This piece was originally published on outfrontmagazine.com on Feb. 14.
The letter “V” could stand for a million wonderful things, from vacation, to vibrator and all the way to vodka … but then there’s Valentine’s Day.
Yeah, it’s Hallmark-y, and people tend to bash all that. And it’s supposed to be about love, but the pressures of the day really just turn it into last minute purchases of overpriced candy, which are half off the next day, or which couple had the cutest Instagram post.
But whether you take the day to celebrate your relationship, mourn the one you wish you were in or hit the alternative Galentine’s Day party, you are still partaking. Like anything fabulous and socialized, it’s inevitable you’ll get caught up in the festivities. Even if you’re protesting the day, it’s already got a hold on you.
The day is named after the saint of courtly love, St. Valentine. His myth goes like this:
According to Father O’Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, the saint was a Roman Priest who was prohibited from ordaining marriages between young people. These couples were unable to wed in the church due to the church’s belief that “unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers.” This way, the soldiers wouldn’t fear losing their wives and families.
This was back in 269 A.D., when polygamy was popular. The church made every effort to combat sexuality running wild, insisting that marriage was between only a single male and single female.
But what was cool about Valentine is that he prioritized marriage by the Catholic Church above the kind of relationship that was being practiced. St. V ordained a number of marriages in secret despite the Church’s command.
Eventually, Valentine was caught and sentenced to a series of beatings, stonings and a final decapitation for denouncing the church. His last words were delivered in the form of a letter to his daughter, signed “from your Valentine.”
It’s not perfect, and perhaps it’s only one side of the story, but Valentine’s Day might stand for more than a heteronormative, capitalist holiday. Good ol’ St. V may have even been progressive for his time.
Let’s shift the perspective. What if the 14th simply marks the freedom to celebrate the person or people who you love, instead of confining you to silly societal standards? Whether that’s your significant other — or others — or your closest friends, Valentine’s Day does not have to be all that cynical. If anything, it should be inspiration for what every other day should look like.
Stand up for the right to love who you want however you want. Remind the people in your life why they are important and deserving of love.
The greatest way to assert love is by celebrating it in a way that is important to you and your loved ones. To shout it out loud with all the pride in your heart, because love is the most powerful and active emotion anyone can carry.
Valentine’s Day is classically celebrated in sweets and special occasions, but if that’s not your thing, make these sentiments part of your everyday relationships. Consider the feelings of others and what might make them feel most loved and appreciated, materialistic or not.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Opinion Editor Dani Pinkus at firstname.lastname@example.org.