Each year I find myself more befuddled by Valentine’s Day. It has nothing to do with the saint himself (although I doubt people would celebrate the day in quite the same way were they aware that the man was imprisoned and martyred, with bouts of torture more than likely occurring somewhere in there too). Certainly it’s a fun event as a child, but the shine begins to wear off the older you get, and for many people eventually becomes painful as they watch couples around them celebrate relationships in some myth-like rapture of chocolate and true love.
By no means am I aligning myself with the opposite end of that spectrum, though. For all the balloon-popping anti-valentinites out there there’s an equally stern lecture for them about learning how to accept singleness with maturity, and without conversely trashing the joy of others. Believe me, I enjoy raining on other people’s parades just as much as the next person (admit it, you’ve laughed at least once at the person who’s just lost a biscuit in their cup of tea, no matter how many times it’s happened to you too). However, feeling embittered towards the day and the millieu decked in varying shades of red and pink isn’t the answer to dissatisfaction with a relationship status of any kind, and it certainly has nothing to do with why I don’t care for the day as a whole.
I dislike Valentine’s day first and foremost because it’s another holiday for the poor sods of the world to not only struggle to remember, but another towards which to put ridiculous amounts of money. Valentine’s Day is highly marketed: the sales for chocolate and flowers are higher that week than any other of the year in the US, with the jewelry sales that month rivalled only by the weeks preceding Christmas and New Years. I understand that gift-giving is a legitimate form for expressing affection- it’s tagged as one of the primary love languages (however much stock you choose to put into that theory). Heaven only knows I love receiving flowers almost as much as I love receiving books (or doughnuts). However, it’s not everyone’s love language, a fact that the marketing industry strives to help you forget. Which brings me to my biggest issue with the grandiose celebration on Valentine’s Day.
I know very little about love and doubt I’ll become well-acquainted with it: I’m single and foresee a future filled with cats, worn suitcases, an ever-growing collection of books, and exceptionally large cups of tea (and I’m willing to embrace it). But in my understanding love is details, and affection is communicated in the smallest of gestures: the ability to sit comfortably in silence together for interminable periods of time, saving them the last bit of coffee or sharing your favourite song, the lull in conversations in which the real communication occurs, falling asleep together on the couch during films, finding old annotations on the dog-eared pages of their books like opening a window onto the soul of their past thoughts. Better yet, it’s the way your book and film collections look pressed together like old friends on the same shelves. It’s garden-fresh flowers brought in during the spring; it’s laughing uncontrollably for reasons neither of you can remember. It’s choosing to be steady and present when the darkness reaches out its long fingers once more, threatening to pull either of you under.
Or at least that’s what I’d like to think it is.
I grow weary of seeing the flashy, pastel-and-bright-red version of love that gets tossed around each February (and don’t even get me started on Hallmark films). I also don’t understand why this concept of love must be relegated to romantic relationships alone. None of the things I listed above would seem strange in the context of a friendship. (Now would probably be a good time to apologise for all the of the books I’ve inadvertently pilfered from friends over the years on the pretext of “borrowing” them.)
This challenge isn’t issued to the couples or singles of the world alone- blissful or otherwise: it’s directed to anyone who has loved ones, friends, pets, or a heart (tin men and cowardly lions included). I would only ask you to think about what you do to show love, and consider taking the simpler route, whatever that may be.