Another Valentine’s Day


Everybody has an opinion about Valentine’s Day. Whether you are single or taken, you will have an opinion about Valentine’s Day, and you will make sure those around you know of what you think is an incredibly necessary and original opinion. Like the current state of political America, chances are your opinion will also rest on one of the two extreme sides of the Valentine’s Day spectrum: you either hate it, or you love it.

Personally, I like to think I lie somewhere along the middle of this spectrum, maybe skewing a little toward the hate side. Yes, the holiday can be seen as one that perpetuates a false narrative of unrealistic love, creates unhealthy feelings of longing and desperation, and is intrinsically capitalist to its core. But it can also be seen as an event that promotes a sense of genuine connection, instills an importance of giving, and serves as a reminder for the gratitude we have for a loved one. Realistically speaking however, the former definition is more appropriate here.

Regardless, I do not think of Valentine’s Day as inherently bad. There’s a nuance to the day and what it symbolizes, and I think it’s important to analyze that nuance before deciding to be outrageously obnoxious about Valentine’s Day plans, or before choosing to be overly pessimistic and cynical in regards to the holiday as a coping mechanism

First, the downsides of the holiday coupled with a very brief history. While the true origins of Valentine’s Day and its intentions are somewhat of a mystery, a quick google search will tell you that it is a celebration of the Christian martyr Saint Valentine, and is more traditionally known as the Feast of Saint Valentine. Thus, one can conclude the event arose out of cultural significance and religious recognition. However, if we fast forward to modern times it is clear that religious recognition has now become obsolete, instead replaced by commercial significance. Saint Valentine is no longer considered a figure of martyrdom as much as he is considered a proponent of consumerism.

In 2022 alone, Americans were estimated to have spent roughly $24 billion on Valentine’s Day related purchases, from flower bouquets to chocolates to elaborate meals to expensive jewelry. It’s no longer considered acceptable to celebrate Valentine’s Day empty-handed. It seems as though money and romance have become intertwined. The higher the price tag, the greater one’s love, supposedly. This presents us with a capitalist conundrum: is Valentine’s Day about giving or getting? Can we only give through material means, and do we really set fair expectations for what we get?

These are questions that require further exploration, but not without mentioning a second downside to the romance holiday, which is its atmosphere. This is not a critique of the holiday’s aesthetic, with its signature pink and red colors and little hearts and candies, but more so a look at the mood this day of togetherness can invoke, which can be loneliness for a lot of people.

Now, Valentine’s Day is considered to be something intimate and private between two individuals, but there is no denying that privacy has for the most part vanished. With the aid of social media, a couple’s Valentine’s Day becomes everyone’s Valentine’s Day to witness. It is a means of flaunting one’s supposed intimacy with another for the sake of a little ego inflation. This is not to say that everyone who shares details of their Valentine’s to the public is desperately craving attention, but it is hard not to wonder if these grand gestures we see posted online were truly being made for just one person, and not for everyone watching.

This is perhaps the strongest perpetrator behind the Valentine’s Day hate. It can be hard when you’re single to appreciate a holiday that mostly subsists off of obnoxious couples and inconsiderate friends bombarding you with their plans and their photos and their PDA. Especially in high school, where everything seems to be more amplified, this experience can be almost stressful. Even for those partaking in the romance holiday, the burden of buying gifts with empty student wallets, coupled with the constant comparison game of seeing what other people are buying and doing can create a lot of unwanted and unnecessary pressure. So how does one combat this?

To be completely frank, I am at a loss for dealing with the toxicity of Valentine’s Day culture. It is neither feasible nor reasonable to expect others to hide their affection for each other out of consideration for your own lack of reciprocated affection – the PDA culture will continue to persist. Rather than struggle with forces we can’t control, we can focus on our own singularity, choosing to no longer participate in the comparison game.

A more tangible struggle is the battle against the insidious beast that is Valentine’s consumerism, and already this rejection of materialism is becoming more popular. There is nothing wrong with gift giving, so long as we don’t equate meaning with price tag, and so long as we don’t see it as a means to stroke our own ego. Giving is meant to be selfless.

Ultimately, both Valentine’s culture and gift-giving are irrelevant. If we peel back Valentine’s Day to its core, stripping away the excessive commercialization and social media flaunts, we are left with what is human connection between two individuals. It is a shared connection, one that beats the transactional nature of giving and receiving. It can be the sharing of a day-long experience, or the sharing of a brief, fleeting moment, so long as the connection is there.