Pull the large piece of chocolate away from your face, and listen for a second. Hear that? That’s the sound of thousands of candy-hyped grade school kids learning what it feels like when you don’t get as many valentines as the kid next to you. (And don’t give me that “well, if we just require them all to give one to everyone in their class…”- any child knows what it looks like to be given something because someone is forced to.) Hear that? That’s the sound of a broke college student trying to figure out if he can afford that diamond heart pendant that the tv tells him he has to give to his girlfriend to prove his love. Hear that? That’s the sound of teenager whose crush has sent a different girl a flower.
“Gee, Nancy, why are you such a grinch? Can’t you just celebrate love?”
Sure, I’d be happy to celebrate love! I have a lot of love in my life- my husband, my parents, my very dear friends, my needy and grumpy cats. I adore them all. Let’s celebrate that!
Here’s the thing, though- Valentine’s Day? Is not, in any way, shape, or form, about love.
It’s about commercialism- Diamonds are forever! Show her your love is eternal with our three stone pendant; one stone each for your past, present, and future! Because the only way she’s ever going to know that you care is if you fork over a significant portion of cash for a piece of shiny rock some starved child mined out of a hole in Africa. Even better is if every other girl she knows has one just like it- that way you know you got the right one! Or what about a huge bouquet of cut flowers, raised with practices that harm the planet? Or chocolate! Refined sugar and flavoring imported from countries with unfair labor practices! Ooh, or, I know! Lingerie! Because nothing says “I love you” like unasked for sexual objectification!
It’s about gender roles- Valentine’s Day is a holiday not only for straight people (which it most definitely is- how many Zales commercials have you seen featuring a same-sex couple?), but a holiday for straight people in conventional gender roles. Where are the magazine adds for a woman showing up at her boyfriend’s office with a dozen roses? Or a woman going down on one knee to open a jewelry box while the man raises his hand to his throat and starts to cry? I hate enforced gender roles (which is a topic for another post), and Valentine’s day is designed to reinforce them for the sole sake of the aforementioned commercialism. Boys buy things, girls cry. Deviation is not allowed.
It’s about an absolutely artificial construct of romantic love- back to the commercials, shall we? What’s the last valentine’s day ad that featured a lower class couple? No, no- these are all upper class men and women, in full make-up and happy with each other. Granted, they’ve slowly started to expand; I have seen commercials with non-white couples, though no mixed race that I’ve noticed, and I saw a commercial featuring a deaf woman. But the concept of love in these ads is as saccharine and short-lived as the flowers and chocolate, and this is perhaps the most appalling to me. Love, real love, is a complex and multi-faceted thing, and many of those facets are only beautiful as part of the whole. To portray love as this sort of nubile, excited, passionate, romanticism is to not only horribly mislead millions, but to discredit everything else that real love actually is. Which leads us to point four:
It’s a needless glorification of “romantic” love- which, I’m sorry, but what the hell? Don’t get me wrong- I am happily married, and have been for some time. But to pretend that that is the only loving relationship in my life, let alone the only kind of love that is important, is, not to put too fine a point on it, total bullshit. Yes, I love my husband. And I love my parents, and I love my siblings, and I love my friends, and and and. And every single one of those relationships is a relationship about love, and is important. They fulfill different needs, create different feelings, and are all just as valuable as a romantic relationship. I hate, HATE, that we not only foster, but actively encourage the chronic devaluation of primary emotional relationships simply because they are not romantic. That, my friends, is some bullshit.
So let’s call it, please. Love is wonderful, ALL love is wonderful. I don’t say it enough to those who matter, so I’ll say it again here- to my parents, I love you. Isaac, Sarah, Ryan, Kalie, Scott- I love you. All of my friends, those close and those I’ve fallen more away from, I love you. Kyle- I love you.
But we don’t need a day for this. We don’t need money for this. We don’t need gender roles for this. All we need is love, and the more we give it, the more it will come back to us.
So love the one you’re with- And seriously, fuck Valentine’s Day.