“April is the cruelest month,
breeding lilacs out of the deadland…”
-T.S. Eliot, from "The Wasteland"
“I’m not sure how a month that oversees the growth of an ornamental bush that produces white, violet, or pink blossoms renders a month cruel. But hey, what do I know? Eliot won the Nobel Prize for Literature, not me.”
- R.L. Presson, from "The Waist Up"
The consensus among psychologists, economists, weathermen, and movie critics is that February is in fact the cruelest month. Thankfully, it is the shortest month of the year. It’s as if the original calendar designers were in a meeting and agreed that February would always be like a bad song, movie, or book that couldn’t be prevented, only shortened.
The problem with February
The problem with February is that it arrives after January when we believe that new things are possible. Out with the old, in with the new. And then February comes along and mocks us, doubling over with laughter, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you fell for that new year—new you thing again! Ha, ha, ha…”
And February is the middle of winter. But it’s not like Wednesday being Hump Day and we think, “Hey, we’re halfway to the weekend!” February doesn’t give you hope that winter has an expiration date; rather February makes you feel like winter is your new way of life. February tells you that the cold, gray, rainy days are not a temporary visitor passing through, but is a new and permanent resident or an in-law who arrives with two large suitcases.
C’mon whose terrible idea was Groundhog Day? Oh sure, it gave us that fantastic movie with Bill Murray, but the outcome of every Groundhog Day itself is as predictable as the result of a Vanderbilt football game. Six more weeks of winter. (Six months if you live in Chicago.)
Cookies and candy hearts
I credit the Girl Scouts for making February somewhat more bearable with their cookie sale. Thank God for the intuitive empathy these gals have for us as we have to stare down 28 days of misery. I’ve got a case of Thin Mints and Samoas to help get me to St Patrick’s Day with a modicum of sanity.
“But what about Valentine’s Day?” you say. Well, Valentine’s Day is nice if you’re in a relationship, more specifically in a relationship where you’re getting along. And if Valentine’s Day wasn’t difficult enough for many single folks, February 15th is there the next day to rub it in with National Singles Awareness Day. But singles should keep their chin up so they can hook up with a Tinder prospect for lunch at Captain D’s on the 16th because that is National Tartar Sauce Day. (I wish I could say I’m making this up.)
National Something Day
By the way, the very name “February” comes from a Roman festival of purification called “Februa” in which people were ritually washed themselves. So, it should come as no surprise that National Shower with a Friend Day falls in February. (It was on the 5th so if you missed it, there’s always next year.)
We’ve already missed National Fettucine Alfredo Day (the 7th) and National Home Warranty Day (the 10th.) I’m concerned if my column comes out on Wednesday as usual, that you, my readers, will have missed National Dog Biscuit Day on Tuesday the 23rd. However, my editor assures me that this column will be published in time for National Tell a Fairy Tale Day on the 26th.
National Get Up and Move Day was February 1st. Given that National Public Sleeping Day is on the 28th it seems to me that March 1st would be the better choice for National Get Up and Move Day.
Feb 10th was also National Umbrella Day which seems appropriate because February in Nashville feels like January thru December in Seattle, only colder.
I do enjoy President’s Day in February, and not just because my bank is closed and I forget that there’s no mail service. Some people see President’s Day as just another Monday off from work or just another national holiday to celebrate a mattress sale at Bed Barn. Not me. For example, this year I spent the day contemplating the forgettable tenure of Millard Fillmore and memorizing the names of Grover Cleveland’s cabinet members.
On the bright side
For some good news about February, the next leap year isn’t until 2024 when we’ll have an extra day added to our winter prison sentence. How did we end up with one extra day every four years, anyway? Is an entire day like a spare bolt that you find left over after assembling an Ikea table? I’m not complaining about having a bonus day every four years. It’s just that I can think of a few months more deserving of the prize than February. Actually, 11 of them come to mind.
Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com), the author of multiple books and a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He can be reached at [email protected].