Even centuries before Valentine had his first fit, February was a month for questionable fertility rites. In the beginning, Roman boys were greased and sent running naked through the streets with whips made from the hide of freshly slaughtered goats. Others, especially women, would gather to watch the spectacle, edging close to be struck -- a whipping was a certain sign of impending pregnancy and easy childbirth.
Then again, as Valentine's Day, ever juvenile, regresses all the way to nursery school, why shouldn't children's candy, sweet and chalky as medicine, be our placebo of choice? Even as they say so little, those candy hearts tell too much: Love is simply a first step to progeny, passion merely a trick of genetics, the whole of courtship an elaborate staging for the money shot. With those cards we buy our children to give their classmates -- even the fat kid, the ugly girl and the boy who wets his bed -- we start them early down the road toward insincerity, but when we give those candy hearts to each other, we wind up being too honest by half about the human condition.
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