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Long before the first Valentines Day,
I was the narrow standard.
And while I'm neither alive nor dead,
all who meet me are branded.

Once met, you can't hide in fire or ice;
plus I'll come on your worst of days.
Then defeated I wait for my next chance to strike,
and rise like the phoenix in flames.

The unhappy marriage of complex and simple,
I am a tough itch to scratch.
And once you steal me from her garden,
you'll want to give me right back.

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  • $\begingroup$ rhyme tag here? $\endgroup$ – TSLF Jun 15 '17 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ @TSLF, sure, why not? They're admittedly weak rhymes, but the similarly weak meter helps force them a little: standard/branded and days/flames and scratch/back $\endgroup$ – Forklift Jun 15 '17 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ Um, is the answer NSFW? I can think of one that is quite NC-17 or even more than that. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Jun 15 '17 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @can-ned_food you're likely on the right track if not correct, but nothing in the hints or answer should contain any words or concepts unsafe for work unless you work in a place that disallows scientific terms. $\endgroup$ – Forklift Jun 15 '17 at 22:08
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Are you

herpes? (yikes...)

Long before the first Valentines Day, I was the narrow standard.

Herpes has been known for at least 2,000 years. Also, Valentines Day = VD = venereal disease (clued by "first") OP -> abbrev for standard (clued by "narrow") = STD

And while I'm neither alive nor dead, all who meet me are branded.

"Are viruses alive?" is a debated topic. Herpes carriers are often "branded" by visible sores.

Once met, you can't hide in fire or ice; plus I'll come on your worst of days.

People try to treat the symptoms with hot and cold compresses. Sores often appear during times of sickness, hence their nicknames "cold sores" and "fever blisters". Sores can also be triggered by stress.

Then defeated I wait for my next chance to strike, and rise like the phoenix in flames.

The symptoms go away and come back. OP -> this is known as a "flare up" (clued by "rise" and "flames")

The unhappy marriage of complex and simple, I am a tough itch to scratch.

The virus is known as "Herpes simplex", though there are complexities in its structure (i dont know, the word "complex" shows up a bunch in the wiki page). OP -> SIMple + comPLEX = SIMPLEX.

And once you steal me from her garden, you'll want to give me right back.

OP -> once a person attains this things, they do not want to have it anymore. "Garden" just helps tie the vegetable clue together

I'm her least favorite vegetable

"Her peas"...

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  • $\begingroup$ Dang nice one :P $\endgroup$ – NL628 Apr 22 '18 at 21:20
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Haven't gotten all the clues yet, but so far I think that you are...

a rose

"Long before the first Valentines Day, I was the narrow standard."

Giving someone a rose is a sign of romantic affection. The flower's stem is narrow.

"And while I'm neither alive nor dead, all who meet me are branded."

It's a flower, and not "alive" like an animal. However, is thorns can wound (brand) someone.

"Once met, you can't hide in fire or ice; plus I'll come on your worst of days."

Unsure about the fire/ice thing. Receiving a rose could cheer someone having a bad day - or maybe this refers to placing a rose on someone's coffin at their funeral.

"Then defeated I wait for my next chance to strike, and rise like the phoenix in flames."

"Chance to strike" sounds like the thorns again. The "phoenix in flames" could be the rose's bright red color.

"The unhappy marriage of complex and simple, I'm a tough itch to scratch."

Reminds me of the phrase "every rose has its thorn" - things that seem great can have complex drawbacks. The itch could refer to the pain of being hurt by thorns.

"And once you steal me from her garden, you'll want to give me right back."

If you tried to steal a rose by pulling it from the stem, you will definitely get poked by thorns.

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  • $\begingroup$ Clever! I find your interpretation interesting, but when you solve this riddle, all answers will definitely fit perfectly. $\endgroup$ – Forklift Jun 15 '17 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ A rose isn't a vegetable! $\endgroup$ – n_plum Jun 15 '17 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ Well, it's certainly not a fruit.... $\endgroup$ – RDFozz Jun 15 '17 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ Given the intended answer, rose cracked me up :) $\endgroup$ – Forklift Jun 16 '17 at 0:26

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