Happy Valentine’s Day to all you men out there. I direct the greeting to my half of the population because we’re the ones who often get stressed over this Hyper Holiday. Women have taken over. Men spend three times more than women on Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Like other modern observances, Valentine’s Day is linked to an ancient pagan festival. For 600 years, Romans dedicated Feb. 15 (not the 14th) to the god Lupercus. On that date, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery to be his sexual companion for a year. (See, it used to be a guy thing. I told you women have taken over.)

It could be worse. The saint for whom Feb. 14 is named was beheaded on that date in 269 A.D., for reasons that are historically murky, one being that he secretly married couples to whom marriage was forbidden. That was enough to become the patron saint of the lovestruck.

But we don’t know that story for certain. St. Valentine’s record is so unclear (there actually may have been two Valentines) that the Roman Catholic Church, in 1969, decided to drop the date from its calendar of official feasts. Well, love can be fickle like that.

Losing your head for the purpose of love is worse than your girlfriend withholding affection because the chocolates weren’t diamonds or the roses weren’t pearls. Police have said that holidays bring out the worst in partners. It may be more notable on Valentine’s Day. Seven years ago, in Sharpsburg, Alec McNaughton and his wife, Cathy, started celebrating in the morning. By afternoon, Alec had stabbed Cathy 31 times. She died.

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In Snellville, in 2010, Stacey Schoek arranged to meet her estranged husband, Richard, at a park to exchange Valentine’s greetings. Richard was later found shot to death. Stacey was charged with conspiring to commit murder. 
I single out these two instances, among numerous Valentine’s Day killings, because they occurred in Georgia.

Pope Gelaius I, obsessed with suppression of pagan rites, didn’t think the lovers’ custom adhered to Christianity as it was taught in the first millennia, so he changed it to have both women and men choose names of saints they would emulate for a year.

Not a lot of luck with that papal notion. Feb. 14 continued to be an occasion to express affection, such as sending messages of admiration. Nowadays, according to Hallmark (who is not a saint, based on what they charge for greetings), more than 163 million cards will be exchanged this Feb. 14.

The holiday is one of the biggest for boutique retailers. Florists triple prices, chocolates go up 70 percent and restaurants generally double prices, according to the NRF. We Americans will exceed $19 billion in spending this Valentine’s. Like other discretionary spending, total Valentine’s spending fluctuates with the overall economy. But it has gone up steadily since the end of the Great Recession five years ago.

For lonely people, there are even Valentine-themed treats and dress-ups for pets.

But this Valentine’s Day, one thing is certain; I know that the woman I adore will be happy with whatever I muster, even if chocolates aren’t diamonds. I didn’t have to cross oceans or continents to meet her. I will always remember in detail the first time I saw her and was surprised that she was walking around loose, not already snatched up. She’d had plenty of suitors, but maybe none as suitable as me. I appreciate not just that she is pretty, has great legs, a perfect derriere and a seductive yet innocent smile. She’s also talented, funny and erudite. Easy to talk to and a good listener. I remember our first date, the first time we kissed, the first time I held her in my arms.

There is no other like her. She is, it turns out, the woman I had been looking for all along.

She’ll read this before Feb. 14, so … Happy early Valentine’s Day, k’ bear, with my love as always.

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BIZ BITS

I saw a sidewalk sign advertising “All Piercings $25 (Above the Belt).
”I hope that, for those who dare, piercings below the belt include several bottles of Tylenol.
The NCAA, which governs college sports, has voted to allow the Big 12 conference to have a title game in football. Previously, under arcane, overbearing NCAA rules, the Big 12 couldn’t hold a title game because it only has 10 member schools.

That was a munificent move by the NCAA’s voters. The larger question, for mathematicians and grammarians, is how any organization with 10 members can call itself the Big 12 when it is neither.

I do not use this space to plug a business, but I am making an exception this time because my smart phone went inexplicably dead last month. I went to two local phone stores, including the one of the original purchase, only to get a shrug and “battery’s dead” as a response. I was pretty sure the battery wasn’t dead because batteries don’t suddenly keel over; they endure a drawn-out death.

So I wound up at Batteries Plus on Turner McCall Boulevard, where a young man listened to my problem and tested the battery, which was indeed capable of restored life. He further determined the problem was the charger port on the phone itself. I needed not a battery, but a new phone. He didn’t sell phones, but if he did, I would have bought one on the spot just out of gratitude for his friendly expertise.

I depend on my smartphone not just to make phone calls but, like most folks, for multiple tasks. But during the 36 or so hours I was dis-connected from the world, there was one phone call I absolutely had to make. I strolled into The Herb Shop on Broad Street and, without even browsing for a minimal purchase, asked if I could use their phone. The proprietor said OK. That good deed, one phone call, got me past a time-critical issue.

The next day, I got a new phone with all the bells and whistles. I bought it in Acworth, rather than Rome, because I found a helpful store clerk there.

The lesson is, being neighborly is still the foundation of any business, and lack of it can cost you a sale. Also, Batteries Plus and The Herb Shop, with nothing to gain at the moment of my request, get this free nod – and maybe future business.

J. Bryant Steele has won awards for business reporting, feature writing and opinion columns, and is based in Rome.

*The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.

J. Bryant Steele was first published when he was 14 and has made a living stringing words together for 40 years. But the main reason he writes is to avoid housework. He has won 50 or so writing awards. He is a graduate of the Grady School of Journalism (The University of Georgia) and of Education for Ministry (The University of the South). He also publishes poetry and fiction. He is the proud father of two magnificent adult children. He is also very opinionated.