I am not in love with Valentine’s Day. I think initially this feeling stems from the days in elementary school where they instated a rule that you had to give a valentine to everyone so that no one would feel left out and some people still got special, bigger valentines, while everyone else got the punch out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ones. Or it may be that it was middle school when you could buy your special person a carnation (the Miller High Life of flowers) and attach a note that the student council would then deliver in your second period class and everyone saw who got a carnation and who didn’t. A chili bowl haircut (through sixth grade) and taller than all the boys (through tenth grade) doesn’t really get you special Valentine’s gifts. And in retrospect, none of this really matters at all to me. I am happily married now and before I was with my husband, I had several “good” Valentine’s Days. The point, though, is that I still remember how it feels to be the third-grader without the heart-shaped chocolate box in her bag or the only seventh grader in pre-Algebra without a dyed red carnation, so I really can’t get behind a holiday that has the power to elicit feelings of inadequacy and sadness in single people. For the record, I’m not in love with S.A.D. (Singles Awareness Day) parties either. The ones that I’ve been invited to are generally negative, and really, who needs an excuse to be pissed about something?
Culture in the U.S. (especially, I think, in the Southern U.S.) is so incredibly biased toward lasting, monogamous relationships, regardless of relationship quality, that people stay in toxic relationships because, were they to end the toxicity, they might feel unlovable and out of place in our culture that treats Valentine’s Day like the BEST DAY EVER (Quick! Go BUY something for your MATE. Don’t have one? Well, you’ll probably just need to go eat your feelings). It is incredibly difficult to be single, not only because of the varying levels of yearning for a partner that one might experience, but because being an individual in America doesn’t actually mean much unless you have someone to share it with (or so we’re told by the endless onslaught of couple-y advertising, which is especially rampant this time of year). Obsession with Valentine’s Day is just a symptom of a culture that drills the idea of something good (romantic relationship with gifts) ahead of teaching people how to actually cultivate a good thing (almost no one is taught how to effectively communicate with a partner, resolve conflict, show love).
And please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not against long-lasting, monogamous romantic relationships. I am trying to have one of those RIGHT NOW (and hopefully so is Hubs). The idea that he has to bring home flowers and chocolate and jewelry to make me feel loved, however, is ridiculous and an example of blatant consumerism that is the other part of my pie of reasons not to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I know he loves me. He shows me in a hundred ways every week that he does, and when I feel as though I’d like to have some sort of special acknowledgment of his love for me, I step back and try to evaluate what’s really going on in the marriage. Is it that we’ve both been spending more time in lab than we have together? Or that I’ve been doing the grocery shopping alone for the past few weeks? Or maybe I just really do need a little extra attention in the form of flowers (maybe that he picks in a park to save money)? But why should Valentine’s Day be the only day that I (or anyone!) gets recognition for being a lovely partner?
To live our best marriage, I think we need to embody the spirit of Valentine’s Day every day: recognition and appreciation of each other. This we can do in private, without buying tons of crap and making single people feel terrible.