Monday, February 14, 2011

Against February

I will eat your sugary fattening goods, I will nod politely when someone wishes me a nice day today, but if one more person wishes me a happy Valentine's Day today, I am going to tell them to their face exactly why I am not having, and never will have, a good Valentine's Day.

Also if I have to sweep up one more heart-shaped sequin I think I am going to snap and run around the hospital in my undies, threatening people with a mop.

Anyway, as I'm not very sociable this time of year, here are three thousand words on why I hate February and this holiday so much.

I despise February as a month. I despise it as a time of year. I despise it for the “holiday” it contains, its stupid number of days, and its stupid spelling. It is a hateful month with no regard for human life or dignity.

February is the Monday of the year. Garfield, of the Sunday Comics fame, hates Mondays, dubbing them the worst part of any week. In the same way, February is the worst part of any year. While it would stand to reason that Mondays in February are the nadir of existence, I would posit that this is the fault of the month of February, not that of the day. This stands true especially in Idaho.

In the Pacific Northwest in general and Idaho specifically, February is dreary, rainy, and cold. The average temperatures in February in northern Idaho hover between the mid 20s and lower 30s, getting just warm enough to dump chilly rain, and staying cold enough that the denizens of Priest River have terminally frozen toes. It rains or snows nearly constantly, depending on which end of the tiny temperature spectrum the fickle weather dawdles on, and the sun never breaks through the bulwark of dreary gray clouds that fill the sky like a chilly concrete slab a mortician lays a corpse on for dissection. The snow never falls long enough to hide the dirty, barren earth, nor does the rain ever fall for long enough to melt all the dirty, tainted snow. February in Idaho is cold, wet, and ugly.

No matter how much I complain about the weather here, earthquakes are worse weather than grey skies. On February 27, 2010, about two weeks after Valentine’s Day, an earthquake measuring a staggering in at 8.8 on the Richter scale rocked South America, practically leveling the country of Chile. One-point-five million people were left homeless in the wake of the devastation, despite building codes that were specifically designed to reduce the impact of large-scale earthquakes (the region is known for its susceptibility to earthquakes).

“You know what, screw February,” the Earth said. “I hate this month. Have an earthquake.” When the planet itself hates a month just that much, what kind of weather qualifies as normal?

Texas has nicer weather in February. The Lone Star State has average temperatures in the 70s range during February, with a much lower average precipitation, though their precipitation does occasionally consist of an exploding space shuttle. The month apparently hates astronauts as well.

The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry on February 1, 2003, just two weeks shy of Valentine’s Day, killing the whole crew and halting the United States space program for two years as investigators scrambled to figure out what had happened, and how to make sure that it never happened again. The investigation was too little, too late for the crew of the Columbia.

The shuttle itself collided with a bit of foam debris during launch, damaging a heat absorbent tile. After examining the damage, the crew and flight coordinator decided that there was nothing they could do to repair the minimal damage, and, as such things had happened before, was probably safe for re-entry. They were wrong. The hole where the reinforced carbon-carbon tile had been let the burning hot gas of atmospheric re-entry tear through the body and interior of the Columbia. The shuttle disintegrated, breaking apart into fragments that scattered from Tyler, Texas, east to Louisiana. All members of the crew, including Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, were killed.

With the U.S. space program shut down for an emergency finger-pointing session, U.S. astronauts manning the International Space Station had to rely on the Russian space program instead of their own government as their sole supplier of food and air and other trivial things.

It may seem like a trivial thing to try and spell the very name of the month in which such senseless and awful things happen. February. F-E-B-R-U-A-R-Y. But it’s really not simple at all. It’s pronounced FEB-yew-eh-ree in the Pacific Northwest, like we’ve forgotten that there’s supposed to be an R in there somewhere. It should, based on how it’s spelled, be pronounced feh-BROO-eh-ree or feh-broo-EH-ree or something similar. But it isn’t, and is thus another reason why February is annoying. This impossible spelling has haunted me with typos from first grade until college.

I’ve been in college for a while now, with a good chance that I won’t get to leave any time soon. The first college I went to was in Hillsdale, Michigan, where I got stuck with a couple of suite-mates from, I don’t know, Mars or something. They were great guys, really. Alex and Chandler were baseballs players on the Hillsdale College baseball team in 2006. I, the introspective fantasy writer geek, had gotten stuck in the jock dorm through some cosmic joke, and I was scared to death of all the supermassive guys on my floor. My suite-mates, however were quick to make me feel welcome and like I was part of the activities on the floor.

They were pretty funny guys, and acceptable as far as jocks go (from a geek perspective, which isn’t saying much), but had a couple of bad habits. Chandler would go into the bathroom that joined my room and theirs, and then scream like there were rabid wolverines clawing their way out of his anus.

The first time he did that, I fell for it, and banged on the door, panicked, asking if he was okay. Then after a minute, he stepped out.

“Just kidding!” he said, and flashed a broad, eye-crinkling grin at me before disappearing back into his own room.

He continued to do that at the most annoying and inappropriate times, from the middle of my friends and I watching anime shows to the one (and only) time I invited a girl over to hang out, coincidentally on Valentine’s Day. When Chandler started screaming, she got the weirdest look on her face, checked her cell phone, and said she had to go help a friend unpack her car. She left, despite my protestations that my suite-mates were nuts and did that all the time.

Unpack her friend’s car. Seriously? Did she get two “must leave now” excuses confused? Like “I need to unpack from moving” and “I have to pull my friend’s car out of a ditch?”

Neither was Alex innocent. He invited girls over to his and Chandler’s room on weekends, and sometimes even in the week, to throw “sweet rave parties” as he put it, which consisted of six girls, him, Chandler, a strobe light, and Cascada’s “Every Time We Touch” played at something around 120 decibels. In fact, it was pretty much that song, on loop, accompanied by the off-key singing of my suite-mates and their pleasurable company, which made up the entire soundtrack of those “sweet rave parties.”

Cascada, a German eurodance group, won a World Music Award for “Every Time We Touch” in 2007, after its release on an album of the same name on February 21, 2006, just a week after Valentine’s Day. And reliably on Friday nights around midnight for an entire year, I heard through the walls:

CAUSE EVERY TIME WE TOUCH, I GET THIS FEELING

AND EVERY TIME WE KISS, I SWEAR I COULD FLY

accompanied by a constant

DOOMP DOOMP DOOMP DOOMP

Cascada went on to produce other hits such as “What Hurts the Most” and “Evacuate the Dance Floor,” the latter of which is one of my favorite dance songs. I went on to leave Hillsdale for another college, and never listened to “Every Time We Touch” ever again.

February has a stupid number of days. What kind of month has twenty-eight days? All the other months have a sensible lunar thirty, or thirty-one if they want to stand out from the crowd. It’s as if the months all agreed to do their math problems in base 10, and February is the jerk in the back of the room who’s doing all his problems in base 8.

To top that off, it doesn’t even always have twenty-eight days; it sometimes switches to twenty-nine!

“You know what,” February says once every four years, “let’s mess up everyone’s calendars. Have an extra day.” Years in which February no longer ends exactly two weeks after Valentine’s Day are called Leap Years, which means one has to make a jump of logic and accept that February suddenly has another day in it (which is still not enough to make it a nice round thirty like those sensible months).

Supposedly, this is to correct for our 24-hour-day, 365-day-year solar timeframe. Technically, the year is 365 days and six hours long, so every fourth year, the six hour per year add together to get another 24-hour day, adding one extra day to the worst possible month: February. In reality, it is probably just because February hates human happiness.

This fluctuating month length causes problems for children born on the 29th of February, as this extra day only happens once every four years, making someone born on February 29th out of luck as far as number of birthdays is concerned. The famous British playwrights Sir William Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan made note of this in their play “The Pirates of Penzance,” in which the protagonist’s life is radically changed because of Leap Year.

His contract to work for the aforementioned pirates expires on his twentieth birthday, but halfway through the play, the pirates realize that since he was born on February 29th, he’s only had four birthdays, and is, in fact, “a tiny lad of five.”

Another person’s life royally shafted by February.

Even if you’re otherwise a normal person with a normal birthday in a normal month, February can still get you if you’re not careful about what you’re doing. On February 4, 2010, ten well-intentioned American Baptist missionaries attempted to take thirty-three children out of Haiti after an earthquake on January 12 devastated the country, leaving many children orphaned. There were a lot to choose from: 380,000 or so orphans in the country before the quake and tens of thousands more afterward. According to UNICEF, there was no counting or keeping track of them.

As it turned out, the missionaries should have paid closer attention to the details. Some of the children still had at least one living parent, and the missionaries failed to get permission to take the children out of Haiti into the neighboring Dominican Republic. The result: thirty-three counts of child abduction and criminal conspiracy. Though eight of ten of the missionaries were eventually cleared of charges, it became rather apparent that February is a bad month to turn your brain off.

Ten American Christians being negligent, ten days before Valentine’s Day. Not only were they representing my country, they were representing my religion, and I resent child abductors representing my religion almost as much as I resent the month of February. I take my faith seriously, and people who abduct children, even unintentionally or for all the right reasons, are forgetting the “love your neighbor as yourself” part of the religion. It’s kind of important, in the same way that making sure you pack oxygen for your trip to outer space is important.

February even gets me sometimes. Usually around the middle of the month, I can’t take the grey skies and cold emptiness of the month anymore and begin sliding into a deep blue funk. I see the couples walking down the sidewalks on campus and in downtown Moscow, holding each other’s gloved hands, pulling down their scarves to kiss each other, and almost regretting it because their lips might freeze together from the frigid temperature.

Not that I’m lonely, mind. I usually get by just fine on a Patricia C. Wrede fantasy novel and a cup of hot cocoa with mini marshmallows in it. Chocolate, marshmallows, and dragons, especially in combination, cover a multitude of ills. But despite the help, I can’t write during February, as if the clouds prevent my solar-powered brain from receiving any creative thought-generating energy. My first book suffered a two-week hiatus because of it, and my second almost didn’t make it to chapter three because of February and my minor depression during it.

I got stuck writing a scene where a prophet of God was telling the protagonist what he was supposed to be doing with his life, and why kicking the Villain’s posterior was the right thing to do. It didn’t help to be writing this during the month of the year that I think God has forgotten about the worthless, frozen blue planet occupying the third orbit around an uncaring sun that can’t be bothered to heat it properly.

My depression is not unique. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, as Norman Rosenthal of the National Institute of Mental Health termed it, affects a good slice of the population of America. In some cases, it affects almost ten percent of a state’s population (New Hampshire, actually, where winter is most of the year). It is characterized by “difficulty waking up in the morning, oversleeping and overeating, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on completing tasks, and withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities.”

Well, that sums up my February.


I complain, but some folks have had it worse. Instead of depression around Valentine’s Day, they got a fatal case of lead poisoning. From bullets.
For years, Al Capone, the mobster lord of Chicago, tightened his stranglehold on the world of organized crime until he ran just about everything illegal in the city, and got away with it. One of the small-time gangs that Capone wiped out to secure his monopoly on illegitimate business was the gang of Bugs Moran, an Irish mobster from the north side of Chicago. Posing as police officers, members of Capone’s gang busted into Moran’s garage, and ordered the gang up against the wall, and once Moran’s gang had been disarmed, shot the seven men to death. Since it happened on Valentine’s Day, 1929, it is called the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Two of the men murdered were not even part of Moran’s gang, and one man was completely innocent. His name was John May, a down-on-his-luck car mechanic with a wife and seven children. He’d taken the job with Moran to feed his family, and was in the wrong place on the wrong Valentine’s Day. One lead overdose later, May couldn’t worry about his family’s well-being anymore. What became of his wife and seven children is unknown.

Being shot to death is, in fact, worse than Seasonal Affective Disorder. BAD (Bullet Acupuncture Disorder, a usually fatal condition) is worse than SAD. But both are bad, especially if they happen in February.

Valentine’s Day, the pinnacle of the miserable month of February, is itself an iffy holiday. It was originally a Catholic feast day held on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Valentine, who was bludgeoned, stoned, and when that didn’t kill him, finally beheaded for his faith. For some strange reason, we now regard this feast in honor of a violently murdered priest as a holiday for celebrating romantic love (probably because St. Valentine was originally jailed for performing unlawful Christian marriage ceremonies). Those without a “significant other” have termed the ersatz holiday “Singles Awareness Day.”

Singles Awareness Day (coincidentally the same acronym: SAD) is characterized by a spot of depression in those without a romantic partner, and often involves drowning of sorrows, reclusive behavior, and sometimes poor decisions made at bars. The alternative to this alternative holiday is something my brother Alex (not the Alex of Cascada-blaring fame) and I came up with a few years ago.

The Bonds Boys (as our mother calls us) have developed a new kind of Valentine’s Day celebration, rooted firmly in the tradition of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre and the execution of Saint Valentine himself. Celebrants pick the person in the world (or immediate area) whom they would really like to kill, and ask them to be Valentines. Should they accept, the two attempt to kill one another, no holds barred, no questions asked. None of those lacy notes or boxes of fruity chocolate, just good traditional violence and murder, like old times.

At the very least, it will make SAD less bad, or more BAD, depending on how one looks at it.

Well, the Earth will continue to hurtle through the blackness of space, whirling madly around the blazing inferno of atomic fusion that keeps us alive for all our 365-day (but sometimes 366-day) years, and it will continue to be punctuated by the crummy excuse of a poorly-heated month called February. There’s not much I can do about it besides complain, get depressed, write essays on it, and then get over it. But I will state that, because of the evidence given, February is the worst month.
The weather is against it, the Earth rebels against it, space shuttles are certainly not in favor of it. The laws of the English language repudiate it, good taste in music abhors it, and even mathematics of the calendar variety point out how illogical it is. February breeds birthday problems, stupidity, and depression. It encourages murder. Worst of all, the single holiday in the month makes those with a romance deficiency feel even worse for the lack thereof. Down with February. The end.

Now go away.

You may continue your lives, and I wish you a better Valentine's Day than I typically have.

2 comments:

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  2. I'm reading this 2 months late, but I must tell you that I couldn't stop laughing. And I agree with you, February is a terrible time of year for all sorts of reasons, but I disagree on one point: I think it's a good thing that February has only twenty-eight days... it ends sooner. :)

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