Valentines Day is unique. No other holiday is so simultaneously loved and despised.
It’s an easy holiday to hate. The obligation to buy gifts. The depression when you find yourself dateless, and the constant reminders everywhere you look. I understand the appeal though… The romantic in me finds the idea of Valentine’s appealing, even as the cynic in me hates it more than almost any other bullshit holiday.
It’s the holiday of “romance”, right? The idea behind it makes sense. One day a year, all the fucking lazy boyfriends of the world make some kind of romantic gesture, and then the rest of the year they can continue day-drinking and watching football. That’s one reason a lot of people get disillusioned with the idea of Valentine’s Day. It’s an obligation. When your life lacks romance, a day when romance is forced upon you feels like a guilt trip.
On the other hand, when you’re single, you feel like shit for not having someone to share Valentine’s with. A lot of chronically single people I know get depressed around this time of year. Personally, when I was single on Valentine’s in the past, I made a tradition of getting really fucking high and goofing off all day. I did that for around four years after high school, before I started to get my shit together. But not everyone can be a sinfully self-indulgent narcissist like me. I feel for the people who are sad about being alone. I felt that way for a long time, in my teenage years.
We call Valentine’s “Singles Awareness Day” or “SAD”, because it blasts single people with constant imagery reminding them just how alone they are. It’s a nonstop barrage of propaganda suggesting that they aren’t good enough on their own, which reinforces what their own mental demons have probably been telling them all along anyway. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re never going to find someone.”
But we continue with this idea of Valentine’s Day, because somewhere inside us we wish we could be the type of person who enjoys it. It’s an outlet for fantasy. The singles fantasize about finding someone. And the couples who’ve lost their sense of romance can fantasize that, just for this one day a year, they’re truly in love. We love to indulge in delusions, and Valentine’s happily provides delusion aplenty.
There are, however, people who truly enjoy Valentine’s, though among my circle of cynics and outcasts and freaks and geeks, those types are rare. I’ve met a few, however. The hopeless romantics who swoon over idealized notions of a perfect love. The daydreaming housewives who’ve lost all sense of passion in their marriage, whose only escape from mundanity is their fantasy of a romantic gesture that never materializes.
Valentine’s Day is an escapist fantasy. It’s one day a year that all of us can come together and hope that we, too, can find love. We can remake the loves that have fizzled, reforge our own sense of passion, and rediscover the love for ourselves that somehow got wrapped up in somebody else.
And, of course, it’s a chance for those of us with passion, who practice romance as a way of life, to exercise what we do best. Because romance shouldn’t be something you do because you have to. Romance doesn’t mean buying your girlfriend flowers because she’s pissed off. It’s a way of living. It’s hard, I suppose, to be romantic, when everything in your life is ordinary. Valentine’s is a way for all those ordinary people to feel extraordinary, even if it’s just a fantasy that never comes to fruition.
It’s so very easy to hate Valentine’s Day. But perhaps it can serve as a yearly reminder to bring romance into our daily lives. It should remind us not to take our lives so seriously, and not to take the people who love us for granted.
Valentine’s should remind us that love, left alone, will not last forever. All the miserable singles on Valentine’s can attest to that. So be kind to yourself, and leave a sweet note on your lover’s pillow. The little moments, the little romantic nothings, are the treasures of doomed loves. That’s all we can take with us, in the end, besides the heartbreak. Make the most of them.