Originally I was going to write about how much Valentine’s day has become yet another commercialized holiday. Sure, the day of love has become focused on the love of receiving things-jewelry, chocolate, flowers, etc. In many ways, if one were just using a heterosexist lens, one would notice that there is expectation placed upon male partners to purchase gifts in order to receive sex from their female partners. While there are many things I could say about this day of love (like the fact that I made a joke that referred to it as a level of sanctioned prostitution) I decided to take a different slant. Especially after witnessing Valentine’s Day getting beaten like it was a piñata.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve had conversations with various individuals about the holiday. I also committed a Facebook post to asking people about their feelings in regards to the holiday. While I admit to over-analyzing and guilty of causing a thunderstorm on a sunny day (okay a bit dramatic and perhaps only sometimes), I had to take a step back and wonder why some of us have become overall bitter about Valentines Day. Is it the mass frustration/confusion with the concept of love in all of its forms? Is it the fact that at every turn, everyone is being encouraged to spend what they don’t have in a shaky economy? It is the latter that has contributed to some of my frustrations around Christmas. As for the former, many individuals (including myself) mentioned that the day of love was everyday, not once a year. Someone I talked with posed a few questions, “So one day makes up for the rest of the 364 days that the person was being treated crappy in the relationship? It is as if Valentine’s Day automatically erases inexcusable behavior and/or lack of romance in relationship. What is that saying about what is okay and what is not okay in relationship?” This point was well made especially when looking at the implications of gender that the holiday perpetuates. While some may view this as harsh, many of these views about “everyday as opposed to one special day” including the previous opinion that was shared has some validity. Sure, one could make a counter argument that we could use the same logic for birthdays or anniversaries-why celebrate one special day as opposed to an everyday birthday or anniversary? On the other hand, I thought back to all of my past intimate relationships where Valentines Day was extremely important. In fact I placed a lot of pressure on one day as if hoping that the individual I was involved with would redeem their past behavior with a grand gesture. For me, the day of love once represented some hope that I carried for re-igniting my past relationships.
In Defense of Valentine’s Day
In the days leading to the big V-Day, I came across a radio station that had a picture of cupid face down, shot in the back by his own arrow. The caption next to the picture on the radio station’s website was “We are giving you a chance to tell us how much your Valentine’s Day is going to suck.” A laughter of shock escaped from my lips while I added this to the growing list of V-day naysayers. At the same time, it felt like this radio station was feeding into the culture of bitterness that seemed to spring from both singles and couples alike. At this point, I felt like enough was enough.
While I often change my mind about holidays and how I choose to participate or not participate, there is something about Valentine’s Day (aside from what I mentioned earlier) that always connected with me. The idea presented in the various myths/legends/stories of St. Valentine that someone believed in love enough to risk their life. In my mind, the idea of taking a risk for love surpasses whatever Valentine’s has been created to be in American culture. Ultimately, it is more important that no matter what any of us may individually feel about a holiday, we should be careful not to destroy how other people wish to engage in their ritual-even if we don’t understand it. I am often an offender and I sometimes question why we are so attached to our holidays—but as a species, we thrive on ritual. Holidays and celebrations are very much a part of our need to belong, share drink/food/space with one another, and create/re-create relationships with each other. While days of commemoration/remembrance have become marketing opportunities—it might be more important that we recreate what these days/moments mean to us individually. As one of my friends put it, “For a lot of people, especially couples, holidays break up the monotony. It gives a chance to do something special on a specific day and something to look forward too amidst all of the routine.”