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February

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
And dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling (guys) like me. (Janis Ian "At Seventeen")


To me, February is the worst month of the year.

Though February is the shortest month, it seems like the longest month. February this year, like most years, has twenty-eight days. By the time it is over, it will seem like sixty-two days; at least to those of us who live in the Midwestern United States. Here spring begins on March 21st, according to the calendar, but it doesn't really begin until sometime in late April.

February is a cruel. cold month. It is the mean, odious step-mother of months. It leads us into March - when spring is supposed to begin. But, March is nothing if not a big tease. The calendar says spring begins on March 21. But spring does not begin in March. At least it does not begin in March in my little town.

February, in my little town, is a month of wall-to-wall clouds; damp, cold, air; snow, rain, sleet, and ice. February is a month of horrible, cold, dark, ugly weather. Spring is so close we think. But not really. We have sixty-two days of February to get through. Each day a slog through the snow, mush, ice, and mud under unending gray skies.

Don't get me wrong, I like winter - the first two months of it. But I really don't enjoy February. The best thing we have going for us in February around my little town, is waiting for the world's largest rat, in some little town in Pennsylvania, to tell us all how many more weeks of winter we have left. I don't need a big rat to tell me. I already know. Here's my prediction: We have at least ten more weeks of winter left to go; here in my little town. Now you're all thinking I'm the big rat, aren't you!

If you do live in the northern parts of the northern hemisphere, I'm sure you'll empathize with me. If you live in Australia, New Zealand, or some place else in the southern hemisphere, bear with me. I want all of you living in the southern hemisphere to know I empathize with you - because you've got problems with February too, even though you may not know it. Did you ever think that you've actually been cheated out of three days of summer, because February falls during your summer season. At least our last full month of summer in the northern hemisphere has 31 days. Whereas yours only has 28 (except, of course, during leap years). All those Downunder must relish leap years; because leap years add another day to your summer. But, I hate leap years. They make February sixty-three days long instead of only sixty-two.

February does have some bright spots - if you work for the government, schools, or banks. Because if you're one of those lucky souls, you probably love February; even despite the fact that the sun never shines and the deep, damp, February cold pervades every membrane of your body. You lucky people get yet another day off in February. Presidents' Day is a holiday for you. Not for the rest of us poor working stiffs, but for you, it's a holiday.

And, while it might be called Presidents' Day, I have never yet met anyone who sits around and ponders the good deeds, heroics or exploits of George or Abraham on that day. I'll bet that most of you who work for the government, schools, or banks, will be eagerly thumbing through newspapers looking for Presidents' Day Sales. Isn't that true? Of course it is. I'll bet that not too many of you who are off that day will spend it cogitating and pontificating about the great American presidents or attending ceremonies honoring them. It looks like Target, Wal-Mart, Neiman-Marcus, and other giant retailers win - while poor old George and Abraham once again are relegated to the role of excuses for even more "sales".

Some of you, mostly female I imagine, find another notoriously bright spot stuck smack dab in the middle of February. It's called "Valentine's Day". It's supposed to be a day of romance, but, in my cynical mind, it's a way for Hallmark, American Greetings, and other large purveyors of cardboard poetry to make oodles of wampum.  According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year. This makes Valentine's Day the second biggest "card-sending" holiday of the year - right behind Christmas with 2.6 billion cards sent. 85% of all Valentine's Day cards are sent by women

And then, of course, the candy, candles, "romantic items" and other Valentine's Day goodies that fill store shelves from the day after Christmas through the 14th of February. Sigh. To my mind, this Valentine's Day ruse is a marketers dream come true. Money, not "romance" is the engine that drives Valentine's Day. Am I too cynical? Maybe. But then again, I have my reasons.

Whenever I think of Valentine's Day, I think of myself as a fifth grader. I was not being very attractive or popular. I was a fat kid. I was certainly no Beau Brummel. My mom had just died a few months earlier and I desperately needed attention. Even more than most ten year-olds. I began (pathetically) hoping that the girls in my would feel sorry for me and send me a Valentine's day card. Isn't that sad? Pitiable even. Of course, not many of the girls did.  I recall a song by Janis Ian called "At Seventeen" and one of the lines in that song is "For those of us who knew the pain, of Valentines that never came...".

And, in case you think I'm somehow anti-romantic or picking on women here, I'm not. One of the worst things every foisted upon the world is the "Super Bowl". Here we have a football game interrupted by 5 minute commercials, a one-hour halftime, and ridiculous 3 minute "TV timeouts". If I were a football coach I wouldn't even want to play in this media circus. It's a game between two teams that have probably played before - and no one took notice. It's a game that is covered relentlessly by the media for weeks. A game that is more hype than contest; more glitter than substance. Most of us cannot even recall who won the last Super Bowl.  And, all the beautiful people will be in attendance.  If you're somebody, anybody at all, you're required to make an appearance at "The Super Bowl" to prove you're someone important. Isn't the Super Bowl the height of American superficiality?

I like football (especially college football) and I watch many games during the football season. I often look forward to relaxing on a Saturday afternoon watching college games. But, to me, the "Super Bowl" isn't a football game. I don't have a clue what to call it. But a "football game" doesn't come to mind. I might be the only person not watching the Super Bowl this year. Does that make me strange?

So, besides the interminably long string of sunless, damp, cold and dreary days that February dishes up; the tantalizing thought of spring on the distant horizon; and the continuation of a long, dark, dreary winter - I have other reasons to dislike the month of February. Its 62 days are neatly fitted into a calendar of 28 days. It's slight of hand I tell you. February is a cruel joke that is played on me each year.

And I remind my friends in Australia, New Zealand and other points in the southern hemisphere, remember that February is not kind to you either. It cheats you out of a couple good old days of summer.

I always try to accept things as they come; but I have a hard time accepting February. It's the one month of the year that I don't like at all. The one month of the year that has absolutely no redeeming qualities - except that it brings us one month closer to spring.

And, it's just my luck that is has 62 days. Think spring!

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