I hate St Valentine’s Day. I don’t hate it because I’m single. I don’t hate it because I’ve spent most of my young adult life being single. I don’t hate it because both of my now former hook ups recently informed me they now have girlfriends. I also don’t hate it because I think I’ve gained 5 pounds from all the chocolate I’ve eaten since finding out that both of my now former hook ups have girlfriends. I hate it because it is the most disgusting gender-stereotyping corporate plot the world has seen since Sarah Palin.
St Valentine’s Day is painful for those who are single and those who aren’t. Single people are expected to be publicly proud and secretly depressed. People in relationships are expected to be happier than a pig in mud. But we’re all expected to acknowledge it in some way or another. It’s nearly impossible not to, with store shelves lined with heart-shaped everything and sappy love cards. Society tells us that there’s nothing worse than being alone on St Valentine’s Day, and apparently people believe it.
Several studies have found that this loneliness can be linked to depression in teenagers and adults. Those that aren’t alone aren’t much better off either. Immense pressure can be felt to make the day “special.” The 14th of February, a date that would otherwise be a quick stop at McDonalds, suddenly falls short if it doesn’t include a trip up the Eiffel Tower and fireworks, or whatever those weird people in relationships do.
Speaking of extravagant dates, the corporate focus is really the only focus of the so-called “holiday.” Our culture of consumerism encourages people to make wild purchases that they can’t really afford. Even if they can afford it, they would certainly be wiser to spend their money on something other than the lover of the day that will probably be gone in two weeks anyway. Nearly every business artificially inflates their prices for St Valentine’s Day, and we all know this. What’s even more ridiculous is that we all still shop just to get ripped off. Aside from being annoying, this focus on spending money is downright wrong. We’ve been programmed to believe that receiving and giving gifts is the only way we can obtain or show our feelings for someone. Apparently all of that quality time and talking is only great if your dinner was paid for.
The expectations created for each gender are also appalling. While the unrealistic gender roles of society exist year round, they seem to be significantly more pronounced around St Valentine’s Day. Men buy women nice things, and as a reward, women sleep with men. The marketing is almost solely directed at men, pressuring them to buy or do something extravagant for their female partner. The same is certainly not expected of women. In fact, most of the heavily marketed products are aimed at the stereotyped woman; pink teddy bears, frilly lingerie and dainty jewellery. The holiday is also blatantly heterosexist.
St Valentine’s Day also suggests that it is only through the gender-stereotyped consumerism that love can be shown. My ex once accurately described me as “a heartless bitch who cares more about the Boston Bruins than actual people.” So admittedly, I don’t know much about love. But I do know that love can’t be bought, nor can it be expressed through money. I’m not sure anyone really knows how it’s expressed, but I think it’s a combination of thoughts, feelings, deeds, and conversations accumulated throughout a lifetime, not only on one over-commercialised day of the year. Maybe my inability to define love is the best definition possible; love cannot be defined, only felt.
Despite my politically correct feminist rant, the actual truth is that I always feel pretty good on St Valentine’s Day. Like any college student, of course I’m always a bit jealous of my friends that will spend the night with their lover instead of their stuffed dinosaurs. But I know that none of it – not even the excessive chocolates, overpriced flowers, or the over glorified relationship – is necessary. And more importantly, I know that despite the occasional slip up, I’m happy without it. I’m proud of the fact that my life revolves around far more important things.
Every St Valentine’s Day I am forcefully reminded that I am that I am single. I’m reminded that I don’t need that the validation of another person to feel confident. I’m reminded that I’m proud of who I am without being told that I should be. I’m reminded that I know what I deserve, and it’s a whole lot more than some two-for-one 1 meal deal. I’m reminded that, upon further consideration, I absolutely love St Valentine’s Day.
Originally written February 2015. Illustration by Mariam Ahmad.