Romanticizing Commercialism, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Embrace the Chocolate
Valentine’s Day is perhaps the embodiment of the cliché; despite romance being the primary reason to celebrate, spontaneity is all but abandoned as your typical American rushes to show their adoration for their beau or belle in the exact same way as millions of other people across the country.
However, I submit that if there is one thing more clichéd than the holiday itself, it’s the deconstruction of Valentine’s Day, because while stuffed animals and chocolates are mind-numbingly simple to acquire for your loved one and require almost no thought, it doesn’t particularly challenge the mind to critique the holiday and its participants, either—unless, of course, you do your research.
As you most likely know, St. Valentine’s Day (colloquially known as Valentine’s Day) has its roots in celebrating the notion star-crossed lovers. Or more to the point, the efforts of a martyr in Ancient Rome who went by the name of Saint Valentine, who made it his goal to do whatever he could to assist star-crossed lovers.
When marriages in Ancient Rome were outlawed as part of a military-outreach program at around 250 AD (because nothing motivates a soldier quite like taking away his ability to be wed) Saint Valentine made it his mission to wed the various woebegone lovers. However, as Roman leaders are hopeless romantics second only to ruthless killing machines, his story is not a happy one; Saint Valentine was imprisoned and sentenced to death.
The part of this story that most people remember is that Saint Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, or so the story goes. Such tragedy! Such conflict! Presumably they had many touching moments through the bars of the cell. The part that truly cinches the tale, however, is how he signed his dying letter to her: “From, your Valentine,” a phrase which is used today by just about everyone.
The idea behind this, presumably, is to celebrate your love on February 14th because that’s what he would have wanted. Indeed, no doubt if he were alive today, he would be enraptured by the displays of roses as far as the eye can see and gigantic, if impractical, stuffed animals.
But just in case you thought the previous statement was a sarcastic one, do not worry; there is a flip side to the cynicism that Valentine’s Day has the tendency to bring out.
Just as almost nothing you’ll see on Valentine’s Day is by any means new, neither are any of the arguments against it. Most everyone who writes an angry journal entry about it on their blog recycles the same points from other angry blogs, and there is a hint of dishonesty to these as well. After all, how much does the author really care about commercialism or Hallmark holidays? Are they just as ardently against holidays such as the Fourth of July, or Christmas?
Rarely is this the case. More likely they have fallen victim to shattered expectations, whether they spent the day wishing ill upon the exuberantly happy couples they ran into or simply had their Valentine’s Day fall short of the standards they’d set in their mind.
My point, then, isn’t to make either party feel bad. If you love Valentine’s with a fervent passion, that’s your right, and honestly, feeling happy is never something to apologize for. Likewise, if you consider yourself the lone cynic amongst a sea of hopeless romantics, there’s a certain kind of satisfaction in that as well and no one should rob you of it. The idea is that you shouldn’t scorn anybody else for disagreeing.
My personal opinion on Valentine’s Day tends to change depending on a variety of factors, but this year I couldn’t be happier about the holiday, because commercialized though it may be, it’s also a lovely excuse to throw a party and invite all of your single friends. Chocolate’s readily available (if overpriced), pink and red are aesthetic colors no matter what time of the year it is, and even if you hate the holiday so much that it makes you seethe, spending some time with other people is usually a healthy alternative to busting out the voodoo dolls and dartboards. Not to imply that you can’t enjoy the holiday alone; what’s better than copious amounts of chocolate, other than not having to share? (Perhaps this is debatable; however, I maintain that the various staples of Valentine’s Day are nice within themselves, and don’t require company to enjoy.)
If, on the other hand, you have Valentine’s Day plans of a decidedly romantic variety, then you already know what you’re doing and chances are, you already know you’re going to go home on cloud nine. And don’t let somebody try to guilt you into putting back the box of chocolates or stuffed animal. Sure, it’s commercialized and cliché, and in a way, that’s what makes it kind of wonderful. And while the argument that you shouldn’t need a holiday to be romantic is technically sound, let’s be honest: who has the income to make every day Valentine’s Day? Besides, then it would lack the ‘special occasion’ vibe that it currently exudes.
No matter what your opinion is on the ubiquitous Valentine’s Day, remember this: the optimist says the chocolate box is half full and the pessimist says it’s half empty, but the opportunist takes the chocolate without bickering about philosophy.