Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art every day my Valentine! – Thomas Hood
Regular readers know that I’m fond of holidays; I believe that rituals are important, and holidays help to give the year structure (especially in these modern times when so many are isolated from the natural ebb and flow of the seasons). But as careful readers may have already surmised, I do not really care for Valentine’s Day. Even as a child, it struck me as a rather odd kind of celebration; even the symbolism associated with it always seemed weird to me, and that’s no less true now than it was then. Though I do like getting cards expressing sincere affection, the sort of sentiment touted by valentines is the polar opposite of sincerity. And while I appreciate good puns, those which infest Valentines are never good. And then there are the presents; it seems to me that most people believe the first rule of Valentine gift-giving is to get the recipient something she would never buy for herself, and the more expensive the better. Chocolates are not figure-friendly, and if a man got me roses at the dramatically-inflated price florists demand for this one day when he wasn’t in the habit of getting them for me at times when they were priced more reasonably, I always felt as though he was doing it not because he wanted to, but because he thought he had to. As I wrote last year,
An obligatory “gift” of a certain expected value which must be presented at a certain time in order to retain a woman’s sexual favors is not a love offering, but rather a whore’s fee. And while I obviously have absolutely nothing against that, I prefer for it to be an honest and consensual arrangement mutually agreed upon by two adults, rather than a coercive charade designed to mask the transactional nature of a sexual relationship.
Some of you may name me a cynic, and you would be correct. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that it was harlotry which so made me; I was already thinking about this in high school. I have nothing against sincere romantic expression, but surely (as today’s epigram implies) that isn’t something limited to a specific day.
There’s one other thing which makes Valentine’s Day different from all other holidays in my mind: while all the others are inclusive, this one is exclusive. Holidays are times for friends, families and others to gather and celebrate together, but Valentine’s Day festivities (except, perhaps, for polyamorists) are exactly the opposite. Lovers tend to seek every available excuse to be alone together anyway; it hardly seems necessary to set aside a special day for that, especially one on which the show is celebrated above the substance.