Valentine’s Day Too Often Compromises, Cheapens Intimacy

CJ Blair, Columnist

If there’s a holiday that’s further out of touch with the reality of what it celebrates than Valentine’s Day, I haven’t found it yet. While the marriage of the commercial and the emotional is a trend far from alien to American holidays, this connection is more contrived and unwarranted with V-Day than any other. Though it would be an exaggeration to claim that Valentine’s Day is a year-long source of worry, its adverse consequences are often ignored in favor of narratives that fit the bill of a romantic February 14.

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, which is not bad in and of itself. Yet the ubiquity of hearts and roses and the rhetoric of the importance of public displays of love have transformed the holiday into an artificial version of itself. To apply a gruesome metaphor, it’s the celebratory equivalent of injecting an old dog with adrenaline in an attempt to revitalize it — but revitalizing isn’t the goal of Valentine’s Day. Whatever its pre-sensationalist American intentions might have been, it has now become a day in which every couple — no matter their specific circumstances — is encouraged to jump inside a preordained frame depicting a public, affectionate and unrestrained relationship.

For a relationship on a less-than definite trajectory, a single moment of obligatory romance might be enough to sink the ship for good. I can’t say how many relationships have ended around Valentine’s Day, but I’m confident the numbers aren’t pretty. When something as genuine and personal as a romantic relationship is suddenly thrust upon a stage and hyped up for one given day, we find ourselves less in 21st-century America as we do in the middle of an Orwellian satire. Of course, this sort of display can be desirable to some, but by and large there’s little about obligatory romance that is either appealing or logical.

Through its stress on a specific vision of love and relationships, Valentine’s Day also inspires those without a significant other to question and doubt themselves. To someone who is single, every heart-shaped candy and chocolate box is either an irksome test of their patience or a frenzied reminder that they need to find a valentine ASAP.

What a pitiful sight it is when an unattractive middle-schooler scrambles for cheesy traditional gifts like flowers or chocolate, when the best possible outcome is that their crush momentarily acknowledges them before ignoring them as usual.

If it sounds like I’m prepping to wage war with Valentine’s Day, let me assure you that I’m not. It’s just very frustrating to see such a cyclical pattern of heightened expectations met by a less exciting reality, with hardly anyone willing to admit that it’s a nuisance or to step outside the cycle. It may be impossible to change the widely held views and practices of V-Day, but what’s more feasible is using this opportunity to remember that relationships don’t have to adhere to that specific image.

I like to say that people are meant to be together if they both love something that everyone around them hates or doesn’t understand. This definition may sound odd, but this mindset might be the necessary push to redirect Valentine’s Day from the impersonal to the personal. The fault of a commercial holiday is not that it reminds us what we’re lucky to have, but that it tells us how to express that luckiness. Instead of heart-shaped boxes, maybe a drive through the country listening to Bob Dylan is a more sincere way to remind someone they’re meaningful to you. Showing affection is natural and should be expressed however a couple sees fit. Valentine’s Day was never meant to be a nuisance, and by remembering the quirky individualism that makes romance worth celebrating, you can make great progress towards maintaining a sense of self through its organized chaos.