I’ve never asked anyone to be my Valentine.

   I’m not even sure what “Be My Valentine” actually means.

   I have a vague memory that the phrase comes from Hamlet, when Ophelia sings it from a window.

   I also have a vague memory of a baseball game on TV that went into extra innings, but it could have been a colonoscopy.  I know I was in a recliner of some kind and there was a high wailing noise, but I can’t remember whether it came from the vacuum my wife was using or me complaining about how dry my mouth felt.  I do know someone said, “Batter up!” and he was wearing a mask of some kind.

   Ophelia seems to have meant something by “Be My Valentine,” but she also seems to have ended up drowning herself without ever having had a date, let alone an extended relationship. 

   So you’d think people might find a different phrase to use to express their Valentine’s feelings, but I guess old Hamlet’s die hard.

   I’ve said “I love you” and I even once asked a woman to spend the rest of her life with me, but then third grade ended and I realized that while I was moving on, Miss Appletree wasn’t moving on with me.

   Moving on is a big part of life. 

   So is the third grade, when you’re going through it.

   I’ve moved eight times from one apartment or house to another, and every single one of those moves was horrible.  It seems like the last piece of whatever will never make it out of the house, I complain about how slowly the movers move, and by the time it’s all done, I end up locked inside a truck between a wall and a recliner standing end up.

   Go figure.

   We exchanged Valentine’s cards in Miss Appletree’s class but they probably don’t do it any more in elementary school because if some kid writes “I love you” on a Valentine and the recipient isn’t thrilled about it, it’s now prima facie sexual harassment.

   When I was nine years old juvenile sexual harassment hadn’t been invented. 

   I could occasionally mutter “all girls are stupid” without risk of a suspension and a month of sensitivity training.

   I’m amazed when I read news stories about sexual harassment cases between children in elementary schools.

   I’m amazed I don’t read more news stories about teachers killing themselves at the end of parents’ night.

   My father always tried to make a big deal over Valentine’s Day, and I’m pretty sure sexual harassment was his original motivation.

   But then my mother started spending Valentine’s Day in the kitchen rendering chicken fat and by the time she went to bed my father was passed out from eating all the chocolate creams he’d bought her. 

   Chocolate contains caffeine, but it also contains sugar, and my father washed down every piece with a swig of Irish whiskey so he wouldn’t get cavities. 

   I’m not crazy about the concept of relying on one “special day” to make a big deal out of something. 

   If you have to wait for Valentine’s Day to tell someone you care, maybe you should just sit alone at a bar and make sure you don’t drink so much that you miss your therapy appointment.

   Therapy is a good thing if it helps people get in touch with their feelings.

   I once tried to get in touch with my feelings. 

   I reached a recording that said, “This number is not in service and no additional information has been provided.”

   Therapy is a bad thing if it helps people blame their parents for all of their problems.

   Parents are people who happen to have children. 

   Children grow up thinking their parents are some kind of special breed of being but they’re not. 

   Blaming your parents for who they were, or weren’t--or who you are, or aren’t--is like blaming a dog for looking startled when he farts.

   Parents are as human as their children and with rare exception they’re emotionally at about the same level.

   I keep my emotions level by spending plenty of time in a recliner, preferably one that isn’t surrounded by people in masks and machines that go “beep,” and remembering to give my wife chocolates and flowers even when it isn’t Valentine’s Day. 

   I do it on Valentine’s Day, too, because even if I don’t know what “Be My Valentine” actually means, I do know what it means to my wife.


Dear Major Ashpole,

   Do you know when juvenile sexual harassment was invented?  And who invented it? 

   I can’t seem to find the answers anywhere, and I’ve looked everywhere, even on the Vatican website. 

   I’m pretty sure that’s not why I went to jail, but I’ve been so busy ever since I got out, it’s just hard to remember.

Martha Stewart

Still Rewriting My Life Story

Bedford, NY

Dear Major Ashpole,

   So you actually take the time to notice what dogs do when they fart?

   Don’t you have anything better to do with your life?

Paris Hilton

Recovering Publicity Whore

Dear Major Ashpole,

   If my daughter writes to you, please don’t indulge her self-serving attempt at denying her rightful place in the world by using that phrase she now signs all of her letters with, “Recovering Publicity Whore” (she saw Lindsay Lohan doing it and now she’s trying to get that little tramp to do a “solidarity” sex tape so she’s sucking up to her, as it were, but I digress).

   Please substitute her rightful title, “Hotel Chain Heiress, With Benefits.”  

Kathy Hilton, Mother of Paris

Former star of the NBC reality show “The Good Life” in which I taught ten young women “how to act,” which only makes sense considering the great job I did with Paris.

Dear Major Ashpole,

   When I read “old Hamlet’s die hard” I thought “now here is a man who has given up the will to live.”  I mean, what a pathetic attempt at humor.

   Then I read your brave cry for help, “I once tried to get in touch with my feelings...” and I cried like a baby for ten minutes.

   With so much effective counseling available these days, I beg you, if not for yourself, then at least for the benefit of your family and those who love you: seek the help you need and deserve.

Robin Williams

Still Out of Rehab and Still Talking Faster Than Ever

Dear Major Ashpole,

   I am certainly against sexual harassment, wherever it takes place and at whatever age.

   Having to hear “I love you” when it is inappropriate can cause stress and confused feelings that have the potential to last a lifetime.

   This really isn’t something to joke about.

David Letterman

Running Somewhere in North Salem, NY

(sent from my intern’s iPhone)

Dear David,

   I fondly remember the time when you were jogging and I had to pull over to the side of the road right in front of you to avoid a car swerving out of the other lane, and just as I did, you spit.

   I didn’t take it personally, and I hope you’ll feel the same when I say that you’ve become a bitter, hypocritical old man who takes cheap shots just for the fun of it, but at least you admit it, so I guess that makes it all okay.  And maybe you have softened just a bit since having a child.  Or another intern.

Dear Major Ashpole,

   So you think it’s just fine for a boy to mutter “all girls are stupid.”  Well, it isn’t.  And it very much is sexual harassment.  Perhaps if you had been made to understand sexual harassment at a young age, you would today understand why Valentine’s Day has so much meaning for men and women who are truly committed to each other.

Tiger Woods

Orlando or Las Vegas

Dear Major Ashpole,

   I’ve never blamed my parents for making my dog fart, and neither should anyone else.

   Global warming is a socialist conspiracy.

   Tea bags.

Sean Hannity

Fox Entertainment Programming, NY

Dear Major Ashpole,

   Oh my god! I never realized how you really felt about me.

   I wanted you so badly, I would have risked everything. 

   I watched you all through junior high and high school, waiting for you to turn sixteen, hoping that just maybe...but you never noticed me standing outside the malt shop next to my Plymouth.

   Maybe I should have taken off my dark glasses and kerchief.

   As you’ll see below, I’m still a “Miss.”   

   I never married.

   But you don’t think I should blame my parents for the fact that I’ve always repressed my strongest feelings and never felt any man I met could live up to their expectations? 


Miss Venus Appletree

Light Winds Assisted Living Community

Heartstring, Arizona

Dear Miss Appletree,

   It’s so nice to hear from you, and to hear that you are doing well and living in a lovely community.

   I think I hear my mother calling, so I have to go now.


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