Psych Soapbox Archives
-- Posted February 13, 2002 --

by Ron Sterling, M.D.

    It may be the flu season, but most of us are lovesick.

    Sorry, there is no immunization shot for it.

    And, maybe, no cure. Just ask the Bill Clinton's therapist. He does have a psychotherapist, right?

    We fear love because we don't understand it. No one has made it simple for us. Ken Starr, Monica, William Jefferson Clinton, Democrat Gary Condit, Dr. Laura, and Tom Leykis haven't helped us one bit.

    Unlike Christmas and Easter, Valentine's Day is all about imperfect love. Romantic love. Christmas is about God's love. Easter is about God's love. But, Valentine's Day is about human love. Love found, love lost, love built, love burned, love scraped together, love spurned, love restored, love ruined, saved by love, mortally wounded by love. The list of experiences with love is endless. V-Day drives people nuts. Even normal people. That's because most people have suffered from love lost.

    Blame Valentine's Day on the Romans, or Chaucer, or, maybe, blame it on European birds. Some people think the Romans invented the holiday, but later historians are convinced that the true originator was Geoffrey Chaucer. No link between Valentine's Day and lovers existed prior to Chaucer popularizing it. Hallmark, Inc., the world's largest maker of greeting cards, has Chaucer to thank.

    Around 1380, Chaucer wrote in his Parliament of Foules [Fools] "For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day, Whan every foul [fool] cometh ther to choose his mate." Valentine's Day soon became a popular tradition among fools. It had already been widely celebrated by birds in England and France who were astutely detected by Chaucer to start pairing off about half-way through the second month of the year. The birds just hadn't figured out a name for the event until Chaucer came along. In 1929, Al Capone celebrated the day by killing off a substantial number of his underworld competitors. Ah, love.

    I think we need to make Valentine's Day even more serious than it already is. We need a non-working day to celebrate, honor and get really earnest about romantic love. At least, it should be a day on which free relationship therapy clinics would be available throughout the nation. We need this more than we need to venerate a bunch of dead presidents on February 18.

    Is it that our interest in romantic love isn't serious enough to warrant a true holiday? Or, maybe, is it the fact that men still control which holidays become the non-working ones? Think about it. Just how many heterosexual guys (or Congressmen) do you know who could handle such sentimentality for a whole day?

      Nature is fighting nurture in my soul tonight.
      They've been duking it out since 1965.
      I'd like to be babied, but I'd rather get laid.
      I think I need a bottle of Love Potion 2002.

      I heard it's made somewhere in New Orleans.
      With lots of caring and a little spice.
      It's full of respect and it's low on vice.
      I got to find a bottle of Love Potion 2002.

      The animal in me makes me soon forget.
      Tenderness is what I need to give and get.
      Hormones confuse the meaning of that thing called love.
      Nurturing is the secret of Love Potion 2002.

      It's not like anything I've had before.
      It didn't make it easier for me to score.
      The chicks will have to adjust to it.
      The higher consciousness of Love Potion 2002.

      The Year 2002 is already here.
      Does sex still have us by the ear?
      Or will caring become a popular trend?
      We need a bunch of bottles of Love Potion 2002.

    Feel free to sing the above lyrics to the tune of Love Potion Number Nine, written and sung by The Searchers in 1964.

    The current conventional wisdom is "Women give sex to get love. Men give love to get sex." Guys generally know more about lust than love. Women expect them to. So, they live "down" to women's expectations. Then women get disappointed. It is a time-tested truth: "you get what you expect."

    Women generally know more about nurturing than do men. They have either grown a fetus, given birth to a child or they have contemplated it and all its meanings. It gives them an edge. Men, no matter how close they have been to the birthing process, are still handicapped. They haven't done it. So, it takes much more work for men to truly understand and exercise nurturing. Much more work. So much more work, frankly, that it is easier to just ignore it.

    Should we offer classes in nurturing? I think so. Many parents don't do a good job of teaching it because many parents haven't learned it themselves. To break up a legacy, you have to intervene. Poor nurturing skills won't go away on their own.

    When business leaders were asked 15 years ago about how much parental leave time a man should take, the answer from 63 percent of them was "none." We don't know for sure if those attitudes have changed, but the behavior of bosses everywhere has been transformed due to the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act which mandates parental leave for fathers as well as mothers.

    No one disputes what constitutes nurturing. Everyone disputes what constitutes love. "I love you" should mean "I will nurture you, care for you, be your haven from misuse, misunderstanding and abuse, your refuge from the insults of day-to-day life, your sanctuary."

    Want to get the Second Millennium moving towards a thoughtful evolution? Opt for tenderness the next time you get the chance. Romantic love and society will be better off for it. And, who knows, so might you.

    True love is quite simply this:  providing shelter from life's storms for someone other than yourself.

Seattle, Washington
Phone: 206-784-7842

Go to Main Page

Copyright 2000-2002. Ron Sterling, M.D.
All Rights Reserved.