NPR-Valentines

Romantic love is a drive — a basic mating drive, not the sex drive. The sex drive gets you out there for a whole range of partners. Romantic love enables you to focus your mating energy on just one at a time, conserve your mating energy and start the mating process with a single individual.

What sums it up best is something that is said by Plato over 2,000 years ago. He said the God of love lives in the state of need. It is a need. It is an urge. It is a homeostatic imbalance. Like hunger and thirst, it’s almost impossible to stamp out.… Love is in us. It’s deeply embedded in the brain. Our challenge is to understand each other.

—  from @explore-blog: “Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love — one of these 5 essential books on the psychology of love — in a fascinating episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour exploring how we find love.”
Drawn From The Heart: Your Most Memorable Valentine's Day Cards

No snark or anti-commercialism rantings here, just a dose of simple sweetness. We asked readers to share their most memorable Valentine’s Day cards; here are a few of our favorites, edited for length and clarity. And we asked NPR illustrator Chelsea Beck to re-create two valentines that live on only in their recipients’ memories.

Renae Quinn, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

My favorite valentine ever was from my late husband on the Valentine’s Day before we married. He gave me a box and lined up in the box were a drawing of an eye, a paper heart on a spring that popped up when I opened the box, a pink foam letter U, a chocolate-covered strawberry, and a baggie full of dirt from the garden in front of our apartment.

I was mystified. I mean I got the “I love you so very” part clearly enough, but the dirt? I said, “You love me so very dirty?” I didn’t care for that! He kept saying, “No, think about it.”

But all I could come up with was, “I love you so very dirt.”

He finally told me, “MULCH! It’s mulch!”

So it said, “I love you so very much.” Duh.

It’s still my favorite ever.

Christine Hull, Springvale, Maine

Three years ago, when my son was 7, he made a collection of small valentines that he distributed throughout our house. Each valentine was unique, and each involved a heart shape.

One was a simple red heart taped to the inside of a spoon. I found it while I was making my morning coffee and, of course, it brightened my day. Another was a pink bunny, who was especially cute because he was lopsided. Yet another was a series of yellow hearts arranged like petals of a sunflower. It was carefully taped to appear as if it were growing out from under my desk.

I was impressed by his creativity, but more so by the fact that he woke up early to hide each valentine for my husband and me to discover as we went through our day. He didn’t simply give us one valentine, he gave us a day full of discovering valentines.

Francha Menhard, Tel Aviv, Israel

I was teaching second-graders how to speak English. I was teaching them similes to describe things. “You are as quiet as a mouse,” “You are tall as the ceiling,” etc.

When Valentine’s Day came, wild and crazy J.R. gave me a heart cut out of plain white paper. On the heart, he wrote: “You are as beautiful as Wonder Woman. You are as fun as clowns. You are as smart as God. Love JR.”

I kept that valentine on my fridge until the sun bleached it out completely, some 14 years later. Thereafter, my sweet husband would remind me at bedtime that I was as beautiful as Wonder Woman. As fun as clowns. As smart as God. Just in case I forgot.

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Illustrations by Chelsea Beck/NPR

A heart-shaped box of chocolate is a sign of love, a symbol — and often tool — of romance, and an intrinsic part of Valentine’s Day.

From at least the time of the Aztecs, chocolate has been seen as an aphrodisiac. So it’s reasonable to assume that it has been connected to love’s dedicated day of celebration for many centuries. But, that isn’t the case.

The roots of Valentine’s Day are ancient but far from clear, and likely originated in the pagan Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia. Those Romans, though, exchanged not candies but whippings — part of a complicated fertility ritual that began with sacrificing a goat and dog.

This morphed into a tamer Christian feast day in A.D. 496, when Pope Gelasius I commemorated a martyred saint, Valentine. Or saints. In the third century, the Roman emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine on Feb. 14th, albeit in different years.

How Chocolate Became A Sweet (But Not So Innocent) Consort To Valentine’s Day

Illustration: Alex Reynold/NPR

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Just ahead of Valentine’s Day, we visited the tomb of a poet who wrote often of love.

The 14th century Persian poet Hafez is buried in Shiraz, the city where he lived almost 700 years ago. He remains venerated in Iran, even though he wrote of romance and other topics that are not obviously embraced in the modern-day Islamic Republic.

One of his lines: “Oh Cup-bearer, set my glass afire with the light of wine!”

We reached the tomb of Hafez — the pen name for the man born Khwaja Shamsuddīn Muhammad Hafez e-Shirazi — at the end of the day. The setting sun still shone on the mountainsides just beyond a courtyard. The poet’s tomb is at the center, beneath a roof held up by pillars.

People placed their hands on the carved stone. One was a woman wearing loose black clothes, a purple knitted cap and a Wilson-brand backpack. She kept her hands there, both of them, for what seemed like several minutes.

Afterward, we asked her what she was doing.

“It’s really a thing of my heart,” she said. “I think you have to connect with him to understand what happened with us, between us.”

Firoozeh Mohammad-Zamani said that when her hands were on the tomb, she was having a conversation with Hafez. They talk a lot.

In Iran, A Poet’s 700-Year-Old Verses Still Set Hearts Aflame

Photos: JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images and Steve Inskeep/NPR

Five Unromantic Comedies For Valentine's Day Non-Inspiration

Originally posted by dontmesswiththeleprechaun

Sure, people fight about superhero movies and sci-fi movies and who was the best James Bond. But if you want to see some deeply felt disagreement, get in a fight about romantic comedies. Or, if you don’t care to, just enjoy this Twitter debate I had a couple of weeks ago with actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who has almost as many opinions about such things as I do. (Almost. And I really do think we should have a podcast called “Isn’t It Romantic?” where we fight about this weekly, because I think it would take a long time to run out of ideas.)

Part of what animates these discussions is that what you think of a particular movie often springs from what you consider romantic in the first place — and, maybe, from your sense of who deserves a happy ending. If you ask Kumail, the answer is “not Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.” If you ask me, the answer is “not whoever wrote Winona Ryder as a dying hat designer in Autumn In New York.” And there’s no doubt that some romantic comedies are … not very romantic. 

Let us take a tour.

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Need A Little Valentine's Day Perspective? These 3 Romances Will Do The Trick
Reviewer Ericka Brooks loves romance novels, but she felt like there was something missing in her collection. So she went looking for books with characters from all different backgrounds.

Like many romance readers Ericka Brooks has a list of authors whose new releases are always on her shopping list. But this winter she’s been looking for new (to her) novels that reflect the people she sees around her. Ericka wanted to read books by authors of color. She also looked for interracial relationships, protagonists from different cultures, and class differences without power imbalances (the Women of Color in Romance website was a great resource). Here are a few that she found.