There are a lot of negative views about Valentine’s Day that have gained traction with my generation. The two most popular complaints are that Valentine’s Day is nothing more than merely a Hallmark ploy to make more money (this is asinine: everything is a ploy for someone to make money!) and that if you’re single on Valentine’s Day then you’re relegated to the outskirts of society, doomed to remain miserable for a whole weekend. But, there’s one tragic aspect of Valentine’s Day that no one ever seems to mention: being in a relationship on Valentine’s Day.
Nobody enjoys being in a relationship on Valentine’s Day. It starts the moment you realize the chocolate-filled apocalypse is on its way. Once you realize that, there’s no going back. Suddenly you start looking at your partner different. You begin to realize that, no matter what you do, you’re both going to be miserable. Honestly, all the both of you want to do is stay up late watching the next terrible Syfy documentary or a tepid Netflix Original, but you both know that’s not possible. You’re going to have to dress up slightly and pretend to be excited for a night that will definitely be a letdown. It gets worse. For every Valentine’s you’ve been through, the misery is multiplied. The first one you’ll pretend was a great time and you will actually get great Insta pictures that will without a doubt make your recent ex jealous. That perk quickly fades by the second. Suddenly you remember that no one really cares anymore about your Instagram post. Your relationship has reached the point where everyone knows you two are happy but you definitely haven’t been together long enough to be the power couple everyone envies.
Now, without the hope of popular Instagram posts, the dread sets in. You’ll have to pretend to appreciate the generic gifts and the desperately awkward plans. You’ll make jokes like “I’m so happy to be in a relationship with you” and “I love you” and “I hope tonight never ends. I’m”¦ so”¦ happy”¦” By the third, you’ve already thrown out the ridiculously large teddy bear from the first Valentine’s Day and your partner has noticed. They definitely bought you another one and vaguely hinted for weeks that Valentines weekend will be great. By now both of you have cheated on the other at least twice. You write and re-write breakup texts for a good hour every night. The thing that keeps you from pressing that blue little send button is the fact that Valentine’s Day is coming up. You don’t want your partner to be miserable for a whole weekend, and, more importantly, you don’t want to be miserable for a whole weekend. So you tell yourself you’ll stick through the weekend and then celebrate you breakup with a Hallmark teddy bear bonfire.
Finally you’re free, but then it sinks in. Three weeks after Valentine’s is your anniversary, and then two weeks after that is your partner’s birthday. You realize that if you keep thinking like this you’ll be stuck with them for the rest of your life. Your marriage will probably end up being on Valentine’s Day with a bouquet of red roses and that horrendous giant teddy bear officiating the ceremony. This is your life now. Valentine’s Day hurts everyone and ruins lives. So, if you’re single and feeling miserable, just remember: you could have a teddy bear officiating your wedding.
Why would anyone love Valentine’s Day? It’s become easy and fun to eviscerate this pink-hazed holiday without holding back. It’s commercial, it’s crass, it’s putting dollar signs on the experience of love and relationships on one hand and depressing millions of single people on the other hand. But I’ve never had a strong hatred of the holiday, and I’ve finally got a chance to figure out why.
I am in a relationship currently, so my opinion may be biased in one direction or another. This is unavoidable, so I’ll give two reasons why I think Valentine’s Day is a good idea rather than the holiday equivalent of a chalky heart “candy.” The first will be from the perspective of couples, the second from the viewpoint of singles. This is the first Valentine’s Day I’ve not been single for in years, so I have a good view of both sides.
First, the happy couple. What could be less romantic than a prescribed, predictable, overpriced holiday built around compulsive buying and courting? Not having one. Relationships require a lot of maintenance and work, and having a set time for a big, blowout expression of affection allows both parties to put their hearts into crafting an experience that the other person will love. It’s a holiday that gives you as much value as you put into it. Figuring out your significant other with a depth that lets you surprise them with gifts, experiences or shows of affection not only makes for a great day but for a great relationship.
For unorganized people like me, having a day or days where your love and affection are channeled towards the one you care about makes the process of expressing your emotions much easier, and that makes the gift or experience much more meaningful. Of course, this is all assuming you don’t phone it in as a partner, giving a heart-shaped box of candy filled with toothpaste-filled chocolates (unless he’s into that!).
Now for the happy single. Who is corporate America to tell you you need to find someone or that commercialized love is what matters in life? Ignore them and do your own thing on this holiday. This holiday not only makes couples try hard to impress each other with their affection but also brings together those who hate it. A 2006 collaborative University of Oklahoma and University of Texas study revealed that two people sharing negative attitudes about a third party bonds them stronger than sharing positive attitudes does. Ignoring the depressing implications of these results, mutual hatred of Valentine’s day bonds millions of singles together. It’s almost like there are two holidays: Valentine’s Day and I Hate Valentine’s Day Day. We’ll workshop the second name later.
This mutual disdain builds solidarity for all kinds of singles: people who are looking for love but haven’t found it yet, people looking to forget love, and people who just want the holiday to be over. I don’t have a lot of prescriptive advice for singles other than this: make the holiday your own. Organize a LAN party. Take advantage of usually-crowded locales that are deserted for Valentine’s Day. Have a mutual bonfire where you throw in symbols of the holiday or painful memories and watch them disappear in a magnificent conflagration of heart-wrenching proportions. Say “Fuck Valentine’s Day!”, but do it together.
This holiday isn’t about the haves or the have-nots. It’s about love, and whether it’s romantic love, friendship, or bonding through anger, this is a holiday that we all can celebrate, single or not.