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Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and we all know what that means: restaurant reservations for two, weekends away, roses wiped out of florists, DIY Pinterest card projects that look nothing like the picture, chocolate and champagne sales skyrocketing, proposals ending in “yes, absolutely yes!” but also proposals ending with a ring hurled into a lake. Along with all that is the overwhelming feeling that, if you are in love, you should be more in love, and if you aren’t, then you’re doing something wrong and you need to fix that.
I think we’re missing the point of Valentine’s Day.
For one, Valentine’s day is about celebrating love, not forcing it upon everyone or trying to one-up the pair of lovebirds walking over there looking all happy holding hands with not a care in the world, because if they’re going to be happy, I should be that happy too! Because of this additional jealousy and competition factor, the rise in expressions and intensity of love we see around the middle of February is not entirely genuine. There is an immense societal pressure to perform and to express love a certain way.
These social scripts narrate how love plays out, who says what, when relationship steps are made, where love is appropriate and with whom — the list goes on. In meeting these standards, love is no longer its original unabridged form; it loses quality.
If you really love someone, you shouldn’t need to find an excuse to show them that. Don’t withhold affection and save it up for Valentine’s Day; that’s a lousy excuse for being complacent in your relationship. A special day or moment doesn’t have to happen when the calendar tells us. My romanticized vision of love sees it as something that should always be celebrated. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only reminder that “Oh hey, I forgot I loved you!” By all means, let that love flow any day!
Valentine’s Day in a way highlights everything that’s wrong with the consumer culture and the institution of love. The massive consumerism behind this holiday is disgusting and reduces love down to the price tag on what you buy your significant other. Also, while you’re out wining and dining on Sunday evening, you’re taking away from your servers’ and chefs’ ability to share this holiday with their loved ones because you’ve paid for the privilege of showing your love.
More respect is given to love that can be monetarily validated. Of course, this is just a symptom of our culture of buy-buy-buying everything to substitute for some inner emptiness, but that’s another topic for another day. Furthermore, this holiday puts more value on those in committed relationships and looks down on those who are single with a pitying-yet-smug attitude. A large percentage of V-Day ads are marketed for couples, thus sending the message that if you aren’t paired up, you can’t participate.
Valentine’s Day consumerism also reinforces gender roles and sexual scripts. Ladies, you should be buying a cute new pink bra and panties set to please your man — because that’s your only merit — and men, treat your lady friend right by taking her out, show her some chivalry and the deal is sealed — because you’ve nothing more than a bank account to offer her. These are also side effects of how our society privileges some forms of love over others.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I adore how Valentine’s Day encourages us to get out of our mundane headspace and look at our loved ones as more than just our adventure partners, our emotional dumping grounds and our human pillows. It is a friendly reminder to care for them and to think beyond self-interest. There is something exciting and mystical about any holiday, and this one doesn’t just celebrate another historical figure — it allows us to celebrate ourselves!
Besides, I’ve already gone through three bags of SweetHearts and I’m only getting started. The hopeless romantic in me wants to be surprised with a dozen roses covered in gold glitter, so sue me.
I’m not about boycotting this day — I’m about remembering the ultimate meaning behind it, despite everything Valentine’s Day has come to represent.
Celebrate this holiday of love as you see fit. Buy into all the expected traditions, or don’t. This yearly day of showing love, however, should not be the only day of love. I think we put far too much gravity on this collective celebration that we lose individual true meanings. Valentine’s day is not about contrived expressions of love that devalue your regular expressions, nor should it be an excuse to deprive loved ones of affection because there’s no special occasion.
All the rosy waves of excitement that come with Valentine’s Day are there for you to ride with, not to drag you along. At the end of the day, love is all that it is: love.