I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say they actually liked Valentine’s Day. Perhaps it was in elementary school. And why not? What could be more satisfying than tottering home at the end of the school day, slightly nauseous from too many pink-frosted cupcakes, lugging under one arm a shoebox full of paper and lace evidence that the world is full of people who love and accept you.
Then adolescence happens and puberty obliterates any ability we have to interact with the opposite sex without anxiety and uncertainty. Suddenly we’re much, much too cool for Valentine’s day. Too cool for candy hearts. Too cool for cheesy Sponge Bob Squarepants cards.
Eventually time and experience teaches bitterness and you find yourself bitching about a holiday that celebrates the most vital emotion human beings experience.
It is a difficult pitfall to avoid. My freshman year in high school, my roommate and I made and gave out Valentines with messages that read, “Happy Anniversary of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre” and “Happy day named after some beheaded Italian guy nobody remembers 364 days of the year.”
By my freshman year in college I was convinced I could make a fortune marketing Valentines for the disenchanted. For full effect, on the cover these cards would need to be as disarmingly flowery and sacherine as regular valentines. But the inside messages would include things like, “I hope you rot in hell, you selfish bastard,” and “I want my heart back, you cheating bitch.”
But despite the fact that nobody seems willing to admit any interest whatsoever in the holiday, florists, greeting card companies, chocolatiers and lingerie shops make huge hauls from the love season. Last year Valentine’s Day sales totaled $3.9 billion in online sales alone.
There are those whose rejection of Valentine’s Day stems from a contempt for the consumeristic demands our society associates with the holiday. Advertisers would have us believe that love without diamonds, champagne, a weekend getaway at a bed and breakfast, roses and Godiva chocolate, is no love at all.
Of all the arguments against Valentine’s Day, this is the most convincing, except for one thing. Rejecting Valentine’s Day because it’s consumeristic means a unilateral rejection of all holidays. Let’s be honest. America has only one god_”Capitalism. Every holiday on the American calendar is an orgy of offerings made in celebration of that God. Valentine’s Day simply follows suit. The only way to celebrate any holiday without giving in to consumerism is to make it your own. There are plenty of ways to be romantic without maxing-out your credit card. Creativity wins more often than stuff. A massage by candlelight, a trip to the animal shelter to play with the kittens or making a meal together are great ways to spend a romantic Valentine’s Day without spending a small fortune. Sure these dates are cliche, but there’s a reason for that.
We all know the story of St. Valentine. How, as he wasted away in a Roman prison for performing illegal marriages, he befriended and exchanged letters with the daughter of his jailor. What we don’t think about is that Valentine’s story proves that he knew something we don’t. Something American couples spend billions of dollars each year on relationship counselors and books to discover; the secret to a healthy, loving relationship is communication. Sharing yourself with another person, and letting that person share themself with you in return, isn’t always easy but it doesn’t require dropping a bundle of cash at the Look or Godiva chocolates.
I, for one, have grown into a stage where I am not afraid to admit that I am a hopeless romantic. Take that to mean sap if you must. I’m a sucker for a sonnet. I always cry at the end of “Casablanca.” And I love coming up with new ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Maybe some people really do hate Valentine’s Day. Maybe they hate puppy dogs, springtime, rainbows and cupcakes too. I suppose it’s possible. But I suspect that given the right circumstances and a little hope, we’re all romantics at heart.