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‘Bundle up’ this Valentine’s Day

Say “bundle up,” and you probably have memories of mom insisting you wear mittens on a cold winter day.

But the history of bundling is a far more romantic affair. In fact, it’s one of history’s sexiest little secrets.

This Valentine’s Day, which is next Monday — just in case you have forgotten — snuggle up with your sweetheart and learn how your ancestors got away with more than you ever imagined.

Bundling was the practice of two young lovers sharing a bed without undressing. Though it allowed courting couples a rare and thrilling opportunity for pillow talk, the custom was mainly a practical one.

Before planes, trains and automobiles, a suitor might have to ride or walk some distance to see his sweetheart, and guests often spent the night. Economically-minded parents could sleep tight knowing they’d saved money on costly candles, fires and guest beds, since two teenagers wrapped in a quilt could produce their own heat.

But bundling was hardly an invitation to free love. Since a damaged reputation (or worse) had huge consequences, the rules had to be strict. There were lots of ways to ensure a safe and successful bundling. The oldest method, dating back to the middle ages, was to use a bundling board — a nearly-body-length piece of wood secured upright between the lovers. Parents using this method relied on the modesty of the couple, as eager bedfellows could easily jump the board.

Another, more popular technique, was to sew the boy or girl into a “bundling bag,” a linen sheet that would bind, confine and conceal the legs, and consequently, the potentially offending parts of the body. For especially determined lovers, more extreme restraints might be employed. Boys with Houdini-like talents might be bound right up to the neck in the bundling bag, with their hands tied behind their backs. Judging from the large number of children born out of wedlock throughout the 1700s, they escaped more than once.

In Malaysia, my country of birth, there’s a Muslim saying, “When a boy and girl are together, Satan makes three.” It’s kind of like when the nuns used to tell us to “make room for the Holy Spirit,” when we were dancing. Why should he have all the fun?

The perfect gift for your loved one — what else? A gift membership to the recreation center. It’s less expensive than a fancy dinner and flowers, better for your beloved than candy, and longer lasting than even the sweetest kiss. Just planting an idea.

However, if your beloved already has a gym membership or has zilch interest in physical exercise, a nice romantic dinner is a great way to indulge her. Purchase United Way Dining Certificates (available at the Recreation Center and Chamber of Commerce in $25 certificates) and support our local restaurants while they — the restaurant owners — donate 20 percent of every dining certificate redeemed towards United Way. You will receive full value in meals from any of 22 local restaurants participating in this program.

Or, if you wish to do more for her and to give fuller support to the community as it goes about with its different fund-raisers, the Heart Beat Ball on Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Lodge on the Lake should be considered as part of the Valentine’s celebration. The ball is a dressy affair of food, dance and fellowship with your friends and neighbors. Tickets are available at Pagosa Mountain Hospital, Bank of the San Juans, Citizens Bank, Rio Grande Savings and Loan and Bank of Colorado. Remember, all proceeds benefit Pagosa Mountain Hospital ­— your hospital, in your hometown.