My heart skips a beating
Written by Will Conway on Monday the 7th of February 2011
Valentine's day eh?
Ask anyone what it means and it is likely that the most interesting response you'll get is that it's the day when you have to buy your girlfriend flowers which are suddenly more expensive even though you don't usually buy flowers so you don't really know how much they actually cost anyway.
Let's not pretend we're really celebrating the martyrdom of a possible priest in Roma who was decapitated for secretly marrying Catholics although it was against the law- as if anyone even cares where the celebration originates from. Whatever the story is, somehow it developed into the licence-to-print-money concept of the Valentine's card and the ever-increasing pressure on useless boyfriends to pull something special out of the bag.
This day which is supposedly keeping romance alive is, according to those I've asked, a chance to show your appreciation to your lover or a chance to secretly let someone know about the crush you have on them. That sounds fair enough but isn't romance supposed to be spontaneous?
'The very essence of romance is uncertainty' says Algie in the Importance of Being Ernest. What is so romantic about being forced to do something, especially when everyone else is trying to do it around you? In all honesty do girls really feel special being treated on February 14th?
We all know that love can make us do some stupid, embarrassing things even on a good day. In recent years scientists have been looking into the links between love and madness. The parts of the brain that respond to rewards and pleasure all light up and dopamine is released which can lead to impulsiveness and excitement. Also low levels of seratonin are usually found in both an obsessive compulsive and someone in love. You hang up. No you hang up...
So, in the spirit of impending Valentine's day I've collected the most screwed up love stories I can find, to show the crazy things that love will do to human beings. Cautionary tales if you will.
I start with Marcel Proust, the French writer who gave us some of the most insightful writings about time and memory. He made himself sick worrying about all sorts of things and spent most of his life in bed. One part of his celebrated novel In Search of Lost Time focuses on his relationship with his elusive girlfriend, tenderly entitled The Prisoner.
He is obsessed with his lover Albertine to the point of driving himself crazy. He becomes paranoid and is terrified that he can never know what is going on in her head - even when he watches her sleep he thinks she is dreaming of cheating on him. He imagines her having a lesbian affair with her little band of friends every time she goes out for a coffee. His jealousy eventually takes over, destroying the relationship and he realises that it is essential to good writing. So that's good news for anyone who tends to have their little doubts.
How about the story of a whole country changing religion just for a King's wedding? In 1534 Henry VIII created the Church of England because the Catholic church would not let him remarry. He decided that the King would be the head of the church rather than the Pope which made sense since he was the King.
In his Act of Supremacy, a sort of mid-life crisis, he destroyed monasteries across England and I suppose in a roundabout way led to the recent conflict in Northern Ireland. All this was just to try to get a son out of Anne Boleyn which he never got anyway, he ended up imprisoning and beheading the daughter she gave him. Maybe that story isn't a particularly romantic one.
We all know the story of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. From two warring families in an Italian town, they fall in love and secretly marry. A communication breakdown (the marriage wouldn't have lasted) leads to Romeo killing himself when he finds his bride apparently dead, drugged in an attempt to get out of a loveless arranged marriage to another. She wakes up to find him dead and so kills herself too.
I know it's supposed to be really romantic but we do tend to gloss over the fact that they both die. It's just like a mini suicide cult. Sounds nice, like Heaven's Gate or something.
I personally don't go mushy for this particular story of forbidden love, first I can't help but feel sorry for poor Paris (ironically named after the city of love) and second, no one ever mentions that Juliet is barely a teenager.
A similar whirlwind romance, this time in Gloucester, involved a teenage girl falling in love despite being discouraged by her family. Rosemary Letts fell for an older, married man despite him having already killed his pregnant teenage girlfriend. Fred West married Rosemary nearly 40 years ago and they spent the seventies torturing, raping and killing anyone from their children to schoolgirls to ex-wives. She also worked as a prostitute and even bore some of her clients' children. They were eventually arrested and sentenced. Fortunately Fred hung himself in prison but unfortunately they didn't have the same arrangement as the sweethearts from Verona, and Rosemary, who once shared a prison with Myra Hindley, may be released in 10 years.
In the 1930s United States Clyde Barrow went on a crime spree committing burglaries and killing lawmen as revenge against the Texan prison system for abuse he suffered while serving inside, all the while with his adoring wife by his side. Although Bonnie Parker reportedly never fired a gun she was 'a hell of a loader' according to accomplice W D Jones. Barrow, a drinker and a murderer, missed road signs and once crashed the car in a ravine giving his lovely wife third degree burns on her leg that never healed.
The day they both died out of state Texan Police gave no warning or asked for them to surrender before opening fire on their car in Louisiana, riddling the pair's bodies with over 50 bullets. Barrow died from a shot to the head while Parker's death was a little more long and painful. Examination of the bullet-ridden car showed they had even shot the fingers off her right hand.
When I was a child all the girls seemed to like the story of Cinderella. The tale of the servant girl who isn't allowed to go to the Prince's ball by her wicked step-sisters. Her fairy godmother (who hasn't set foot into her life thus far, I might add) kits her out with some organic transport and an outfit so she can dazzle the Prince. For no good reason that has ever been explained to me, the spell must wear off at midnight so she dashes off very cunningly leaving a slipper behind. Rather than remembering anything about the girl he has supposedly fallen in love with and instead of just asking for the person with the other one, the gambling Prince decrees that he'll marry the girl that the slipper fits. Luckily for Cinderella she is a rare shoe size 4.18 that she shares with nobody else in the land (ok I made that up) and it all ends up wonderful and they live happily ever after and hopefully she isn't a normal girl and doesn't ever ask him 'what if the slipper had fitted someone else?'
We've had a 'fairy tale romance' but there were some pretty weird ones from Classical mythology too that I believe are supposed to impart to us some complex truth about love. It's hard to know which fable to choose. I could choose the Stockholm Syndrome-like story of God's kidnap and psychological control over Adam and Eve which taught humans to fear their genitals. We all know the story of Oedipus so I won't mention that one but what about the unfortunate Phaedra, who suffered a similar fate when she fell in love with her step son Hippolytus. I've chosen, however, another one from the Greeks just for pure oddness (odyssey maybe?). Danae was the mother of Perseus, the slayer of snake-haired Medusa, although the story of how he was conceived was far from orthodox.
Acrisius, the king of Argos had a daughter so beautiful (Danae) that he locked her away to forever remain a virgin. One man flicked through the catalogue and wrote her number down with a tiny pen and she was brought out to him. No, that isn't how the story goes but the proper ending is just as silly. Zeus, randy father of the Gods wanted a piece of her and so turned into a Golden shower (I'm not even making this up) which she covered herself with and 'inadvertently' poured it between her legs which made her pregnant. Still, I suppose it's more erotic than the other one we know about a God impregnating a virgin.
The worst love story of all time, however, was this one; you may have heard it already. The one where the guy took his lady out on Valentine's day to the restaurant full of other sickly couples and had to buy a five pound rose off the weird little man that pestered them just in case he didn't get a blowjob later on (from her, not the weird man), they had a really uncomfortable time with a substandard meal they couldn't bring themselves to complain about, spending the evening talking quietly, either embarrassed or upstaged by the other diners and then, after a mini argument that neither wanted to get into because they didn't want to be that couple arguing on Valentine's day even though they'd have felt better if they had actually at least attempted to get their point across, they went home for some lukewarm intercourse.
Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!
(Originally written 29-01-09)
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Ersi Marina14/02/11 6:24pm
That was a refreshing read! Now suddenly my own sorrow-ridden (or so I thought) love affairs seem cheerful and healthy :) Happy V-Day!