As much as it pains me to write this at the beginning of my piece that is literally arguing against Valentine’s Day: I don’t have anything against celebrating Valentine’s Day. Okay, so it’s commercialised; it’s a huge money-making fake holiday that capitalism made up so the chocolate companies could make a killing and the supermarkets could put their meals-for-two on sale. Let’s be real, though, so’s Easter. And Christmas. I’m not going to pretend like I don’t spend money and participate in society and neither should you, so I’m not going to be a Valentine’s Grinch, because if you find it fun and romantic to buy cards and flowers and ask someone to be your Valentine, and that’s meaningful to you, why not. There’s no shame in enjoying things that are a little cheesy and being romantic and having fun, so you go ahead and live your life. And if you think Valentine’s day is vapid and meaningless, great! Let your romantic friends go and enjoy themselves, buy the on-sale after-Valentine’s chocolates and keep your mouth shut.
All that said, though, Valentine’s Day at its core celebrates something kind of dubious at best. A friend of mine once described Valentine’s Day as a holiday more about single people than couples. It’s the notable day for people insecure in their inability to attract a partner to feel bad about it and have it rubbed in their face, or to try and pluck up their courage to ask out their crush. To celebrate romantic love and encourage people to go out and be cutesy about it is all well and good, but it really goes to highlight all the toxic aspects of dating culture altogether; the crushing pressure not to be single, the guilt of not having anyone to spend the day with. It highlights the worst parts of gender stereotype- Naturally, the man buys flowers and chocolates and the woman is encouraged to judge him harshly based on how much he kowtows to her on this day. It is a day for couples to go out and show their dedication to each other, with the sort of implied expectation that there is no need to be sappy, affectionate or romantic the other 364 days of the year. In fact, for a day about romantic love, there’s something oddly impersonal about Valentine’s Day. Anniversaries are for revisiting old places, personal gifts, the celebration of time and loyalty; Valentine’s Day is like an uncomfortably public, conformist version of the same thing, celebrating instead the other aspects of love, such as societal pressure, and the general idea that women care more about these things more than men. There is no celebration, of course, of friendship; of cherishing the people around you and reaching out to them. There’s no Valentine’s Day tradition of reflecting on pleasant memories, resolving conflicts, or learning new things; the main point of the tradition is to eat richly, be embarrassed, and, I guess, have some sex. Look, I haven’t needed help doing those things any of the other days of the year and I don’t need it now.
Valentine’s Day to some is a chore, a burden that hangs over them; taunts them for being lonely or reminds them to avoid their partner’s ire, as though they need to impress them rather than be nice to them, It would be nice, I think, if more people took the time to make the day their own; if more people sent roses to their platonic friends just because that’s cute, that you ask people on mini-dates just because it’s fun; if more people spent Valentine’s day with their family, and more people could say, ‘Oh, that’s cute but meaningless’, because they get as much affection and attention as they need year-round. That’s the idea of Valentine’s Day, I guess, and it’s not one I’m going to argue against. But spare a thought for those out there who spent their 14th of February feeling lonely and bitter, underappreciated or under pressure. Perhaps next year we can try and make it a better one.