For most of grade school, Valentine’s Day was a day for candy and SpongeBob cards. I remember obsessing over which card I would give to the girl(s) I had a crush on: You aren’t just the ketchup to my Krabby Patty, Colleen. I truly sea the best in you. But Valentine’s Day in grade school came and went, and social pressure replaced decorated boxes full of candy and cartoon cards.
It’s usually around middle school when we start to feel the stress of “finding a valentine. I distinctly remember the first time I caught a sense of loneliness on Valentine’s day. On Feb. 14, 2014, I was sitting on the couch eating pizza, and had a shocking revelation: Am I lonely? It was a very distinct thought in my head. I had felt loneliness before, but not like this. It was a feeling of missing out on something (or someone) great.
The reason many have come to detest Valentine’s Day has very little to do with the holiday itself.
There are many out there who use Valentine’s day as mouthpiece for the humiliation and degradation of others, and that vitriol has seeped into our culture. Those who don’t have a valentine are seen as pitiful at best and deadbeats at worst. This idea that those who are single never choose to be is very toxic, particularly towards women. To many, single women who are not looking for a partner are viewed as problematic. This perpetuates the concept that women always need to be dependent on their (usually male) partner.
Even though I will be celebrating Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend this year, I don’t want to wait till Feb. 14 to tell her how much I appreciate her. For many men, Valentine’s Day is used as an excuse to supplement a year’s worth of affection. Some see it as the only day of the year where they need to be warm and affectionate to their significant other. If your girlfriend loves to go ice skating, go with her as soon as possible — Feb. 14 is a long wait every year. Relationships are work, and the moments where we need to be the kindest and caring are oftentimes the least convenient. Compassion doesn’t disappear when we fall asleep and return when we wake up.
Valentine’s Day isn’t only taken advantage of by typically unloving significant others, though. Retailers swarm on the holiday like vultures, marketing the idea that couples need to buy each other gifts in order to show love. Affectionate and smiling couples on jewelry commercials enforce the idea that buying a diamond ring signifies love and appreciation. The culture surrounding Valentine’s Day has made the holiday more about spending money than about appreciating loved ones.
Our society is harnessing this otherwise great holiday for superficial and toxic means. And while it’s great we have a holiday whose original purpose is to celebrate affection, remember caring for someone is a 24-hour, seven day a week commitment.