My funny valentine: how an ugly bug found love

When we first got married and I needed a romantic gift for my young bride, I looked to the heavens. I had a star named after my lovely Sarah.

It came with a chart so all she had to do was check the map and look up for an illustration of how our love would burn eternal.

Then came Merlin the Manatee. Apparently, Merlin had gotten into a bit of trouble during his life at sea and he needed some cash to help him with a few scrapes he had gotten himself into.

In exchange for that, we got a letter from Merlin telling Sarah what a big heart I had and that my donation would eventually help him find his way back onto the right path, the one that would lead him back to the sea.

Here comes Valentine’s Day and after 10 years of marriage, I have to admit that I found myself wondering, “Where do you go after a manatee?”

Monogrammed slippers? A plastic rose with a card that says, “Our love will never die?” The answer came to me at work in the form of a press release from the Bronx Zoo – a cockroach!

“The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo has thousands of new bugs in need of names just in time for Valentine’s Day,” the release stated.

Wow, I wondered if this was the perfect way to let Sarah know that my feelings are forever – with a roach named after her!

I shared my enthusiasm with the office.

“Guys really have no clue, do they?”  said a coworker. “Looking for a cockroach for your wife after 10 years? You want to stay married don’t you?”

But, according to the zoo, “Name-A-Roach has attracted thousands of hopeless romantics from around the world.” Did I mention these are Madagascar cockroaches that hiss?
I don’t think these romantics are “hopeless.”

Of course people are jumping at the site of this opportunity. The release goes on to say that people love the idea so much that they are even naming cockroaches after their mothers-in-law and exes.

Like the previous gifts, the star and manatee, each donation comes with a certificate announcing that one of nature’s creations has been named in a special someone’s honor.

Did I mention that at “nearly four-inches long” these hissing cockroaches are the world’s largest cockroaches? Each name only costs $10, but proceeds don’t go to the cockroaches. They go to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Still, no gift is perfect.

To visit Merlin I had to take Sarah all the way down to Florida. Plane ride, hotel, boat ride, it was no easy feat. I had to do all of that just for the chance that she could catch a glimpse of her gift, the smile on a manatee’s face after knowing that he has subsidized health care.

Even after all of that, our relations with Merlin dwindled down to a photo and tiny stuffed manatee, a memento that is now in the possession of our 5-year-old son, Owen.

Thanks to the Bronx Zoo I have found a new way to say, “Our love will never die – unless you step on it!”

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