Valentine’s Day Is What You Make It


Published: February 2, 2011

It is fashionable, in our age of gold stickers and self-affirmation exercises, to condemn Valentine’s Day as a corporate ploy designed to rob us of our self-worth. Every February, I am faced with this rhetoric, and every February I concede to these crusaders of emotional wellness that, yes, this day does come with psychological hazards—if, that is, you take it very seriously.

Of course Valentine’s Day is superficial. Because it is abused. Like all holidays are abused. Like all holidays are reduced to their most hollow functions. Abused not only by those capitalizing on the shallowest aspects of such holidays, but also by people who place such authority on these aspects that they allow themselves to get hurt. Chances are, that person throwing the We Don’t Need Valentines to Feel Good about Ourselves party, was the person who, up until quite recently, believed very strongly that she needed a valentine to feel good about herself.

Certainly, some people have misplaced their priorities. For those wayward souls, the facts:

– There were several Christian martyrs named Valentine. No one is sure what they did. Nothing about any of them was romantic.

– In the 1300s, Chaucer wrote a poem in which birds seek their mates on the Feast of Saint Valentine. The day has since been associated with romance.

– Stores sell pink and red stuff in early January to trick customers into buying things they wouldn’t want in regular colors.

– Expensive gifts do not validate a relationship. Neither do inexpensive gifts.

– You are no more or less alone on Valentine’s Day than you are on any other day.

Understanding this, few occasions put me in as good a mood as Valentine’s Day does. It is an excuse to make cupcakes on a Tuesday and to actually take time to color the frosting. Pencils with heart erasers, nervous teens carrying cheap flowers, Spider Man valentines exchanged between friends too young to understand how complicated the coming years will be—these are the images of a day with no purpose other than to inject some color into the otherwise snow-buried melatonin-haze that is February.

I’ve never had a Valentine myself. Relationships aren’t my strong suit. I fantasize, I romanticize, and I am continually hit over the head with reality. But on Valentine’s Day, I go home alone, rent a good romance, open a bag of chocolate hearts, and am thoroughly content—happy because on this one day a year, if only superficially, the world lives up to my expectations.