Valentine’s Day is one of those tricky celebrations where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you love it, you’re buying into a holiday created to sell greeting cards, bad bouquets and shoddy love-themed stuffed animals. And if you’re opposed to it, you’re considered lonely and single and have clearly never had a valentine.
I often find myself conflicted about the holiday. I love to hate it but I think that if given the opportunity, I’d hate to love it.
My earliest memory of Valentine’s Day dates back to the first grade when the most popular girl in my class, a ginger-haired girl named Cynthia, proclaimed that her parents only bought enough Valentine’s cards for half the kids.
I watched in horror as she slowly paced up and down the aisles handing out her personalized valentines to her “closest friends.” One by one she dropped them into the handmade festive pouches we all had hanging off the front of our desks.
After passing by a row of desks and leaving a trail of rejection, she eventually made her way to mine. She stopped, looked me up and down and then hesitantly dropped a valentine into my pouch. It was exhilarating. I was accepted. I was loved. I had just moved up a rung on the social ladder! That was until she muttered under her breath (but loud enough for the class to hear), “That’s only because I’m in a fight with Peter.”
Perfect. Thanks. Really appreciate it.
And from then on, I’ve always equated Cupid’s big 24 hours with a horrifying popularity contest that leaves people feeling used, unwanted and unloved.
Sure, when I was growing up, my mom would send me to school with a big gingerbread heart and some sweet note that someone would inevitably rip out of my hands, read aloud to the lunchroom and embarrass me with. But Valentine’s Day isn’t about your parents; it’s about being with the person you want to marry! And if not marry, at least have some fleeting fun with. And if not that, then at least a one-night stand. Who cares? It’s about two people doing something romantic together.
If you don’t have someone like that in your life, well, you’re left to spend the day alone, walking the streets wondering how to go about avoiding the constant reminder that you should be Lady and the Tramp-ing a bowl of pasta while feigning to find baby’s breath charming. Trust me, I live it basically every year.
And yet, whenever I ask my friends who are in relationships about their thoughts on Valentine’s Day, the majority casually brush it off saying that real romance is something that shouldn’t be forced; that the most memorable romantic gestures they’ve ever experienced haven’t happened on February 14th but rather in those moments when they’ve least expected it.
So essentially Valentine’s Day is a day where singles resent couples for having a day that celebrates the fact that they’re not single, and yet, for the most part, the couples themselves don’t even care that much about it. This seems like a strange dichotomy, no?
Obviously there are couples who love the day, but I’ve also found that those couples tend to be the ones who break up if it wasn’t everything they had dreamt it to be. And that’s where things get dangerous: when people use Valentine’s Day as a benchmark for the strength of their relationship. I’ll leave those people for next year’s column.
As for this February, I’m going to try something new: I’m going to be my own valentine. I’m going to send my valentine flowers and take my valentine to a nice dinner. And then hopefully I’ll have a clearer idea as to whether or not this day we call Valentine’s has any effect on the star-crossed relationship I have with myself.