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I Really Strongly Dislike Valentine’s Day!

The only good thing about VDay: condom roses.

The only good thing about VDay: condom roses.

Hey everyone! I’m going to poop on your parade. Don’t worry, I’ll be cheerful about it.

I’m not going to say I hate Valentine’s Day, because hate is a strong word and I reserve it for things I really mean it for, like coffee and misogyny. I was going to just let today go by without writing about it, but then I realized that I really want to dispel the notion that everyone who dislikes Valentine’s Day is just bitter/jealous/single/all of the above. I’m none of the above; I’m happily taken (well, insofar as a person in an open relationship who is also an autonomous human being can be “taken”) and I wouldn’t trade my love/sex life for anyone else’s. And I still really strongly dislike Valentine’s Day! Imagine that.

First of all, as many happy couples will tell you, I think it’s superfluous. The way you stay in a fulfilling long-term relationship is, among many other things, showing love to each other every day in whatever little ways you each find meaningful. If you save it all up for one big day of the year, y’all are probably going to break up. Just saying.

That’s not really the reason I dislike it so much, though. If that were the case, I’d merely be ambivalent.

The bigger reason is that romantic love (a very small and specific subset of the vast number of human experiences that can be called “love”) is already so glorified and celebrated in our culture that it actually seems very odd to me to have a special holiday just for its sake. It’s like having a Christianity Awareness Day or Straight Pride Day or something, although without the added bigotry.

Romantic relationships are already presented (and largely considered) something that everyone should aspire to and something that everyone should feel miserable without. They don’t need a special day of appreciation. Contrast that with, say, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, which celebrate relationships that we do often take for granted in this society (as opposed to, say, in Russian culture, where you cannot go a damn day without being reminded of your parents, for better or worse). Unfortunately, it often really does take a special occasion to make us sit down and think, “Wow, I really wouldn’t be half the person I am today without my mother/father.” Who the hell needs a special day to remember the fact that sex and romantic love are important?

Add to that the fact that even little children are expected to participate in VDay by bringing cards to class. What’s actually super creepy about that is they have to bring cards for every classmate, not just the ones they actually like and are friends with. While I understand that the point is so that kids don’t feel left out, 1) that doesn’t justify faking affection (or, worse, attraction) for people, and 2) that problem would be solved entirely if we either didn’t make such a big show of VDay or, even better, didn’t have it at all. Pretending to want someone to “be my Valentine! <3 <3 <3″ when you really don’t is creepy. We should be teaching kids to get their guard up about something like that rather than institutionalizing it.

And in high school, VDay is an even bigger deal, with themed dances and flower deliveries during class and everything. At the time when it’s most important for people to focus on developing their own identity and becoming independent, these lavish observances encourage them to think of themselves in terms of their ability to find a romantic partner. If you think being single on VDay as an adult sucks, imagine (or remember) how it would feel in high school.

Even for the most traditionally romantic and “into” VDay of us, it’s probably sobering to remember that this holiday really wouldn’t be nearly as big of a deal as it is without the forces of commercialism and consumerism. Producers of greeting cards, chocolate, jewelry, and so on have driven popular perceptions of VDay for decades now. Many people celebrate it because it’s what their partners have come to expect, or because, honestly, what else are you going to do if all your friends are out on dates? Might as well.

There’s a certain amount of lip service now paid to the idea that VDay is about all kinds of love, not just romantic love, that you should take this opportunity to express love to your friends and family, or practice “self-care,” or whatever. But while I think it’s nice that a conscious effort has been made to correct for the fact that tons of people get left out by VDay, these exhortations to “celebrate love in all its forms” seem kind of shallow to me. In fact, they seem like advertisers’ attempts to get more people to buy stuff.

We tend to measure people’s worth by how much other people like them–as people, as sex objects, as romantic partners. This is especially true for women, but really it’s true for everyone. As someone who’s recovering from Chronic Feeling-Like-I-Have-No-Worth-As-A-Person-Unless-I-Have-A-Boyfriend-itis, I’m very aware of how VDay can exacerbate that state of mind for people.

Many of you probably like VDay and that’s fine. You’re not a bad person if you like it. I don’t particularly care if you do or not. My aim here isn’t to convince anyone of anything, but just to rant about my opinion for a while and also show that not everyone who finds today annoying and pointless is sitting around at home putting pins in a voodoo doll of their ex or something.

Anyway, VDay isn’t all bad. I’m going to CVS tomorrow for some cheap-ass chocolate. Simple pleasures.

Comments

  1. says

    I wonder if any other holidays leave quite so many people in the dust, and so thoroughly. I’m sure Mother’s/Father’s Days are hard for those without living parents, but you can still remember them for those holidays. Christmas is usually a time for family, but even those unable to reach them can still find solace in other friends. Other holidays cover sentiments everyone can have individually, like gratitude, reverence, patriotism, or equality.

    I don’t find all the attempts to make this holiday more generically about compassion for others to be from Hallmark and the like. Though now that you mention it, I see it as an obvious target for them. But I, for one, would like to try and make this holiday less Singles Awareness Day and more about the many people that care about each other.

    • says

      Yeah, while the whole SAD thing is well-intentioned and maybe even helpful (besides the awful acronym), the point shouldn’t be HEY LOOK SOME PEOPLE ARE SINGLE. The point should be, some people have romantic partners, some people don’t, everyone can have love of various kinds in their lives and everyone can learn to be better at loving others and accepting love in return.

  2. slc1 says

    I was in a Hallmark store to purchase a birthday card for my sister who was born on 2/15. In looking at the display of valentine cards, I am convinced that Valentine’s day is a conspiracy by Hallmark to separate the rubes from their dough.

  3. Duke Eligor says

    In my corner of the world, all the major traditional holidays are about celebrating one’s parents, appreciating our families, and memorializing ancestors. I think they have a better understanding of “love” over here. And that’s pretty sad, actually. Simple advice for those who buy into the US commercial culture: When your version of “love” makes Confucian tradition look good, you’re doing it wrong.

  4. says

    My wife and I do the “holiday” pretty weird. I buy her some stuff, I buy me some stuff. When the day comes, she appreciates all the stuff I bought her, and she says “I wish I had bought you something”… at which point I say “don’t worry, you bought me THIS” and I show her what I bought myself. Then she says OK and we go on with our night.

  5. says

    Yeah, we don’t make a big deal of VDay; if you need one particular day to remember to be decent human being to your ‘other half’ then you have problems. Still, coffee?! You hate coffee?! My alcohol stream is usually about 15% caffene, I can’t afford to let the plasma win.

  6. otranreg says

    (as opposed to, say, in Russian culture, where you cannot go a damn day without being reminded of your parents, for better or worse)

    Could you explain what you meant to say? Reminded how, exactly?

    • says

      It’s complicated, but basically our culture emphasizes parents and respect thereof very strongly. Adult children are expected to stay in frequent contact with their parents, ask them for advice, and help them when they ask for it. It would be absolutely impossible for a Russian child to be like “oh hey it’s Mother’s Day I might wanna give Mom a call” because Mom will have already called and left three messages wondering if we’re still alive. :)

  7. Matthew, a Pretty Ace Guy says

    “Who the hell needs a special day to remember the fact that sex and romantic love are important?”
    I agree with your point in this article, but I’d like to point out that sex and romantic love are NOT necessarily important to all people (asexual and aromantic people specifically) and probably a better choice of wording would be “the fact that our society places the highest value on sex and romantic love to the exclusion of all other forms of intimacy and love”. Thanks.

  8. Yellow Thursday says

    When I was in high school, the thing to do was to give your friends and/or sweethearts mylar balloons. So all the popular girls had boquets of balloons, often 6 or more, while the unpopular girls, like me, had none.

    I agree that Valentine’s Day is overhyped and overcommericalized. It sends a lot of the wrong messages, as you described. But after listening to Valentine’s messages on the radio and online, I found myself making a meta-analysis of my relationship with my husband. I wrote a letter to him describing the reasons I love him (basically, we’re a good match and he’s my best friend) and delivered it by email. He wrote a similarly mushy letter back. I bought him some sugar-free chocolates, and he bought me a bag of beef jerky. We were both very happy with our gifts.

  9. Onamission5 says

    The reason I passionately dislike valentines day is simple: it’s my effing birthday.

    Imagine if you will trying to make dinner plans that are birthday related not hearts and cupids related, or trying to throw onself a party on one’s actual birthday day (or even near the day, everyone is too burnt out to attend), or getting that annual combo valentine’s/b-day card, or being expected by various significant others over the years to make some grand, sweeping romatic gesture for them on. one’s. fucking. birthday.

    I don’t get a day that is mine to celebrate my birth that I share with just a handful of other people. I get dinner plans made for the day before or the day after so we can avoid the VD crowds and stressed out, harried staff and over priced, surf and turf prix fixe menus with pink hearts all over them. I get to share with all the people who dislike my birthday valentine’s day, and all the people who just LOVE it, neither of whom will stop talking about hating it or loving it for days beforehand if not weeks. I get to have my birthday be one of the most triggering holidays for other people and one of the most openly reviled for it’s Hallmarkness. And I get to go buy presents for other people. For mah birfday. Every year.* So fucking awesome.

    *admittedly I’ve got nothing on christmas birthday people here. if any of you are reading, you have my sympathies.

  10. Onamission5 says

    hahahaha, I totally fucked up the strike tag, that was supposed to be through just one word, not all of them. Fail.

  11. F [nucular nyandrothol] says

    I agree on all points. Additionally, like so many “holidays” and “traditions”, it is completely made up by marketing departments in various industries. And commerce for its own sake can go suck canal water.

  12. doublereed says

    I love Valentine’s Day (or Singles Awareness Day if you don’t have a partner). I don’t really understand your criticism of “why would we need this superfluous holiday?” It’s about love and affection and complaining about relationships and such. You can embrace the Singles side of it as well, which is lots of fun. I don’t understand people claiming that ‘you don’t need an specific day to do this.’ It’s not a restriction. It’s a celebration.

    If anything, that sounds like a really great idea for holiday. It’s a much better tradition and celebration than pretty much any other holiday out there (except for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day as you point out). I’d much rather have Valentine’s Day than not have it.

    Plus, it’s a celebration of chocolate and that means it’s the best holiday to exist, ever.

  13. Henry says

    Valentine’s day is another excuse for retailers to make people feel bad about not buying your GF/BF/Wife/Husband candy or flowers on 14 February. While dating my wife, I let her know upfront that I don’t recognize Valentine’s day or most other holidays, so there was never an expectation that I would be buying her $100 worth of flowers along with a dinner reservation at Le Snob French Restaurant. My In-Laws think I’m cheap sometimes for not splurging on Holidays, but I married my wife and not them (In-Laws love Valentine’s day and pretty much any other excuse to buy gifts or throw a party).

    For single people, it’s supposed to make you feel bad about not being in a relationship. For people in committed relationships, it’s supposed to make you feel bad about not following the horde of mindless zombies who fall for the Valentine’s day marketing scheme. Same thing for the diamond ring companies making a guy think that they need to spend 2 month’s salary on a wedding ring for a woman, but that’s another issue.