only to be disappointed. So before he comes to your greeting him with “your so cheap you’d crawl under the gate to save the hinges,” or you suggest “why don’t you go around the block three times and come back twice”. . .anyway, It’s for you, I’m going to take a quick second and touch on the history of this day of love.

         The name Saint Valentine was actually associated with two legendary Christian martyrs whose feasts were observed on February 14th. The association of Saint Valentine’s day with love and courtship arose from the coincidence of the date with the Roman festival of Lupercalia.

         The festival was celebrated in honor of Faunus, the god of flocks and fertility. After sacrificing goats and a dog an a hill called Palatine, young men called Luperci raced around the borders of the hill striking those they met with whips made of goatskins. Women who were struck were ensured of fertility and the easy delivery of children.

         The festival survived until the 5th century A.D., and being as how the men seem to still rule the Roman Catholic church, was only dropped from the church calendar in. . . 1969.

         So ladies, even if there are no roses, you probably won’t have to bare your back to an old goat skin whip. . .unless of course you’re into that sort of thing. Some of you, in this enlightened day, may prefer to whip the old goat.

         Whatever is your idea of a perfect Valentine’s day, I wish it for you.

         Since all of you beautiful women looking at me makes me as nervous as the old maid squatting in the asparagus patch, I’m going to cheat a little by reading you a couple of things that should make you happy to be here, in this beautiful setting I mean, and particularly here, in time–even if your lover does forget the roses.

         This is a bit of advice given a granddaughter by her mid-1800’s circa grandmother:

                  Build a fire in the back yard to heat a kettle of water,

                  Set tubs so smoke won’t blow in your eyes, Shave one whole cake of lye soap in boiling water,

                  Sort things in three piles–1 pile white, 1 colored, and one work britches and rags.

                  Stir flour in cold water to smooth, then thin down with boiling water to make starch.

                  Rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard then boil. Rub coloreds but don’t boil, just rinse and starch.

                  Take whites out of kettle with broom handle, then rinse and starch, Spread tea towels on grass,

                  Hang old rags on fence, Pour rinse water in flower beds,

                  Scrub porch with hot soapy water, Turn tubs upside down,

                  Go put on a clean dress, smooth hair, brew a cup of tea, set and rest and count your blessings.

         That’s for you ladies who have what I truly do consider the toughest of all jobs–keeping a happy home.

I say that with great empathy now that Kat is so busy that many of those chores are mine.

         But I’ve also got a piece of history for you ladies who report with a briefcase elsewhere in the early morning hours.

                This one’s out of a 1915 circa Sacramento schoolhouse:

                  You will not marry during the term of your contract,

                  You are not to keep company with men,

                  You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function.

                  You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.

                  You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have permission of the chairman of the board.

                  You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.

                  You may not smoke cigarettes.

                  You may not dress in bright colors.

                  You may under no circumstances dye your hair.

                  You must wear at least two petticoats.

                  Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.

                  To keep the schoolroom neat and clean, you must: sweep the floor at least once daily, scrub the floor at least once a week with                                           hot, soapy water, clean the blackboards at least once a day, and start the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm by 8.                                Aren’t you glad, as women, that those times are history. I’m glad for you and for me, for it gives me more time to appreciate my own romance.

         One of the things that makes a good writer, I believe, is empathy, to put it in western terms, the ability to walk a mile in another’s moccasins.

         I appreciate women, sometimes to intently, to listen to Kat. . . .but then again, she appreciates men, and neither of us would have it any other way. The development of a good appetite is a healthy thing, so long as you eat at home.

         A woman, of course, can always write from a woman’s point of view better than any man, so I’m going to take another liberty and read you something, and remember, this is a woman’s writing. But like men who write, some of both genders have something to say to the other–and this lovely lady speaks to both:

                           Do you know you have asked for the costliest thing

                                    Ever made by the Hand above–

                           A woman’s heart and a woman’s life,

                                    And a woman’s wonderful love?

                           Do you know you have asked for this priceless thing

                                    As a child might ask for a toy?

                           Demanding what others have died to win,

                                    With the reckless dash of a boy?

                           You have written my lesson of duty out,

                                    Man-like you have questioned me–

                           Now stand at the bar of my woman’s soul,

                                    Until I shall question thee.

                           You require your mutton shall always be hot,

                                    Your socks and your shirts shall be whole;

                           I require your heart to be true as God’s stars,

                                    And pure as heaven your soul.

                           You require a cook for your mutton and beef;

                                    I require a far better thing;

                           A seamstress you’re wanting for stockings and shirts–

                                    I look for a man and a king.

                           A king for a beautiful realm called home,

                                    And a man that the master, God,

                           Shall look upon as he did the first,

                                    And say, “It is very good.”

                           I am fair and young, but the rose will fade

                                    From my soft, young cheek one day–

                           Will you love me then, ‘mid the falling leaves

                                    As you did ‘mid the bloom of May?

                           Is your heart an ocean so strong and deep

                                    I may launch my all on its tide?

                           A loving woman finds heaven or hell

                                    On the day she becomes a bride.

                           I require all things that are grand and true,

                                    All things that a man should be;

                           If you give this all, I would stake my life

                                    To be all you demand of me.

                           If you cannot do this–a laundress and cook

                                    You can hire, with little to pay;

                           But a woman’s heart and a woman’s life

                                    Are not to be won that way.

                                             Thank, you, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

         Aw, the difference between men and women is a wondrous thing. Being a man, I could not read a woman’s poetry without giving men equal time. A being a romantic, I must read you one of my favorites from my favorite poet, Robert Service. Not only a fine poet, but a fine poet while remaining a man’s man. To appreciate this you must know that a “sourdough” is an experienced man of the Yukon, and a sluice is the trough they used to separate the gold from it’s host sand and earth. So. . . .

                           To be bony feed Sourdough

                           You must, by Yukon Law

                           Have killed a moose,

                           And robbed a sluice,

                           And bunked up with a squaw. . . .

                           Alas! Sourdough I’ll never be,

                           Oh, sad is my excuse:

                           My shooting’s so damn bad, you see. . .

                           I’ve never killed a moose.

         Fortunately, for my own beautiful wife who not only is an advocate of romance, but makes her living from it, I’m a true romantic. . . .as you can obviously see by that poem.   Yes, she makes her living from romance. But before some of you get the wrong idea about exactly how she makes her living, let me tell you what it is she does. In fact, hers is the world’s oldest profession. How did she get started, you ask? Well

. . .first it’s done for love, then for a few friends, and only then you do it for money.

         No, no, I know what you’re thinking.   Your wrong.

         Kat’s a storyteller.

         I don’t know if you know what a genre is in writing, so I’ll explain. Novels are divided into genres. Westerns, like I write, are a genre, as are Science Fictions, Horror, Mysteries, of late Techno Thrillers, etc., etc. But to illustrate the power of romance, there’s a statistic you should hear. Of all the mass market paperback novels sold in the United States, woman’s romance represents 49%.

         It’s a big industry here, but Kat’s novels are not only sold here but in China, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Spain, South Africa, and the list keeps growing every day. My Westerns, on the other hand, are sold in Texas, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, and of course, Lamont and Arvin.

         Now you know why I do the cooking around our house.

         So I’m jealous, but that’s okay, because I don’t think I ever been as jealous of her as she was of me, when among several hundred milling, heavy breathing women at an ABA, that’s the annual American Booksellers Association show which takes up 7 football fields–all books, . . .anyway, among this throng of twenty five thousand people, we were suddenly surrounded by hundreds of women. We looked up to see the attraction, and behold, Fabio. As we passed, his eyes locked with Kat’s, and he shouted out, “Hi, Larry.” In her eyes, that’s still my crowning achievement and the apex of my writing career.

         But let me tell you ladies, if you want to get right about romance, then don’t be afraid to pick up one of her books and read awhile before you switch off the light–you may get enthused, and to your surprise enthuse that reverberating lump snoring next to you–and you must trust me when I tell you that somewhere in there is a Prince Charming. Reach out, and you might just find that next St. Valentine’s day, you not only get the roses but the candy, the roast duck la Orange, the Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, and far more important than all of those and the babbles and bangles, you might get the right attitude on his part.

         To those of you who haven’t done so for a while, give him another chance to smell the perfume, and see you standing in the bedroom door in silk and lace with the light at your back, and deep lust in your simmering eyes, before you give up on him and resign him to having to tell his buddies, “I didn’t mind the crackers in bed, it’s when I came home and found the crumb in the closet. . . .”

         At the risk of being redundant, remember, ladies, love may not be what, in fact, makes the world go round. But it is definitely what makes the ride worthwhile.

         Well, anyone who thinks by the inch and talks by the yard ought to be moved by the foot.

         Before that happens, I’ll only add,

                           If you want to be seen, stand up.

                           If you want to be heard, speak up.

                           If you want to be appreciated, shut up.

So I will.

         But not before I sincerely hope that you go home to find a man waiting who loves you at least half as much as I love Kat, and will, when the bloom of May has long faded. She’ll always be Spring to me.

         Be well.

J. Martin is the author of over three dozen mysteries, thrillers, crime and western novels. His wife, his Valentine, Kat Martin, is a bestselling romantic suspense novelist. They live in Montana and winter in California. See: www.ljmartin.com

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