Love and other vices on Valentines Day

Valentines Day. This day always brings out the best and worst in people. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the rest of the population whether they be men or women, or boys or girls who feel left out on that day -- a day which in the cosmic scheme of things is really just another 24-hour segment in the Earth's journey through space and time as it orbits the sun.

I tried to look into why Valentines Day is celebrated and two sources gave me convoluted accounts (and almost bored me to tears) but both referred to it as the day for lovers to express their undying love for one another. Hello? Does one really have to assign a designated day for couples who are already committed to each other to engage in ritualistic -- and expensive -- expressions of romantic affections?

One might argue that in a free world, people are free to do anything they want. And the Day of Hearts is, after all, a pretty harmless tradition. Or is it? For their part, marketers and advertisers are also free to influence and persuade, as they engage in the lucrative trade of creating "human needs" where there need not be any, and occasions to consume where a bit more (but less costly) substance and meaning would have sufficed. So it seems to me that it is not an entirely harmless tradition; and as such my thoughts go out especially to those who find it a challenge to conform.

There may be millions of people who feel alienated when such occasions are celebrated. Can anyone remember the suicide pact made by 32 people in the U.S. who planned to kill themselves on Valentines Day in 2005 because they were unhappy about the day and their lives in general? It would have been an immense tragedy had the plot not been uncovered by the police. Extreme, to be sure, but regardless of whether one is merely melancholic or insanely suicidal on that day, the whole exercise is a real waste of emotional energy considering that if we take a bit of time to reflect, we realise that such anxieties are really so unnecessary; hardly the "human need" that clever marketers would have us believe it is.

Let's spare a thought for those who have no one to love or those who had just lost the love of their life. Single people in every society can end up feeling inadequate when subjected to the big hoo-ha surrounding V-day. In fact, people who find themselves unattached on a Valentines Day, will more than likely get pestered with "Don't you have a date tonight?" intrusions to one's personal space. Non-compliance to the occasion makes one a pathetic sod to be ostracized and be subject to stoning. I think it's a bit tacky of people to be making comments like that even if they think it is harmless.

I used to think it made sense that people should be going out with someone on V-Day. Now I only see a society exerting too much pressure on people to hook up. I think the biological imperative is powerful enough without that pressure. Being with someone will only be a wonderful experience if that someone you end up with can actually complete you (to cite the old cliché). Oftentimes, people just compromise on taste (and, worse, on common sensibility) and end up with someone they are not compatible with just to look good to others and to conform.

If you are a man, you would be pretty slack if the only time you make your girlfriend or wife feel special is on Valentines Day. If you are a woman, you are a bit shallow if you think that just because your man doesn't take you out or give you something special on Valentines Day, it's already the beginning of the end of your relationship. It's like self-flagellation during the Easter holidays, same psychology, different occasion.

A progressive neglect to deliver the token flowers, cards, and that 3000-peso dinner -- what I call Valentinian Omissions -- apparently is an insidious cancer of the typical relationship. I know of a few couples who get into nasty arguments over Valentinian Omissions. All the while each party piles these little "omissions" on what becomes a massive list that is brought to bear come the time when Splitsville is in the horizon. Maybe your partner will appreciate you more if you don't make a big deal of such occasions from the very start. They will feel less pressured to cook up or come up with something to make you feel "loved".

Put all of what's been said so far in its own box and you are left with what Valentines Day really is -- just another cannon in the clever marketer's arsenal. Retailers count on such days to make up for their customers' sensible expenditure over most of the year. Thus the flowers being dearer on the day itself is a no-brainer. And just think of all the waste the activity is generating, with all the tiny Teddy Bears with little hearts and the Valentines card that are being sold that end up... Well, at least the cards are recyclable.

The more stuff that's bought and discarded for every occasion celebrated the worse it is for our environment (stop for a moment and have a think, for example, how much of the stuff that was given to you last Christmas is still in use). Mother Nature suffers so that we can alleviate an "anxiety" that started out as a concept drawn out on a marketing jock's flipchart.

But who cares about the environment? As long as we're having fun, right?

Don't worry if you've already made plans, as I said, this is not about you. Please don't let this ruin your date. After all, as our politicians would have us believe, in these times of financial crisis, we need to heed the call for a heroic shelling out of our wads for a dinner by candlelight. Your country needs you!



  2. Many years ago, I was told that Valentine's Day was created by the greeting card companies. But I believe that the romantic aspects associated with that day actually began in the Middle Ages, as Wiki points out. As opposed to a preserved head on display (!) - See Wikipedia for that one. I went to Catholic school in the U.S. and the kids traded Valentine's Day cards with each other. Since I was the nerdy honor student in class (as opposed to being "cool") I only received two cards, each year. One from a girl whose parents didn't want anyone to be left out (good for them) and the other from the current nun who was heading up the class (!) That's why, to this day, I really dislike Valentine's Day. But I humor my wife, since she's a great person and her family is interested in "what the American gave her." No need for her to feel embarrassed. Thanks Hallmark!

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