10 Things I Love (and Hate) About Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year.  Even here, in Kenya, there are ads on the radio for restaurants running deals for Valentine’s Day.  Florists are getting ready for massive orders; shops have been filling up with chocolates and cards and red and white frills.  February 14th is finally upon us.

This isn’t a secret.  Valentine’s Day is not my favorite holiday.  There are a lot of reasons for that, but a lot of them are personal, so I don’t need to get into them here.

But a whole bunch of them are sociological, and I can TOTALLY get into them here.

I actually don’t hate Valentine’s Day.  In some ways, I think there is a lot of good-~-and I’m going to give you BOTH sides of my Valentine’s Day analysis, so bear with me here.

Valentine’s Day Pro #1: We are relationship slackers.  And like a friend of mine in my program here pointed out, sometimes it is really good to have a day set aside to remind us that we should focus on relationships.  Valentine’s Day gives us the kick in the butt we need to make romantic gestures.

Valentine’s Day Pro #2: Valentine’s Day is symbolic of the importance of relationships.  And sociologically (from a structural functionalist perspective) that’s important because having a day dedicated to relationships, especially in a production-driven, bottom-line-obsessed environment, legitimizes the value of romantic and interpersonal relationships.  You hear way too often that people need to put X, Y, or Z ahead, or that their partner shouldn’t control something…but relationships ARE important.  They are a big part of having a healthy and well-rounded social life for many people and throwing them away or failing to recognize their importance is silly.

Valentine’s Day Con #1: It totally commodifies romance.  Let’s be honest: having a day where romance can be quantified or made into something that can be packaged and sold completely undermines the idea of unique, emotion-driven relationships, and it really annoys me.  In fact, I’m going to direct you to this Feminist Ryan Gosling Post that a friend of mine, Abbe, sent me: http://static.rookiemag.com/2012/01/13279879698ryan-and-flowers-700×465.jpg

Valentine’s Day Con #2: Our society does not value all relationships equally, and this is magnified by Valentine’s Day.  Think about it.  When was the last time you saw a V Day add that focused on or even acknowledged same-sex couples?  EVERYTHING about Valentine’s Day is heteronormative.

Valentine’s Day Pro #3: It forces people to acknowledge how lucky they are.  Symbolically, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be the day that you take a step back and think about how great it is that you’re sharing your life with someone, and maybe that’s something that Americans could do a little (or a lot) more of.

Valentine’s Day Con #3: It makes people who are single feel awful.  Now let’s be serious here: I’m all for people in relationships acknowledging the importance of relationships BUT they aren’t the be all and end all of everything.  It is totally possible to be happy and be single.  Valentine’s Day makes people who are not in relationships believe that they are not good enough or that something is missing from their lives because they fail to meet a societal standard of success that is based on relationships.  In this way it makes other kinds of success seem irrelevant, which is also silly.

Valentine’s Day Con #4: Valentine’s Day undercuts the value of NON-romantic relationships.  In all honesty, some of the most important relationships in ANYONE’S life are going to be non-romantic.  Valentine’s Day gives people permission to place one kind of relationship as superior to all others.  Seriously, where is my Best Friends’ Day?  Where is my Siblings’ Day?  Those people are insanely important-~-I wouldn’t even be the same PERSON without some of my friends or my sister.  Valentine’s Day says that those people aren’t as important because they don’t deserve a special day.

Valentine’s Day Pro #4: Valentine’s Day brings out the creativity in people.  For those who actually DO want to show how unique their relationship is (or who just don’t want to fuel the capitalist agenda promoting the consumerist practices that have come to dominate Valentine’s Day) the holiday can bring out some really adorable creative capacities-~-picnics, nights where people stay in and just do something fun, really cute homemade cards…these can ALSO be a part of Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day encourages people to think outside of the box in order to find more unique ways to celebrate their relationships.

Valentine’s Day Con #5: Valentine’s Day creates unrealistic expectations about relationships.  I think we’ve all been there: Valentine’s Day tells us that relationships should involve gifts and big romantic gestures and restaurants with flickering candles…and that’s not always what romance-~-or relationships-~-looks like.  Relationships are messy and complicated and can’t always live up to glamorized expectations; and everyone’s idea of a romantic evening is different so when a person feels that their expectations for February 14th are not fulfilled, they see it as a shortcoming of their relationship and end up frustrated and disappointed.  Honestly speaking, you can have a crappy Valentine’s Day and be in a GREAT relationship or have a great Valentine’s Day and be in an AWFUL relationship.  But you shouldn’t use this one holiday as a measure of where your love life is at.  It’s just an arbitrary square on the calendar.

Don’t worry, I’m going to leave you with a Pro so that you don’t think I’m just a hater of Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day Pro #6: Valentine’s Day gives people the moment they need to take a leap they might otherwise shy away from.  While I don’t think relationships should BE about big romantic gestures and I think people should be able to just be who they are, the reality is that life has some big moments…and sometimes we are so scared to take a chance that we risk missing out.  Valentine’s Day can give people the push to make a move, tell someone they love them, fight for the one they care about, make the big gesture that otherwise they might be too self-conscious or afraid to make, because it IS a day for big gestures.

So there it is, my sociological breakdown of ten things I love and hate about February 14th.  For those of you who have someone special, CHERISH THAT and for those who maybe aren’t with the perfect person this Valentine’s Day, hold out for what you deserve and don’t let society tell you you NEED to be in a relationship to be happy.  Either way, have a great Tuesday folks.


~ by Randi Saunders on February 14, 2012.

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