Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Weapons of Mass Affection

As a kid, I remember being seriously jealous when boyfriends gave boxes of candy to my two older sisters on a holiday called Sweetest Day.  My oldest sister’s boyfriend knew how to buy my affections, as well as hers, by giving me my own box of milk chocolate coconut clusters. They must have been damn good if I still remember them. Or perhaps the chocolates remain so vivid because it was my first encounter with a Weapon of Mass Affection. The chocolates won my heart.

When I grew older, I learned that Sweetest Day was not a universal holiday like Labour Day.  It’s celebrated mainly in the Great Lakes region of the U.S., including Detroit, my hometown. It was invented in 1931 by the Retail Confectioners International as “an occasion which offers all of us an opportunity to remember not only the sick, aged and orphaned, but also friends, relatives and associates whose helpfulness and kindness we have enjoyed.” Have you ever heard such horse shit? Really, was it necessary to go to such lengths to say “Buy candy.”

Which brings me to Valentine’s Day, another holiday I’ve long considered concocted by interested parties, mainly Hallmark. I’ve therefore lumped Valentine’s Day in with Sweetest Day, Secretary’s Day, even Mother’s and Father’s Day. My cynical side scoffed at the invented holidays because, naturally, everyday should be secretaries’ day, mothers’ day and fathers’ day and valentines’ day. We should be honouring these people without the self-serving help from retailers.

I’ve rethought my position. It’s not a perfect world. The truth is, kids aren’t always appreciative of mom and dad, especially between the ages of eleven and eighteen (did I get the numbers correct?). Bosses aren’t always good to secretaries (do they actually exist anymore?) or even know to thank them when thanks are due. And lovers quarrel, take each other for granted, forget the nice things that make a partner’s heart flutter.

So I’ve decided it’s not such a bad idea to set aside special days to remember and honour people who make our lives good. But it still bugs me that commercial enterprises are ‘pushing’ this love thing with overtones of a competition, as if the more you spend on coconut clusters, diamond heart necklaces, cards or silk lingerie, the stronger your love is for said object of devotion.

So my thoughts turned to the preferability of homemade Valentine’s touches when I received an email from artist Barbara  Klunder a few days ago. She was asking the people who live in my community to make “heart-stoppin’ great paper hearts….any size…with a secret message on it” to decorate the hall for our Valentine’s Day dance this coming Saturday. Ever the wordsmith as well as artist, Barbara ended the email by saying. “Looking forward to them…your Weapons of Mass Affection.”

Well, what could be a more lovely turn of phrase (as it is indeed a turn of a phrase). And what a lovely sentiment the phrase conveys. So this Valentine’s Day, why don’t we all take up Barbara’s call to create our own, homemade Weapons of Mass Affection for the people we love or admire. We can do it in whatever form we choose, be it food, words, paper cut outs, banners or marcrame plant holders.

And once we’ve developed the hang of it, why save our WMAs for Valentine’s Day only. Maybe we can sprinkle affections across the globe as the powers-that-once-were pretended the nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction were going to. Maybe we can win wars, not just hearts with our WMAs.

And we don’t have to wait for Sweetest Day.

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