With apologies to those born in the month, a rant:
I can be a pretty cynical person, so to compensate, I make an effort to be positive, particularly about those things that I can’t control. In this spirit, let me phrase this carefully: I love all the months of the rolling year, but among them, I love February the least.
February has been a bad month for me my whole life. As a small child, it was the month (in the part of the world in which I lived at the time) that the quality of snow began to degrade. Relentless warming and thawing began to destroy the winter wonderland I enjoyed so much. Sledding suffered, snowmen and igloos collapsed, the giant icicles on the roofline came crashing down. The warmth and light of spring and summer were still far distant, unreachable across a long, slush-filled field.
Then there’s the pronunciation of the month. I still remember the shock I experienced when my kindergarten teacher informed me that the month is pronounced “Feb-ROO-wary,” not “Feb-YOU-ary.” I thought she must be from some other country! She caught me early, and I made the switch, but every time I pronounce the name, there’s a microsecond of hesitation. I notice a lot of my fellow Americans don’t bother to pronounce it correctly. Maybe it’s just not worth it?
Finally, there’s the holiday that popularly defines the month, Valentine’s Day. In and of itself, this holiday isn’t much to get excited about, but coming so soon after Christmas, it seems even more second-rate than it might otherwise. To me, it’s a pale pink holiday in a pale pink month.
As a kid, Valentine’s Day meant the ordeal of the Valentine’s Box: it was the day when you had to give valentines to your classmates, after an agonizing selection process. A standard pack of valentines offered subtle but crucial shades of meaning and nuance in each message. That phrase, so fraught with meaning in its slight variations, “Be My Valentine!” held such import, particularly when paired with artwork. It was not to be used lightly. After an exhausting night of selection to ensure that certain girls received tokens of special favor, while others received diplomatically neutral messages, and none of the boys received anything that wasn’t a metaphorical punch on the arm, I was in no shape to face the day. After all, hadn’t everyone gone to these same pains? Didn’t that frilly pink and red box of mine contain messages from each and every one of my classmates that required careful decoding, to divine their true feelings toward me?
Had I known then that I would not, in fact, grow up to marry any of my classmates, I would have saved myself a lot of anxiety.
As an adult, I think a lot about romance on many different levels. One key to romance—I believe, and the experts tell us—is spontaneity. Is there anything less spontaneous, and thus less romantic, than a specific day each year on which one must be romantic? To be truly effective, Valentine’s Day should be kept in one’s bag of tricks, to be pulled out and celebrated at unexpected moments. Anything less is . . . well, rather unromantic.
About the best thing I can say about February is that it’s short. A 28-day month is pretty convenient, and February’s the best one of the twelve to truncate, because it still seems longer than all the others!
I learned recently that folklore holds that February became the shortest month when August stole one of her days. Ha! I wish that were so! I’d love it if August seemed as long as February.