Valentines Day is here again, and once more the do-gooders will be issuing warnings (and even condoms?) to love-sick swains. However, I don’t think us chaps should take the full burden of blame in the horizontal folk dancing stakes. After all, it does take two to tango.
Valentine’s Day has an interesting history, being derived from both ancient Christian and Roman traditions. One legend attributes the holiday to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalis/Lupercalia, a fertility celebration observed annually on February 15 (in the pre-condom era). But the rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day but set its observance a day earlier, on February 14 (the young people couldn’t wait till the 15th?). He proclaimed that day to be the feast day in honor of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century.
So where does Silly Phyllis come in? Well, Silly Phyllis has been around for about as long as St. Valentine’s Day has been celebrated and is an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease). It has been indicted in the demise of Charles VIII of France, Hernando Cortez of Spain, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Ivan the Terrible. Guy de Maupassant and possibly Friedrich Nietzsche are thought to have been driven insane and ultimately killed by the disease. Al Capone contracted syphilis as a young man. By the time he made Alcatraz his postal address, it reached the third stage, “neurosyphilis”, leaving him confused and disoriented. Syphilis led to the death of artist Edouard Manet and artist Paul Gauguin was also said to have suffered from syphilis. Composers who succumbed to syphilis included Hugo Wolf, Frederick Delius, Scott Joplin, Gaetano Donizetti, and possibly Franz Schubert and Niccolò Paganini.
So rather than join that list of famous persons, I would suggest that you keep a packet of condoms handy on Valentine’s Day (and any other day if you are at risk). Not inviting Silly Phyllis into your life is a clever decision.
(If you think you read this somewhere before, you are correct. I wrote this in 2012, but it holds good just as much!)