Ugh, it’s that time of year again. When on trips to Target your eyes are scalded by flashes of hot pink, your TV delivers a deluge of diamonds and capital-K kisses, and everything in America is reduced to a curious binary construction. Valentine’s Day.
A silly holiday to begin with, and arguably one of the most commercialized (formerly religious) holidays. Like most good things, St. Valentine’s Day began as a celebration of companionship and love. With the dawn of chivalry came the novel (and I don’t mean that sarcastically) notion that love was about romance, and now we have just “Valentine’s Day,” the world’s greatest marketing opportunity. After all, who doesn’t want to be loved? Buy this ring; make her day special
But my main problem with Valentine’s Day is not its commercialization and the associated perils of shopping and potential relegation to the couch. It’s not the diminution of a saint’s day to a celebration of sexual love (in fact, I love that idea; anyone fancy National Shag Day?). It’s the fact that when this time of year rolls around, you’re either part of a pair or you’re one of them. The singles.
And the worst part is, countless articles are published on ways to have a single’s Valentine’s Day. It’s like telling Jews how to celebrate Christmas. And it doesn’t help that if you don’t have a “valentine” (defined as a special someone that you woo, give flowers and things to, and hopefully have some sort of “celebration of love” with), you’re defective in terms of the holiday. Sorry, you can’t participate this year, maybe next year! There aren’t any two-for dinner specials for you. I can’t think of any holiday that’s more game-like. It’s a race we’re forced to participate in, and the losers suffer rejection, pity, or stigma every year until we’re finally lucky enough to land someone. And you know what? At that point, take it from me, you should celebrate that person every day you have them, not just within the artificial confines and elite league of Valentine’s Day.
So how about this? All you who are celebrating Valentine’s Day, leave the rest of us alone. Be as gooey as you want but don’t give us your pity or force us to jump the hoops only to have to be the singles having to navigate the influx of materialized romance and supercharged marketing and shamefully admit “Table for one.” (Reminds me of Jason Segel in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”) By the way, that statistic that Valentine’s Day has a higher suicide rate is a myth, but I’m guessing that for the lonely it isn’t exactly an asset to their mental health.
And for those curious, I’m not writing out of irritation that I will be alone this Valentine’s Day, but because I know very well that love is a complicated beast, nearly impossible to tame even within a healthy relationship. It shouldn’t be amassed and reduced into this parade of tokens of “love” (defined as simply the having and giving) and the privileging of the pair. It isn’t an indication of one’s capacity for love if they’re without a date this Sunday; in fact, most relationships I see, most valentines and conquests that people snag, are for the sole purpose of not being alone, and why should that type of accomplishment be blankly celebrated over the triumphs and sacrifices of real love, even for the singles? If we’re going to celebrate love, celebrate the love lost, the love being negotiated, as well as the love being found.
This Valentine’s Day, I’ll most likely be watching TV on DVD and playing the most violent video games I can find with my guy friends. But I’ll also be telling all my friends and family how much I love them, and remaining mindful of how much I’ve done for love in my life. If that sounds paradoxical, then you probably think the avenues of romance and sex are the only routes for love. In which case I would recommend you boycott everything pink, bejeweled, and scented this Sunday, and ask yourself where your heart truly lies.