A Valentine Aide-Memoire

This one, at least, was easy to do.
The puzzles of the human heart are less puzzling than commonly thought.

There are two main approaches to Valentine’s Day. The mass-market one, adopted with varying degrees of enthusiasm or resignation, is that of getting involved, making an effort and celebrating that one special person. The sophisticated approach, adopted by cynics and singletons, is that it’s nothing more than an exercise in raising sales of flowers and chocolates, and is best avoided by anyone with a genuinely romantic bone in their body.

I don’t wholly subscribe to either viewpoint.

It’s not much fun being single on Valentine’s Day, when the world is reminding you, in red and pastel pink, how wonderful relationships are. However, it’s not always a lot of fun being in a relationship either, facing a dose of societally mandated pressure to “celebrate” your significant other by splashing cash on

However, human beings are crap when it comes to relationships, as much as they’re crap at anything else. We’re forgetful, we fall into bad habits and we take the most important things for granted simply because they’re always there. Getting a kick up the arse, even from an unwelcome direction, isn’t a bad thing if it reminds us that, hey, this is something worth a little celebration.

Only once a year though? (Add in a birthday, an anniversary and Christmas and you have four times a year, which still seems a little lacking.) Rampant commercialism doesn’t seem like the best way to set a mood either. It’s very hard not to be cynical when you see stores clearing away Christmas goods just to replace them with an array of Valentine’s Day products. (My local Tesco has a permanent “seasonal products” aisle, so you always know where to go to be reminded what the next thing you’re supposed to spend money on is.)

Cynicism, then, may be the healthiest response to Valentine’s Day. However, that ought to be cynicism towards the marketing rather than the message buried deep underneath. Responding to a prompt to do something nice, to give the person that means the most to you a little extra thought, doesn’t mean you’re giving into capitalism. After all, the form the resulting action takes ought to reflect both you and the relationship you’re in. However weird it may be.

So, opt out of Valentine’s Day and its avalanche of cards, flowers and chocolates by all means. Or opt in, and personalise it. Either way, it ought not to be just one day a year, and any reminder to be a better person ought to be appreciated.

5 thoughts on “A Valentine Aide-Memoire”

  1. Valentine’s Day certainly isn’t much for all of us singeletons, although I take considerable comfort from the fact that unlike what happened to St. Valentine himself (or so the story goes) I will not be sentenced to death and beheaded on February 14. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

  2. Cheers for every word of that last paragraph; ain’t that the real thing! There are so many mass-marketed holidays (and yes, the marketing and “holiday aisles” are appalling), but for the most part, those days still instill in us a sense of fun, joy, love, etc. But VD stands alone — it seems like it inspires angst, guilt, loneliness, judgement, more… in all but the 5% of people who receive exactly what they feel they should receive that day. I hate that it becomes, invariably, a value judgement on the quality of your relationship (or lack thereof). I hate that even opting out (as we did) still makes you feel bad (you think: wait, did we not do anything because we’re really just cynical and unromantic?! And on and on). Why not, instead: Good Deed day (where you do a nice thing for at least one stranger)? Or Gratitude Day (where you thank all of the people who mean something to you in some way, small or large)? Or Smile Day (where you make eye contact and smile with as many strangers as possible)! So much more effective, warm, and (yes?) romantic. So much more connecting, even for single people! Hmm…

    1. Yeah – the cynical response to Valentine’s Day in its modern form (as opposed to more interesting older versions(http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=5608)) can feel a bit automatic. Given that I’m automatically sceptical of nearly everything, it’s a good idea to be sceptical of even that, and sometimes just try to do nice things instead. 🙂 It’s either that or enter a death-spiral of self-questioning that will never end…

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