Friday the 13th
The Barest of things by Brett Barest
Today we celebrate or at least recognize a couple of things. First and foremost in my world, it is The Wife’s birthday. I was going to use this platform to publicly express my love and admiration for the woman that inexplicably signed up to put up with me for the rest of her life, but then I decided to spare you the sappy crap and simply publicly recognize the birthday of love of my life and move on.
Besides, it is not just her birthday today. Paul Simon, Jerry Rice, Sammy Hagar, and Nancy “Why me? Why Now?” Kerrigan are also celebrating birthdays as well. Hagar is turning 70 and Simon is now 76 and I can’t help but wonder if they have been around long enough to learn how to drive 55 or to stop being such a dick to Garfunkel, respectively. In other news, Margaret Thatcher would have been 91 today were she still with us.
Historically speaking, there are a few events worth mentioning if you are into that sort of thing. For example, on this day in 1792, the cornerstone was laid for the building that would become The White House, the oldest federal building in our nation’s capital. In 1845, the independent Republic of Texas ratified its constitution and agreed to become the 28th American state but, if we are being honest, anyone who has ever been there knows it is still basically its own country. In 1943, Italy declared war on Germany after Mussolini was deposed and, naturally, Germany promptly invaded. In 1967, the Oakland Oaks defeated the Anaheim Amigos in the American Basketball Association’s inaugural game. Is it fair to suggest that maybe the ABA might still be around if they took their team names more seriously?
The big news today, of course, is the date itself – Friday the 13th. This is the day that we have all unanimously agreed to be superstitious about although we have no idea why. In fact, the Stress Management and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina estimates that between 17 and 21 million Americans will suffer something between mild anxiety and full blown terror today and will change their behavior in such ways that it will have an $800-900 million financial impact on our economy. For my part, I am just surprised that there is actually a Stress Management and Phobia Institute nearby.
I started digging into the reasoning behind this made up day of paranoia and the best I can come up with is that nobody has a real clue. There is one popular theory that it might have something to do with Jesus because somebody decided that since He died on a Friday and there were 13 guests at The Last Supper, Friday the 13th must be really bad. Some Christians also believe that Cain slew Abel on Friday the 13th but that seems to be based on absolutely nothing (like many religious beliefs if you ask me).
There are plenty of examples in history where Friday was considered to be an unlucky day of the week and 13 was seen to be an unlucky number but historically the superstitions have always operated independently of each other. For example, in the Middle Ages Friday weddings were considered bad luck and the number 13 was considered to be inauspicious as far back as Norse mythology. That said, one can find no mention of combining the two being particularly dastardly in either of their imaginations. In fact, it was not until 1907 when Thomas Lawson wrote the book Friday the 13th that the day and date were ever even seen together in print.
That’s right. 110 years ago a guy wrote a book about a stockbroker trying to bring down Wall Street and over the years people went back in time to make it a superstition rooted in Christianity. Today there are people who refuse to leave their homes out of fear over the whole thing. Yeah, that makes sense.
Finally, one must note that the fear of Friday the 13th is primarily a Western superstition with other cultures free to interpret their own calendars differently. Hispanic and Greek cultures tremble in fear of Tuesday the 13th while in Italy Friday the 17th is the big boogie man since Italians actually view the number 13 as a lucky one. Human nature agrees on the need for irrational fear, they just cannot get on the same page as to when it needs to happen, apparently.
So there you have it… we are all going to be okay. The Wife and I are perfectly safe to celebrate her birthday by renting a cabin in the woods and maybe doing some skinny dipping while we are at it. Whatever happens, it cannot get any weirder than some of the crowds coming into town for Fall for Greenville, right?