Despite writing an opinion piece about Valentine’s Day, I don’t have an opinion for or against its celebration. Or, at least, I don’t want to have one. Yes, it’s a holiday commercialized by Hallmark, and chocolate companies and evil stuffed animal corporations that reminds single people they are single, and yes, it’s a day where it’s socially acceptable to be extremely loving. But it’s also just a day, which, like any other day, can and should hold different meanings for different people.
In elementary school we all made Valentine’s Day mailboxes out of shoeboxes and construction paper. If you were going to make valentines or distribute candy, you had to make sure there was one for every member of the class. We ate sugary, pink and red snacks and usually watched Bug’s Life. It was cute, it was nice, and no one was supposed to feel left out.
As we got older, the intensity of Valentine’s Day increased. It no longer felt like a lighthearted day that was dedicated to crazy sugar intake and wearing red leggings to try and look like love. My memories of Valentine’s Day in middle school are marked by awkwardness (not that awkwardness didn’t pervade my entire middle school existence), and expectations. Was I supposed to give the boy I had a crush on, who maybe “like-liked” me too, a valentine? What if he didn’t give me one?
By high school, these awkward feelings hadn’t gone away, and were maybe worsened because of more exposure to pop culture, and the media’s opinions about Valentine’s Day. But now, people had opinions about Valentine’s Day. People thought it was sweet, or people thought it was stupid and terrible. People thought that protesting it was hip and progressive, or people thought that not acknowledging it made you a bad friend and a cynic.
Valentine’s Day last year at Carleton was pretty unremarkable to me. I went on a date to Chapati and watched a couple at another table make-out during their entire meal. They were obviously really into Valentine’s Day and thought that the significance of the day gave them the right to engage in dramatic PDA. The most memorable part of last of Valentine’s Day was watching people give and receive cards, flowers, and candy in the mailbox area of Sayles. Everyone taking part in it seemed happy, but I saw people walk by and roll their eyes, or exclaim how much they despise Valentine’s Day. I guess they thought that the meaning of the day gave them the right to be negative and belittle others’ fun.
And now, here I am, about to experience my 20th Valentine’s Day. I’ve been through Valentine’s Day single, and I’ve been through it in relationships. No matter my romantic situation, it’s never felt like a very out-of-the-ordinary day, other than its kind of stressfulness and people wearing more warm colors. When you’re in a relationship you’re supposed to be excited, buy expensive gifts, and go on an extravagant date. When you’re not in a relationship you’re supposed to retreat, say cynical things, and espouse girl-power mantras. But maybe we should all just treat it like a day. There are lots of so-called holidays throughout the year—National Pancake Day, National Sibling Day, Grandparent Day—and people choose to celebrate them, or not. And, it’s not a big deal.
No one cares if you have an opinion about National Pancake Day—it’s okay if you don’t even know it’s happening! But it does seem to be a big deal if you can’t remember when Valentine’s Day is, or if you act too hateful towards it, or if you act too excited about it. There doesn’t seem to be a “right” way to treat the day. So, let’s just forget about it. Put it on the backburner like National Hotdog Day and let people decide what they do. No pressure, no expectations, no cruel reminder of your singleness, or of your not-singleness. Valentine’s Day just doesn’t seem important enough for people to make a big fuss about supporting it or protesting it either way.