Confronting the Dread of Valentine’s Day

Confronting the Dread of Valentine's Day

As a holiday, Valentine’s Day can basically be summed up by those weird candy hearts: Disgusting, something that you have to spend money on, and ultimately disappointing. If you can’t tell, Valentine’s Day does not hold a special place in my heart. Instead, it and Columbus Day are at the very bottom of the “enjoyable holiday” list, but for very different reasons.

The most common complaint comes first: Valentine’s Day is a corporate wet dream, a holiday that’s been commercialized so much that it almost lacks any real meaning. It’s a way for businesses to make a profit, whether those profits be through generic Hallmark cards with a short message scrawled inside or a bouquet of flowers that rot within a week and can cost more than an eight-hour shift at minimum wage. Modern Valentine’s Day seems to be focused on expensive gift giving at one point in the year instead of showing your partner that you value them all the time.

Speaking of gifts on Valentine’s Day, the standard gifts seem to be chocolate, roses, those uncomfortably big teddy bears holding hearts, heart-shaped objects that will never be used outside of this one specific date, and picture frames. If you’re a woman, a few more things are marketed to you—diamonds, spa dates and heart-shaped jewelry. If you’re a man, you’re a bit luckier, because the things that are marketed at you are actually useful in the long run—shaving kits, pocket knives — and according to one website — a knife making kit.

In addition to gifts, Valentine’s Day places a weird fixation on penalizing people whether they’re in a relationship or not. If you’re single—whether that be from not finding that special someone yet, or content and not wanting a romantic relationship—society has seemingly condemned you for being alone. Valentine’s Day puts so much pressure on being in a committed relationship that it can be upsetting and jarring for people who aren’t in one. When there’s an actual WikiHow entry entitled “How to Be Happy Being Single on Valentine’s Day,” you know something’s up. The purpose of WikiHow is to tell you how to do things like chop onions and astral project out of your body, not handle the shame and guilt that society forces you to feel from not being in a committed relationship. In addition to this, if you’re single and unhappy, it means I’m forced to listen to you complain about your lack of a love life for 24 hours more than I ever wanted.

There’s not much of a bright side if you’re currently dating or married. If you’re in a relationship, you’re expected to go all out and plan a romantic date. This responsibility is usually projected onto whoever fulfills the stereotypical “male” role in the relationship, and for a college student, those costs can add up quick. In addition to the romantic date, you’re expected to get presents for “your special someone,” which forces people to materialize their relationships. When a holiday pressures someone to get their partner a big, romantic gift before both parties in the relationship are okay with that level of commitment, it can cause issues. There are reasons people get dumped leading into Valentine’s Day and after the holiday, and a commitment issue is one of them.

But alas, how could I have failed to mention the one thing I love more than anything else about Valentine’s Day? I’m talking about the hyper-specific commercials that every company seems to put out in a desperate attempt to tie their product to this commercialized day of love. From car companies using wide shots of roads with the word love prominently displayed in the middle of the screen (usually in some cursive lettering) to commercials that have uncomfortable, lingering camera shots of women in tight dresses eating their product, Valentine’s Day commercials have it all. Who can forget the most iconic memo that Valentine’s Day is approaching—a dramatic increase in the number of Kay Jewelers’ ads you’re forced to bear witness to.

Here are some ways we could improve Valentine’s Day. First, stop asking me if I’m doing anything special that day and then, when I inevitably say no, stop asking me why not. Second, don’t tell people that they need to get their partner a huge gift, especially if both of the partners in the relationship aren’t sure they are that into each other. Third, ditch the weird sensual commercials that sexualize people and try to sell cookies at the same time.

And lastly, either get rid of the conversation candy hearts or start bringing back the good sayings on them. Nobody wants a dry piece of candy that says ASK ME but for the phrase COOL DUDE or SAUCY BOY? I’d willingly choke down those chalky disappointment hearts and smile.