Unrelated tangent: George Lucas, you managed to create something I love with all my heart. For that, I thank you. But as I used to say about my ex-boyfriend’s mother, just because you gave birth to it doesn’t mean I have to like every crazy thing you say.
As Valentine’s Day rolls around again, we are inundated with the yearly outpouring of commercials, status updates, and angst surrounding this special day. Every restaurant in the city has special menus, prix fixe dinners with wine pairings, stores are covered with red hearts and little bears in cunning shades of white and pink. The world is filled with sappy pop songs, heart-shaped containers of candy, and ads for discounts on lingerie.
My problem with Valentine’s Day is that it doesn’t actually make anyone happy. One party in a relationship (usually the man) is worried he’s not going to ‘screw it up.’ He’s not going to acquire the right present, or he doesn’t know where his girlfriend wants to go for dinner, and ohgodohgodwe’reallgoingtodie. The other party, usually the woman, is worried because of what the holiday means. Because if it isn’t observed correctly, the relationship is doomed! It means he doesn’t love you! It means you’re a failure as a lover! It must be a PERFECT NIGHT. So, we have a situation in which everyone is anxious, and nobody wins. I have never either heard of or experienced a Valentine’s Day where both parties were truly happy with how things went. And believe me, I’ve heard about some failures that were doozies. Even when things go well, the feelings are of relief, not joy.
And never mind couples. If you aren’t in a relationship, this day usually makes you feel like a bitter failure, as everyone in the world besides you (it seems) is off celebrating happiness that you don’t share. This isn’t always true, or isn’t always true to that extent. But it can cause a pang. In the interests of full disclosure, the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever spent was by myself. I ate lobster alone in my apartment in front of one of my favorite movies, then took a bottle of sparkling cider and a box of strawberries into the bathroom and read a book in the tub.
It’s a holiday, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, designed to sell stuff. It doesn’t celebrate anything in particular except “love,” defined as, “romantic congress between two people, both of whom should be prepared to spend lots of money, or else they’re doin’ it wrong.” Statistics show that there is a spike in breakups right around Valentine’s Day. People buckle under the strain of everything their relationship is supposed to be, and everything they’re supposed to be in the relationship. Key words here: supposed to be.
A relationship is a complicated organism. Its success or failure as a going concern can’t be reduced down to the behavior on one arbitrarily chosen day. Love is expressed, or not, a thousand different ways between people who have decided to be together. No one is perfect. There aren’t any rules you can follow that will make you a good partner. If you don’t feel it to begin with, no amount of behaving is going to make things better. And if you do feel it, you don’t need one particular day a year to let you show it.