Think you have reason to loathe the treacly holiday? Try Saudi Arabia, where it’s actually illegal.
The battle here against chocolates, red teddy bears, and red roses is upon us again. Pitting the Saudi religious police (known officially as the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice) against love-sick teens, it’s an old chestnut, worn smooth by overuse, so much so that locals collect and ridicule the latest headlines. Among the winners this year:
* “Roses are banned … violets are too”
* “No Valentine’s: Saudi religious police see red”
* “Roses are red, violets are blue, Valentines in Saudi risk a flogging or two”
As bored as I am by stereotypical news stories from Saudi and the lazy thinking that pigeonholes this place as nothing more than barbaric, the notion of a banned romantic holiday speaks to a larger problem for young people here: Loneliness.
But boys will be boys, and girls, girls. Seeking each other, Saudi kids have for years been evolving better and better contra-religious police strategies. First it was cell phone numbers taped to rear windshields or dropped on paper slips at the mall. Then it was Bluetooth-enabled devices, set to pick up signals from nearby paramours. The latest trick — and perhaps the most secure method yet — is communicating through unique Blackberry pin numbers. Unlike Bluetoothing, pin-flirting allows secure, individual communication between two people. It also has the techno-advantage of flummoxing religious police, who aren’t exactly early adopters.
Just in time for V-day however, there are reports that members of the virtue cop brigades are being outfitted with Blackberries. (Hint: Don’t ping the guy with the beard and cane.)
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