Have a happy and safe Valentine’s Day

This Saturday, Feb. 14, we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Although the actual origins of the day, and even the man are shrouded in mystery, we all agree that it is a day that celebrates romantic love. It may have been a Catholic adaptation of Lupercalia, a pagan holiday held on Feb. 15, which celebrated their beginning of spring, and rituals for cleansing, and fertility. There were three people named Valentine in the Catholic Church, a priest, a bishop and a martyr. Stories are associated with a priest Valentine helping those in love.

“Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to Feb.14, and added to later martyrologies. A popular … account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’ as a farewell.”

It became associated with romantic love in the time of Geoffrey Chaucer in the late 1300s, and then by the 1800s evolved to the giving of lovely cards, flowers, and candy to one’s sweetheart.

So now we celebrate romantic love on Valentine’s Day. It’s important to know that a person can be very much loved and still not have a romantic partner or sweetie. Too many teens get depressed thinking, “Nobody loves me,” because they don’t have a sweetie, but if you look around you’ll see that you’ve been loved, and are loved by someone, if you haven’t isolated yourself, or been isolated. Family love is the great tree trunk, and we are its fruit. People sometimes don’t know how to show it, but just remember that every time you give a hug, you get one back.

Love from friends is also a very powerful form of love. It’s helpful to know that there are folks who’ve got your back. And what you learn with your friends about how to be a good friend can be transferred to a romantic partner, who should also be a friend to you, and treat you with kindness and respect.

Walk into a church and remember that God loves you and God is love. Now that’s spiritual love, and guess what, it is more powerful than romantic love or friends’ love. Spiritual love can mend any broken heart.

It’s the romantic love that comes with the butterflies in the stomach, the pounding of the heart and the emotional roller coaster.

And now it’s time for a biology lesson: “The main area of the brain responsible for the early, swift love response is the caudate nucleus, a large C-shaped region near the center [of the cortex]. This area is almost primordial, thought to be part of the “reptilian brain” that evolved before mammals took the main stage. It plays a key role in the brain’s reward system and is responsible for general arousal and pleasure sensations.

When this area of the brain gets activated, we’re not only flooded with positive feelings and sensations, we’re motivated to keep getting them; we do and say whatever seems appropriate to keep compliments and positive reinforcement coming our way.”

The reptilian brain doesn’t think. It focuses on what it thinks the body wants, and doesn’t care about others’ feelings. Its goal here is to continue the species, in other words have sexual intercourse. MRI scans of people who describe themselves as passionately “madly in love” reveal that there is very little activity in the thinking part of the brain. We’ve got to do our thinking in advance in preparation for floods of hormones wanting to take over our minds.

Rachelle Bachran, public health educator on Kauai for the Department of Health, asked me to write on the use of condoms for people to use to have safe sex. It just so happens that Valentine’s Day is also National Condom awareness Day, and February is National Condom Month.

Be smart and learn about it. Here is an example of something important you should know: “Condoms are a safe, effective, and inexpensive way for people to have safer sex” says American Sexual Health Association president and CEO Lynn Barclay. She notes there’s a great deal people don’t know about condoms: “Strict quality control is a part of the manufacturing process, so ASHA uses National Condom Month to set the record straight. Bottom line: correct, consistent condom use is a great, accessible way to prevent both sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.

“In the U.S. each year there are nearly 20,000,000 new cases of STIs, (sexually transmitted infections) about half of which are in teenagers and young adults. STIs often have no symptoms, which is why using condoms is important each time someone has sex.” Sadly, some STIs never go away, although there can be symptom relief. Some can completely be healed with proper attention. Now what is cheaper, and more important to you? Using condoms, or permanently being sick, or perhaps becoming a parent for the rest of your life?

There are many kinds of condoms: Latex, Polyurethane (non-latex), Polyisoprene (non-latex) and lambskin for men. The female condom is a nitrile pouch with a soft inner and outer ring. Directions for using and storing them are on the above listed website. In our climate it is very important that they aren’t stored in a hot place. Heat can damage them.

It’s also important to use some water-based lubricant, because lube reduces friction which can cause tiny tears in the skin, which make it more likely for the person to get an infection if his/her partner has one. If you want to talk to a person about all this, you may call Jason Yaris at 821-2741. His main office is at the Kapaa Neighborhood Center. He will give out free condoms, as well as test for STIs It is all confidential. He works for the department of Health, and also works at Malama Pono.

Or, you can call Shara Ono at 245-8307, at the Kauai Community College Wellness Center. On Wednesdays she’s on the West side at the Waimea Community Center, but it is best to call the 245-8307 number for an appointment. She has a grant to counsel lower income families for planned parenting, and also has free condoms to give away. Other sources of free condoms are the YWCA on 3094 Elua St., Malama Pono at 4357 Rice St. Suite 101, and the Department of Health on 3040 Umi St. all in Lihue.

Malama Pono also has a wonderful pamphlet called “Condoms, Talking with your Partner”. This is what mature people do before they have sexual intercourse. There really is a lot to talk about, not just relating to condoms! But it’s a difficult conversation. The brochure offers these talking tips:

w Think about what you want to say ahead of time.

w Sort out your feelings about using condoms before you talk with your partner.

w Come up with some ways to start the conversation, such as, “I feel embarrassed, but I care too much not to talk about this.”

w Find a quiet time when you can be alone together.

w Talk before you’ve started to have sex.

There are also “comebacks” a person can say when met with opposition from the partner. There’s a page for women, and a page for me. An example from the “He says-You say”:

He says, “Putting it on breaks the mood. It’s not romantic.” She says, “I don’t feel romantic when I’m scared about getting pregnant or sick.”

The Department of Health has a great brochure entitled “101 Ways to Make Love Without Doin’ It.” Iowa high school students were asked to list other ways besides sexual intercourse they might use to show they loved someone. This pamphlet is the result of their responses. I’d like to open suggestions to the high school students on Kauai as well, because you might know some specific things. Then I’ll get all these suggestions to you in next week’s Corner. Remember, truly falling in love takes time, and involves the higher brain. Happy Valentine’s Day! Be Safe and Happy.


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org


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