We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming this week to honor Valentine’s Day. Here, to start us off, is an essay I wrote for The Washington Post in 2005.
At his crystal mansion perched high on Mount Olympus, the mythic figure Cupid swoops down to a poolside balcony to give his first interview in 2,782 years. As he stills his fluttering wings and peels off his trademark blindfold, the Greek immortal looks remarkably well for someone almost three millennia old. With his signature bow- shaped mouth and tousled blond hair, Cupid still appears positively childlike — post-cute, perhaps, is the right term — the only sign of his longevity the thick, black bifocals he now wears.
Last sighted in public during the Reagan years — at Spago, wearing the obligatory Armani toga and sandals — he eventually went reclusive, leaving in his wake only a brief statement citing personal issues. Now he has emerged from voluntary exile to promote his tell- all memoir and unveil a sweeping new policy statement about romance.
“Contrary to popular opinion, it’s no picnic being the god of love,” Cupid reflects. “Oh, I had a good run. You’ve heard of love at first sight, right? My concept. Romeo and Juliet? My premise. All the great romances in history, stretching from Antony and Cleopatra to Donald Trump and himself? My doing. Hey, I almost emptied my quiver on Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney.
“But suddenly everything started to change,” Cupid continues. “Just look at the United States. Only 59 percent of the population is married now, down from 72 percent in 1970. Back in 1980, only 6 percent of us were divorced — now it’s 10 percent. Cable TV got oversexed and the Internet brought along all that porn. For the first time, I had a lot of competition — video games, 900-numbers, you name it. I tell you, romance went right down the toilet. For a while I even considered outsourcing.”
Cupid sips some nectar and peers beyond his pool (Olympic-size, of course) to his manicured 75-acre estate.
“My personal life took some wrong turns, too,” he continues. “One controversy followed another. The Federal Aviation Administration, right out of the blue, came after me for flying without a license. Ambulance-chasing lawyers brought a class-action suit against me, claiming that inducing instant love had cardiovascular side effects. Plus, Zeus cut our dental plan.
“To top it all off, I got kind of drunk on my own power. So I made a few extra bucks feeding celebrity exclusives to the supermarket tabloids. Some other Olympians got wind of my lousy attitude and held an intervention. From then on, all decisions about whose hearts I could pierce would be made by committee. I lost my bearings, and clinical depression set in. My eyes got worse, too, throwing off my aim. Remember Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee? A total accident. I came really close to committing suicide. Then I realized it’s out of the question if you’re an immortal.
“Probably just job burnout.
“Now I’m back,” Cupid says. “And it’s true what they say: You really need that face time. So we held a few focus groups, conducted some market research and did some brainstorming and came up with a to- do list. Proposed international guidelines and reforms; 112, to be exact.”
Here’s a taste:
Second marriages should be tried only once. If you try to buy love, your check will bounce. Love at first sight lasts only if you take a second look. Get rid of prenups. Stop stigmatizing one-night stands — it’s Darwinism at its purest. If you go on a blind date, keep your eyes open. Teen sex should consist largely of blushing.
“It’s all spelled out in my new book,” Cupid says. “It’s called ‘Shooting for Love: Cupid Shares His Time-Honored Secrets.’ We’re in discussions with Laura Bush now about drafting a Leave No Lover Behind Act.
“As for me, I never found the right girl,” he concludes. “Here I am, god of love and all that jazz, creating matches made in heaven for the whole world, and I’m going almost every Saturday night without a date. How’s that for irony! I looked everywhere, tried everything: personal ads, singles cruises, the Yellow Pages. Even tried to shoot myself with one of my own arrows — missed. Finally, I just got tired of the whole bar scene, tired of getting stood up, jilted and two-timed. The only conjugating I ever did was of verbs. With all due respect to Joseph Campbell, you can follow your bliss till the cows come home and still be left hanging there on the last call for drinks. So I saw a shrink. Turns out it’s generally pretty hard to find true love when your mother is Venus.
“I mean, talk about a tough act to follow. No wonder I’ve had serious commitment issues. Problems with intimacy, the whole nine yards.
“I never found the right girl — until just recently, that is,” Cupid adds with a wink. “Yes, she’s agreed to be my valentine, and we plan to get married Feb. 14 in Reno. She’s perfect for me: knows nothing about Greek mythology and has no fear of flying. So there you go. Rumors that romance is dead are exaggerated. Love is still everywhere. If I can find it, anyone can.”