Okay, I’ve been told by those who read this before it was posted that it’s more of a rant that I meant it to be. So prepare yourself for a rant, and for me to pour scorn on a day dedicated to love and romance.
I don’t do Valentine’s Day.
Never have. Once, in a time long gone, I would have liked to. But that time passed, leaving me jaded and full of bile for the 14th of February. By the time I finally did have a girlfriend on this day I had already made the conscious decision to boycott it forever. And luckily, Frankie wasn’t bothered about it. We shared the ideal that if we wanted to do something to show our love it wasn’t because we were obliged to by the date. So for the next decade we happily ignored its existence.
But now my life involves other relationships, some of whom may well consider Valentine’s Day important. So I thought I should sit down and think about what it is I feel about this “holiday”.
Let’s start with the simple answer…
I was single all through school. I spent every Valentine’s Day throughout my teenage years single. I had to watch as people around me experienced and explored the joy of first love and requited teenage infatuation, while all my infatuations were very much unrequited. While my hormones raged, I remained alone, forced to watch from the outside as everyone around me – it seemed to me at the time – revelled in something I desperately wanted but couldn’t have.
And as petty as this sounds, it was a big deal to teenage me. I was a romantic, and wanted all those things that Valentine’s Day celebrated. And it had a lasting affect. To me, Valentine’s Day became a day where I was made to feel bad for being single. A day for couples, when those of us still single were pushed aside to be happy for others. Fit only to watch, unwanted, from the sidelines.
Teenage me wasn’t dramatic at all.
You could try to avoid it, but that always seemed impossible. Society seemed desperate for this day to be celebrated. To rub it in my face. Alone again this year? You must have not spent enough on single roses and pink greetings cards. Oh well, at least you can stand there in the corner and enjoy how happy other people are today.
I never felt lonelier that I did on Valentine’s Day.
So, once I was finally in a relationship, the idea of engaging with Valentine’s Day disgusted me. It had made me feel so bad for so many years that being on the other side made no difference. The idea of being one of those people who’d made me so unhappy – however much that was my problem and not theirs – was something I could never accept. I had no desire to add to the suffering of anyone else feeling as lonely as I had.
Dramatic? Me? Not at all.
But why don’t I just get over it? Because there is more that make Valentine’s Day terrible than my adolescent angst.
I hate the way it commercialises love.
There’s this inherent idea that how much you love someone depends on how much you spend on them. Didn’t you buy your partner something nice? Why not? Don’t you love them enough?
I object to any part of love becoming an obligation.
And I also hated how this always seemed – at least for the most part – to be a pressure focused on men. I’ve heard so many conversations about how much a woman’s boyfriend or husband has done for them, or complaints about how little. Where woman talked about their partner failing at his obligations, while not having done anything themselves. As if his romance was the payment with her agreeing to stay with him the prize.
(Let’s not discuss the concept of “Steak and a Blowjob Day”. I’ll get angry.)
Love should never be an obligation. There should never be a time when you are required to show someone how much you lover them. And love should never be quantified by money or expectation. Even if you don’t spend money and just do something nice, I still feel uncomfortable with the obligation. I like to think I do that kind of thing anyway, not because I have to but because I want to.
If you want to do something nice for your partner, go ahead. But if you to need an allocated day to show your partner you love them, then that’s an issue with your relationship there, my friend.
But you can argue any holiday is tainted by commercialism. I won’t argue Christmas isn’t commercial, and I love Christmas with a passion.
But the my ultimate problem with Valentine’s Day is…
What it Represents
Valentine’s Day, to me, has come to represent everything wrong with the modern view of what love is. The monogamous, patriarchal, capitalist view of love.
Love is great. Relationships are great, in all their forms. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with the traditional two person relationship. But there is so much toxicity in modern media about love and about what love is.
No, not what love is. But what love should be.
There is no such thing as “The One”. There is no “Happy Ever After”. Love never falls into place and becomes easy just because you find the right person. Finding “True Love’s First Kiss” (TM) won’t solve all your problems. Falling in love never means you need to stop trying. There is no situation where you are able to do whatever you want with love as an excuse.
Love also isn’t two straight, cis people settling down together to the exclusion of all others and having children.
Yet all these things are so prevalent in modern culture. How many films have you watched where someone was unhappy because they hadn’t found “The One”? Or where the goal was finding and keeping love, no matter how creepy or abusive you’re being.
Disney have a lot to answer for for this. They’re not the only ones, but they most prevalent culprits. Frankie and I have had long discussions about which classic Disney movies our children will be allowed to watch, for various reasons. One of these is the way they have conditioned multiple generations of children into the fairytale view of love. But at least these movies have the excuse that they are from another time, and Disney do at least seem to be trying change, at least in some areas.
This genre has done. So. Much. Damage.
There are good Romantic Comedies. I don’t have a blanket anger at an entire genre. And I’m also not going to criticise a movie for having people finding love as its plot because it didn’t go out of its way to show all the possible permutations of modern relationships.
But so many of them just perpetuate terrible, toxic ideas of love and relationships. Single woman are incomplete. Men don’t look for love until “The One” walks into their life. Married couples are tired and fed up with each other. Ignoring someone’s clearly stated wishes because it’s “meant to be”. Wearing someone down until they accept you.
These are traditionally spoken of as “women’s movies”, but they drip with toxic masculinity. It’s no wonder so many people excuse men for being terrible people when the media has been normalising it for so long.
Let’s just state this for the record: Pursuing someone who has made it clear they are not interested is stalking. Manipulating or tricking someone into loving you is abusive. Settling down with one person and having kids isn’t the single true goal on mankind.
And don’t get me started on Richard Curtis. That man has done more damage to people’s views of love than any single person I know. His films are literally filled with toxic men stalking, manipulating, and damaging woman in the name of “love”. This man has gaslit a generating into conflating abusive behaviour and romance.
This could turn into a much longer rant. (So long. Don’t get me started on Love Actually…).
But if you’re someone who enjoys Valentine’s Day, who can see through everything I’ve said above then wonderful. In the end, the important thing is…
You do you
I may not celebrate Valentine’s day, but I don’t begrudge those who do. If you and your partner(s) take it as an opportunity to do something together then more power to you. If you see it as a celebration of love as a whole, then dive right in. Revel in it.
But if you’re doing things today because you’re obliged to, because you’ll be called a failure if you don’t, or because you feel some big gesture on this specific date will somehow make up for something you did or convince someone who has no interest you’re worth giving a second chance, then please, please!, take a step back and reevaluate your relationship with this day.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Make of it what you will.