In a society where tinder and the hook-up culture have left behind their status of scandal, and any chivalrous gestures are vilified, it’s no surprise that romanticism could be nearing its expiration date.
We’re in university, we’re young, and having fun with anonymous partners is no sin but what about romantic love then? Have people lost desire for it entirely and prefer the thrill of a temporary fix? As a romantic this appears to me as a true tragedy. But before all hope is lost, here comes Valentine’s Day to my rescue. Now, as the stores start to fill with insignificant gifts and the most opinionated (and probably lonely) will start preparing their speeches on how Valentine’s is a “consumerist day that epitomises everything wrong with capitalism”, give me a moment to share my views.
Romantic love has been commercialised in films, books and merchandise, but that doesn’t mean it’s a myth. The world can be brutal and confusing and sometimes quite lonely to the point where giving up on the idea of finding someone to share this rough journey with doesn’t seem like the wisest option.
Valentine’s Day is about cherishing romantic love. For those who have found it, it is an opportunity to spoil your partner and make them feel appreciated with activities you know they will like, whether that is cooking a nice dinner or risking a fire hazard by filling the house with candles. For the ones with a cheeky secret crush, it is always a good time to do something over the top to conquer your love interest. Maybe put up a massive poster in the Forum (and if it doesn’t work you can always say it was for the day’s sake or maybe too much sugar got to your head!). And for those who might not have found that special person yet, I still think Valentine’s Day is not to be dismissed. It is a day to remind even the most hopeless that love is out there and not to give up looking for it. You could spend the day appreciating the love of friends or ripping apart pictures of your ex (always a healthy habit), and someone could still surprise you.
Maybe we have passed the days of overwhelming Shakespearean courtships or the days of convoluted Austenian intrigues, but love is still part of our society and should be celebrated in any way we wish, whether it is with kinky sex or a dinner date with friends. So, forget the carefree hook-ups for one day and take a moment to appreciate the people you truly love in your life. I challenge anyone to say it is harmful or useless.
On face value, a day dedicated to celebrating your relationship sounds like a lovely idea. Cook a delicious meal, drink red wine and tell your partner how much you love them. Cute. But the issue is, that’s not what Valentine’s Day has become. Like every other holiday, Valentine’s Day has become a commercialised and Americanised celebration that has much more to do with money than genuine human affection. There’s not much love in a Clintons’ card or a box of heart shaped chocolates spewed out by a Thorntons’ factory, and I don’t see how anyone in a relationship could really think that these are a warm expression of their feelings. If you really love your partner, you shouldn’t need Valentine’s Day to tell them that. You can tell them any day of the year and you can show it in much more original and creative ways than with the type of gifts sold around this time of year.
But the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day isn’t the worst thing about it, it’s the negativity it promotes. With shops rammed full of heart-shaped balloons, bouquets of flowers and shiny pink cards, it can feel like a bit of a slap in the face if you’re single. If Valentine’s Day was just about celebrating relationships, that would be okay, but the issue is that it inherently spreads the belief that your life is incomplete if you’re alone and that a relationship is the ultimate end goal. People should never be made to feel that if they’re single, they’ll never be as happy as they could be with a partner. Equally, if you’d rather date and sleep with lots of different people, that should be fine too. We don’t all need to follow the Hollywood formula of guy meets girl that Valentine’s promotes. The fun of dating and sex don’t need to be steps towards finding a relationship or love, they can be enjoyed just for themselves.
Sadly, if you make these types of arguments when you’re single, people assume your criticism only stems from feelings of bitterness and loneliness. This perpetuates the problem in itself, encouraging the idea that if you’re single, you couldn’t possibly be happy about it. Shout out to the friend who once told me that I only disliked Valentine’s Day because I was single; I can safely say that even though I’m now in a relationship, I still think Valentine’s is lame (lol sorry Andy, I really hope you didn’t think you needed to buy me a card).
I’m not saying that people should be banned from celebrating Valentine’s or that we all need to join The Revolutionary Alliance of Unpopular Men in Tokyo who’ve marched with calls to ‘crush’ the ‘romantic capitalism’ of Valentine’s. If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, then go for it. Get boozed up, eat lots of chocolate and have great sex, just make sure you don’t forget that there are 364 other days of the year where you could show your partner you love them. You shouldn’t need to put so much pressure on one day. And also, stop judging those who instead plan to go pull at Unit 1’s Traffic Light Party. I promise you that everyone isn’t only there as a substitute to crying alone in bed.