No sooner are the Christmas cards off shelves before we get the onslaught of red heart displays for 14th February.
There’s the traditional, the jokey, the ironic cards.
The chocolates, flowers and fizz.
No. No. No.
It’s a no from me.
This year I find myself blissfully liberated from Valentine’s Day brainwashing.
Because what is V Day? It’s the tired remnants of a time when our value was defined by someone else, kept going by capitalism.
Let’s examine the evidence…
Valentine’s Day is an occasion from which people who are single feel excluded. In the wake of a breakup, those hearts seem taunt you from the high street. So you have to go underground and hide, or you make single plans involving wine, cheese and a 50 Shades of Grey screening (a great V Day tbh!)
Do we need a day to celebrate couples when society already contains inbuilt (heteronormative) couple privilege? It is cheaper and easier to have a good standard of accommodation, to eat well and to go on holiday if you are part of a couple. Isn’t that enough?
No boost to self-esteem
V Day made me feel a failure at a tender young age. My hopes were often dashed. One year complaining to my parents about lack of admirers resulted in a hastily drawn card appearing at the door. From Guess Who?! It read in felt tip. Thanks Mum. Thanks Dad.
Another year I found a card in my desk at school. Wow! Had my status risen? I had to play this cool and not get too excited. There were rumours of who sent the card. Did he like me? The question of whether I liked him wasn’t on my mind. It was all about being chosen. And I had been.
I looked around and realised all the girls had an envelope. Bless this kid. His mum suggested he give every single girl in class a Valentine’s Day card. As a popularity boosting move, I guess.
Yet my card was now worthless. I wasn’t the chosen one, but one of many. Foolish to think otherwise.
It might seem trivial, but this is an expectation women are taught to carry throughout their lives. That they need to be chosen. Not choose. That they need to be someone’s one.
Now I realise we should all be choosing. And keep reviewing choices.
And then there are the stalker undertones…
The idea of secret admirers can come across as more than a little sinister by today’s standards. Would you want to surprise someone with your affections out of the blue? It seems designed to trick or bribe them into going out with you. Perhaps if you catch them off guard enough, they will entertain seeing you out of charity or guilt. Um…romantic.
There’s a drama running on Netflix called You. It’s about a man who stalks a woman. He selects her at random and taps her phone to gain information about her friendships. He collects every bit of detail on her social media profiles to predict her preferences. And he uses all this to engineer a relationship with her.
A clever thing about the series is the man is played by a conventionally attractive actor. He works in a bookshop. He helps kids out of the kindness of his heart. He places the woman at the centre of his universe, planning every detail of their lives together. He probably buys her an amazing Valentine’s Day card too.
He’s also a psychopathic murderer. Small detail.
What if the hearts are half-hearted?
Let’s assume the scenario of being in a relationship and buying cards as a token of affection. Ok, ok, I admit I like gifts and lavish attention as much as the next person.
But why do we need to out-relationship each other?
I’ve gone out for dinner before, paid £60 for a special set menu and sat with all the other happy couples sharing their public, impersonal love. It was ok, but can feel half-hearted and forced.
Because what makes relationships tick is more than flowers from the petrol station once a year.
It’s the little personal gestures that can be whatever you choose. Bringing cups of tea, taking the bins out, shared jokes, listening, providing support, giving space. These are the things we need to value. These are things you miss when they are lacking. This is what we should celebrate.
Where does that leave Valentine’s Day?
Maybe it’s fun for those in the first year of their first relationship, when everything has a shiny newness. And if that’s you I say, go big. Get that cuddly toy, the red roses, the personalised socks (!)
Don’t value that over the real stuff though. Make your choices and reinforce them through your gestures every day.
That is true romance.