Hey single people! Yes, you, consumer of Internet media without a significant other, it’s okay; you shouldn’t feel down. Yes, Valentine’s Day approacheth, but you should feel nothing but joy, for it’s the couples and lovers who will enter the labyrinth of terror on Friday. The single people, in fact, get to enjoy this day as any other, because they are free. And no, I am no cynic (I dig romance and the heartfelt ridiculous); I have merely come to uncover the paradoxical perils of commerce’s most romantic day.
Valentine’s Day hasn’t always been the bane of many a couple. Before it became a Hallmark mess it was a liturgical saints celebration, evolving into its current form as a gooey day of chocolate hearts via Chaucer’s poetics (believe Internet historians). The nursery rhyme that talks about roses and violets dates back to the late 1700s. In the 19th century, handwritten Valentine’s cards became popular in the UK, but then the States rampaged over that pretty quaint tradition with pile upon pile of mass-produced Hallmark cards. Since the commercialization of the holiday, it’s become more and more money-centric, cards being replaced by chocolates, jewelry, and crazy expensive gifts. Seriously, the holiday has become a bloated nightmare.
When I was a young child, I recall having to make individual Valentine’s cards for every other kid in the class. As time-consuming as it was, it was actually a decent enough idea. All kids got equal Valentine’s Day attention, and that was that. But then, middle and high school arrived, and Valentine’s turned into a defining moment year by year. And this image was perpetuated by television and film; an annual reminder that by February 14th you should have someone to love (or be very, very sad and lonely). I grew up understanding that one day I would have to afford diamonds for my lady as an adult, and that being in a couple was important. Of course, now this image has faded and all kinds of sexual politics are abundant (they always existed, I know, but are now given more attention vis-a-vis the Internet).
Valentine’s Day, though, survives as one of the strangest and emotionally dangerous holidays out there, the American tradition having strengthened and crept into the rest of the world (Cupid is as omnipotent as Santa). And it’s incredible the lengths so many people take to have an opinion about a day awash in heart candies and roses. A good number of folks use the day as a way of establishing themselves as a better partner. Some play it casually (and are probably the happier of the love-shackled lot). But many absolutely despise the commercialized festival, believing it to be a cardboard simulacrum of true love and a waste of cash. Many of these people try and deny any and all activity on Valentine’s, urging their friends or partner(s) to treat it like a normal day.
The problem is, there will always be a couple or two celebrating in your vicinity, and their ooey-gooey romance is bound to dampen those proud feelings of anti-Valentine’s activism. Love is a powerful thing, and the urge to boycott the commercial version of the holiday often meshes with guilt, introspection, and weird species of lust. If you are dating someone who says they want nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, have a back-up plan, because some Cupid-addled friend will lay gossip mines everywhere and make your partner wish to turn back the clock. The holiday is infectious, and even though it’s financial fundamentals don’t cast a positive light on romance, it still manages to force romance (or make you guilty if you’re not).
The peril of Valentine’s Day is spending time bad mouthing romance in the name of righteous indignation. Sure, many people don’t go for the mushy romance, but when it’s happening all around you, it doesn’t feel so nice to then feel a lack thereof. So take heed, Internet compatriots, as your partner or Valentine’s date could be susceptible to the festival’s viral potential (and so could you).
Ultimately, I believe you should choose your level of romance, and tailor it to whomever you spend your time with. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t ruin anything, but the way it’s been engineered sets the stage for volatile, emotional realizations.
Unless you are single. If that’s the case, have fun, and celebrate the woe of your partnered friends as they walk the razor’s edge of romance. Because you, my single friend, are free to roam as if it were any other day.