I Do Not Celebrate Valentine’s Day


Hallmark denies or downplays whether it had any involvement in the invention of Valentine’s day, though it is often tagged as a “Hallmark Holiday.”

I expected to find that Valentines’ Day was cooked up by Edward Bernays [stderr] but Bernays mostly did public relations campaigns for toxic and manipulative products like tobacco – not chocolate. On the other hand, the Valentine’s Day public relations campaign has been remarkably effective. I remember when I was a kid, we made “Valentines” in school – perhaps as an experiment in teaching us how to be socially awkward. I only made one, and gave it to S—- Miller, who did throw a smile my way, but – as I found out later – she was creeped out by the fact that I only made one. Clearly, I needed to be educated more, but I wasn’t. My 6th grade class, I think it was, spent an afternoon decorating and signing cards; there were also commercially-produced cards, things that I now recall as cheesy, garish, garbage. It was probably an important lesson in socialization and social skills, in addition to learning how to handle rejection; I remember one kid got a card from someone he didn’t like and crumpled it up. Perhaps our teachers could have put some framing around

Over 1 BILLION cards are exchanged on Valentine’s Day

the lesson.

Today, I feel that social media is doing the same thing as those Valentines’ Day cards: devaluing the notion of “friend” by promoting the idea that you can show someone you care by clicking on a button, when prompted. To my mind, that misses the point of friendship entirely, and I feel like I’d be lying if I pretended to someone that I cared about them enough to put their birthday in my calendar, when in fact it was just Facebook reminding me that I could pretend to care with a simple mouse-click.

FredBlog has a cute feature where you can make a “Valentines’ Day Dashboard” of metrics and statistics for someone you care about. [fred] That raises a point which I sincerely believe: if you want to show someone you care – make something for them. It’s the only way to avoid the mass-produced, pre-packaged, inauthentic and merchandised. I know that’s showing my aesthetic bias, but I’d rather have a 3×5 card with some crayon-scribble on it (“love ya, Donald!”) instead of 10,000 tweets generated with a simple mouse-click.

Over $18 billion spent on Valentine’s Day, with men spending nearly twice as much

I remember the candy hearts and chocolates weren’t very good, either. Between Halloween and Valentines’ Day I ingested a lot of garbage masquerading as ‘caring.’

$4 billion will be spent on diamonds, gold, and silver. I guess love is real.

If you feel affectionate toward someone, any day is a good day to mention it.

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A related bit of weirdness about the whole “saint’s days” thing: we’re supposedly celebrating someone’s martyrdom, which is a nice roundabout way of saying that they were horribly murdered. So, yay? Perhaps someday there will be saint’s days for suicide bombers, and kids will exchange little chocolate airplanes and IEDs? The whole concept is extremely unsettling, to me; why are we supposed to care about some christian fanatic death cultist who was put to death cruelly by some other christian fanatic death cultists?

 

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    It’s not even a proper Catholic observance anymore. St. Valentine was removed from the official Vatican liturgical calendar in the 60s because the evidence that he even existed is so weak and tendential. Or, rather, that they existed, because there might well have been several of them. Records from 3rd century Roman christian communities are practically non-existent.

    The only reason it became associated with romantic love was that St. Valentine’s Day fell on the first day of spring in most Medieval festival calendars, and thus attracted all the folk-ritual of springtime celebrations of rebirth, fecundity and all that jazz. The Romans had Lupercalia at around the same time, which was rather racier and involved young men running round the city in animal skins whipping people with leather thongs.

  2. cartomancer says

    Crass and commercial the whole capitalistic framework around the day might be, though, I’ve always found the cruelest barbs came from other people. When I was at university my five housemates decided to have an annual Valentine’s Day dinner with their partners. Since I did not have a partner (I’ve never had one, truth be told), they asked me if I could cook and serve the food instead. I think it was suggested in a tone-deaf spirit of inclusivity, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect. I should have asked them exactly how much of my saliva they were willing to put up with in their meals, but I ended up just mumbling my excuses and leaving.

  3. Dunc says

    To my mind, that misses the point of friendship entirely, and I feel like I’d be lying if I pretended to someone that I cared about them enough to put their birthday in my calendar, when in fact it was just Facebook reminding me that I could pretend to care with a simple mouse-click.

    As I see it, there’s at least two different levels here:

    1. People that you do actually care about enough to put their birthday in your calendar. Great! However, an additional reminder from FB doesn’t really hurt there, especially if you’re as absent-minded as I am around such things.
    2. People that you don’t really care about all that much, but are still prepared to put some minimal effort into displaying basic social niceties to. Much of life is made up of these small “lies” – for example, the hard truth is that I couldn’t give less of a stuff about how most of my colleague’s weekends were, but I’m perfectly happy to ask the question and listen to the answer because that’s one of the basics of expected social interaction in my culture, and such things generally make everybody’s life more pleasant at negligible cost. Taking thirty seconds to wish someone a happy birthday on FB isn’t much different to muttering a word of thanks to the bus driver as I get off.

    In short, I don’t accept the premise that displaying some minimal social consideration for people you don’t really care about devalues anything at all. It’s nice to be nice.

  4. says

    To be a bit Cartomantic, I did one of my silly radio essays on this, to quote me (accurately, I hope):
    ‘First of all, forget all that Esther Howlandish crap with the red cardioid covered cards and the frilly sentiments, and the other crap with the red roses; if you really want to celebrate the true St. Valentine’s spirit, then all you young men should be out there with raw and bloody strips of sacrificed goat, running around practically (or even completely) naked, thwacking away at any girls you can find to keep ’em fertile because the februal, febrile fifteenth of February was the ancient Roman festival of the Lupercalia and, just like Christmas and so many other of our festivals, it is I fear something gross and Roman that lies behind our modern Day–so like the Luperci let’s cry “Io! Faune! Bring on the girls and the sacrificial goats! And just remember to hold your nose!”‘ — from VD.

  5. sillybill says

    I tried that “Valentines day is just a made up holiday invented by Hallmark and FTD”. Once. Didn’t go over well at all.

    On another note, in a month or so (maybe sooner) the dumpster behind every grocery and drug store in America will be chock full of unbought and perfectly delicious chocolates. Boxes and boxes and boxes.

  6. says

    I mentioned over at Caine’s: there are social science studies around randomized reward reinforcement that probably indicate that it gets higher pleasure scores if you unexpectedly reward college students at major universities in the US, compared to giving them an expected reward on schedule. This leads me to believe that one should give out chocolates randomly during the year, rather than on an expected occasion.

    Unfortunately, a quick search through the literature indicates that unexpected reward and expected punishment work best. So, take that into account when you structure your holiday!

  7. cartomancer says

    Okay, so Valentine’s Day is the expected punishment. What’s the reward? Hire a prostitute to visit you at a random occasion over the next year?

  8. says

    Before seeing the title of this blog entry I wasn’t even aware that today is the Valentine’s Day. Not only I didn’t celebrate it, I totally forgot that it exists.

    I remember when I was a kid, we made “Valentines” in school – perhaps as an experiment in teaching us how to be socially awkward. I only made one, and gave it to S—- Miller, who did throw a smile my way, but – as I found out later – she was creeped out by the fact that I only made one. Clearly, I needed to be educated more, but I wasn’t. My 6th grade class, I think it was, spent an afternoon decorating and signing cards; there were also commercially-produced cards, things that I now recall as cheesy, garish, garbage. It was probably an important lesson in socialization and social skills, in addition to learning how to handle rejection; I remember one kid got a card from someone he didn’t like and crumpled it up.

    I totally skipped that. At school my classmates really bored me, and I mostly just ignored them. At school I talked with my teachers a lot more than with my classmates. My Russian teacher was really cool, during breaks between lessons I often chatted with her. That’s how I learned Russian language. I also talked a lot with the school librarian. Picture the 16 years old me, the school librarian and another boy who was two years older than me, the three of us sitting in the school library next to the librarian’s desk and discussing whether people have free will. That was before I started reading philosophy, so I had to come up with my own arguments. Back then I defended the idea that people have free will, because, well, I liked that idea better than the other option. Those discussions were sort of fun. I also loved talking with that teacher whose job at school was to punish trouble makers. All other children disliked her, because, well, the moment they did anything bad, they got sent to her. But she was a really nice person, I talked with her about all sorts of topics. I cannot remember how I got to know her (I never did anything that warranted getting sent to her), but somehow I ended up spending most of my breaks between lessons in her office. So, yeah, back when I was 16, my best friend was that teacher who was over forty. But my classmates, they were really boring… So I never did any dating at school. The youngest person I have ever had sex with was 32 at the time (I didn’t have sex before I was 18, so I didn’t do anything illegal that could have gotten somebody in trouble). And, yeah, I know I’m weird. People who couldn’t tell me anything interesting always bored me, so I never had friends my age. And, unless I enjoy talking with some person, I never even consider having sex with them. Hence all my weird relationships.

    I know that’s showing my aesthetic bias, but I’d rather have a 3×5 card with some crayon-scribble on it (“love ya, Donald!”) instead of 10,000 tweets generated with a simple mouse-click.

    Yes, same goes for me.

    $4 billion will be spent on diamonds, gold, and silver. I guess love is real.

    This one makes me sad. Diamond money is used to pay for wars (if somebody must have a diamond ring, they could instead just get a lab made diamond). And the production of gold creates a lot of environmental pollution (mercury being used for extraction of gold). Of course neither gold nor diamonds are really necessary.

  9. jazzlet says

    I spent a couple of terms in school in the USA when I was eight in the late sixites and was mortified when valntine’s day came round. I got a card from every other girl in the class and didn’t give any myself as I didn’t know it was a thing. Urgh.

  10. cartomancer says

    One could, of course, pronounce it differently and celebrate Wallenstein’s Day instead. Albrecht von Wallenstein seems a much more fitting patron for a day of capitalistic excess, especially in the USA. He was one of the first generals to think up the idea of taxing your own people to pay for your wars, rather than just recouping the losses from any enemy cities you end up capturing.

  11. says

    Just another manufactured day to make people buy useless junk and flowers soaked in pesticide and air miles from Kenya. Fortunately it wasn’t a thing that everyone did in my Australian childhood, that and Halloween. Recent customs forced upon us by the rapacious Yanks.

    I always maintain that the most valuable thing I can give to my partner in love is not “Presents” but “Presence” i.e. my time.

  12. says

    Speaking of flowers soaked in pesticides, in former Soviet Union countries on 8th March there’s the “Women’s Day” celebration. Basically, the idea is that men give flowers to women. If you are a guy, you are supposed to give flowers to pretty much all the women you know (wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, work colleagues, female friends). Luckily, since real flowers are pretty expensive, instead of those you can just send your work colleagues e-mails with photos of flowers in the attachment.

    I never liked this celebration. I’m a practical minded person, so I consider cut flowers as a waste of money. Besides, I’ll just have to carry those to the trash bin in a couple of days.

    I don’t like how, when it comes to giving gifts, people tend to follow all the stereotypes. In Latvia we have a stereotype that “all women love receiving flowers.” I certainly don’t; in fact, it pisses me off when I’m being treated like a woman in the first place. Any holiday tradition that requires you to give gifts to many people you barely know is bound to end with lots of stuff in the trash bins. This is a sad example of how humanity insists on wasting resources.

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