On Valentine's Day, anxiety and commercialized expectations
Prior to my husband and I getting married, we officially celebrated Valentine’s Day on two occasions over the span of ten years. When we started dating in 2008, we traveled to Atlanta from Athens, Ga. late in the evening to have dinner at a restaurant whose name I can’t even recall. My first nephew had been born just a few days prior, so we stopped to meet him on our way to the restaurant. Needless to say by the time we arrived, the wait time for people without reservations (because duh when did college students make reservations) was over an hour. We were hungry and everywhere else had a wait, so we ate McDonald’s in a parking lot, took a nap, and then made the hour drive back to Athens.
The second time we officially celebrated V-Day was in 2009, and we cooked dinner in his dorm room together. We bought steak, broccoli, potatoes and shrimp (which was pricey for us college kids), and we watched a movie. On other occasions we’ve gone to the movies, bought one another cards or chocolate. When we were long-distance for six years, we would make a point to visit one another the weekend before or after V-Day, but for us, it was never about V-Day. We just wanted to be together.
I realize I’m not the only person who doesn’t care about Valentine’s Day. A new survey shows 54% of married people say they will not be heading out to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. Needless to say, that’s us. And, as newlyweds three months shy of our first marriage anniversary, this year we opted to not celebrate V-Day, and spend a quiet, typical evening at home—cooking, laughing and watching TV. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve bought my fair share of cupcakes, cookies, and candy for others on the holiday, but I don’t just do that on V-Day. I try to make it a point to show the people in my life that I value them whenever I can. And as a newlywed, it is especially important to me to show my husband love and compassion every single day without the added stressors of a day that drives our debt up and could cost us more in the long term.
Valentine’s Day is a commercial, capitalistic holiday that makes people feel pressured to participate in activities and spend money on love. According to a survey from National Retail Federation, more than half of all consumers plan to celebrate by buying something—spending an average of $143.56 on flowers, jewelry, candy, clothes and other gifts. Besides the obvious demoralizing and objectification of love that happens on V-Day, I find it really sad that we carve out an entire day to show “love” to the people we care about when we should make it a point to show compassion, kindness and respect to those people every single day.
It’s problematic when people experience stress and anxiety around a day that makes them feel like there is something wrong with them for being single. When people like Charlamagne on the Breakfast Club have a platform to shun single women on V-Day, there’s an issue. As a culture, we’ve bought into commercializing and driving expectations around love, and this is particularly harmful toward singles, particularly single women. Our patriarchal and religious culture shuns single women for being single, and Valentine’s Day is just another opportunity to put women in divisive boxes, with the objective of making women feel like there is something wrong with them for being single. Being single can’t be a conscious choice, it means a woman is “crazy,” “irrational,” “a gold digger,” or “not wifey material.” It’s ridiculous.
But, I do love love. I love when love exists between partners, friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors. I love when you can witness firsthand how much someone loves another person. I love to experience love every day. I can’t, however continue to participate in a capitalist holiday that marginalizes people who are single, drives unfair and unethical child labor practices to produce chocolate for Americans, or makes people rack up tons of debt for one day (also looking at you Christmas).
It’s time we rethink how we celebrate holidays, and especially V-Day. Like other American traditions, we need to reevaluate who benefits from these holidays and who is subsequently hurt by these cultural traditions and decide for ourselves whether we will be participants in this game.
I have decided I won’t. Put V-Day in the trash with Columbus Day.