Randi Hutter Epstein
Source: Randi Hutter Epstein

I was downtown with my girls a few years ago checking out the arts-n-crafts tables at Union Square when I came across a heart necklace shaped like a heart. Like a real heart. Like if you didn’t know what a real heart looked like, you might have thought the necklace was a charm of a chicken breast with antennae sticking out.

I asked the saleswoman about it and she made some comment like “real love isn’t pretty.” That’s why she molded an anatomically correct organ rather than a heart-shaped heart.

My girls were appalled. I was sold. Not so much because I’ve got a dismal view on love—I’ll be celebrating my 27th anniversary next month—but because I appreciated the medical accuracy.

I got thinking about my accurate-heart necklace with Valentine’s Day around the corner. And that got me wondering why—of all of our body parts—we connect love to the heart. It’s really just a pump.

Turns out, in ancient times the liver was the organ of desire.

with permission dreamstime.com
Source: with permission dreamstime.com

Maybe the liver-love-thing didn’t catch on because getting someone a box of liver-treats on Valentine’s Day sounds like something you’d get your dog.

I think it’s time for a new Valentine’s Day body part. Rather than an organ responsible for bile (liver) or one for blood circulation (heart), we should pick one that has to do with hormones. Those are the chemicals that control lust, hunger, desire, growth, and probably cognition—all the things that in one way or another go into a solid romance.  Among the hormone-spewing glands, the top contender is the hypothalamus. It’s the master gland tucked deep in the brain that releases hormones that controls all the other ones. It’s the conductor of your finely-tuned orchestra of hormones. And it’s shaped sort of like a diamond. How apropos for Valentine’s gifts.

with permission Shutterstock
Source: with permission Shutterstock

So if you really want to express a deep biological desire for your Valentine, you certainly don’t want to tell someone you love them with all your liver (that’s so 2nd century A.D) nor that you love them with all your heart (so 20th century.) Tell them you lust for them with all of the power of your hormone-spewing hypothalamus. 

For a good listen about hearts and Valentines Day check out this Podcast on WHYY's The Pulse. 

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