Valentine’s Day: that dreaded “holiday” which brings all the worst aspects of romance together in one soul-crushing day of chalky candy hearts and a rousing game of “guess what’s in the chocolate.” Barely qualifying as a holiday, Valentine’s Day always struck me as a holiday that would have been designed by a preschooler who had just been given a rough explanation of love.
The first issue is that a holiday generally consists of family and friends gathered around good food, usually for a celebration of independence or a bountiful harvest — and sometimes just because the Irish like to party. Inexplicably, Valentine’s Day manages to miss all of the main points of a real holiday.
Somehow the holiday is inherently competitive in nature — young couples compete to prove their love is more visible and authentic than those around them, older couples compete to see how long they can possibly procrastinate on picking up a card for a holiday they clearly forgot about, and single people compete to see how many of each other they can sadly hit on at the bars before it’s time to face the facts and call it a night.
Even as far back as middle school I remember the day having very little to do with love and more to do with trying to get more V-Day cards than the weird kid you sat next to in science class.
Then there’s the complete lack of a tangible celebration. Either you’re celebrating being in love, which — and I know I’m not breaking new ground when I say this — you probably shouldn’t need a designated day for, or you’re single and watching other people celebrate not being you by spending a lot of money. There isn’t even a traditional feast involved or a food component other than brightly colored candy.
I don’t want to sound too cynical here. Valentine’s Day is probably fantastic provided you’re a chocolate manufacturer, a florist, a jeweler or the owner of a sex shop. I’d also wager a guess that everyone associated with “50 Shades of Grey” also made out like a bandit over this past weekend. However, for the average person Valentine’s Day either serves as a reason to complain about being single or an opportunity to complain about how expensive it is to be in a relationship. Quite frankly, if you’re not directly profiting from it, the holiday seems to be a chore that most people grumble about until it’s over — which really doesn’t seem to resemble anything related to a healthy relationship.
In all my life, I’ve yet to meet someone that actually looks forward to Valentine’s Day. Either it’s irrelevant because you’re already happy in a relationship, it’s irrelevant because you’re happily single or it’s irrelevant because you were going to be unhappy no matter what holiday it was.
I imagine years ago in a savannah somewhere some selfless caveperson shared a roasted gazelle leg with their cave-spouse and suddenly a tradition of love was born, which slowly evolved into a commercial event big enough to rival the Superbowl and Black Friday combined. Back then it probably made sense to devote a specific day to one’s lover, given that at any day someone might die of the plague or get crushed by a mammoth. But in today’s society you really would expect that people could just appreciate one another more than once a year.
(A 20-second Google search shoots this entire theory to hell, but I guarantee you my explanation is far less convoluted than trying to piece together how Christian saints, heart-shaped boxes and a flying archery-obsessed child culminated to form the most over-hyped holiday of all time.)
Yet somehow an entire industry has evolved around the idea that if you shove enough different materials in various chocolates, pair them with excessively overpriced flowers and present them to someone as a token of your affection, they’ll suddenly decide to love you — which seems about as absurd as those tropical birds that do a three-hour mating dance just to get the opportunity to make more tropical birds.
Thankfully I’m dating someone whose cynicism and apathy regarding Hallmark Day somehow rivals my own. In fact the most we’ve discussed Valentine’s Day was when she asked me if I cared if we “don’t do any of that sappy crap and just watched ‘Sharknado 2’ instead.” Clearly I’ve made some good decisions in the romance department.
So that’s how I celebrated my Saturday: making some top-notch soup, recovering from a snowboarding trip and watching campy horror movies while the rest of the world loses its mind. Maybe that’s not the norm, and maybe I’m just too cynical to see the upside of what may very well be a lovely holiday. But if Moose’s Tooth beer, a Mexican stew and an intellectually stimulating viewing of New Yorkers fighting tornado-powered sharks with chainsaws doesn’t scream romance, then I’ll just admit to not knowing much about love.