By Cady Inabinett
For being a holiday about love, Valentine’s Day gets a lot of hate.
There are many valid criticisms of Valentine’s Day. It’s overly consumeristic, with a 2020 report showing that Americans expected to spend, on average, $142 to celebrate; turning the holiday into a corporate-driven event devoid of any real meaning.
It often works to uphold heteronormative and sexist ideals of conventional romance, as pointed out by Yas Necati in an op-ed for The Independent, where they wrote, “It pushes society’s ideal of what our relationships ‘should’ look like – heterosexual, monogamous, sexual, romantic. If you don’t have this – whether that’s because you don’t want to or you just don’t – you are considered to be failing in the eyes of a society that pushes us all, inevitably, towards the nuclear family ideal.”
Not to mention the fact that the day has a penchant for making people not in relationships feel miserable and left out. Maybe Ellen McCarthy had the right idea in her Washington Post op-ed when she suggested limiting who gets to celebrate the holiday, writing “Maybe condone celebrations up until the fourth grade, when people still have the common courtesy to bring in a valentine for everyone who sits in their general vicinity. And then, for those who insist, allow it to be picked back up by the over-60 set.”
And, to be completely fair, being alive on this planet isn’t very easy right now. As we head towards year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of the omicron variant continue to spread at an alarming rate. All the while, people are largely being expected to go on about life as if nothing is wrong. That certainly isn’t putting people into the holiday spirit.
Given all that, it’s pretty easy to understand why The New York Times basically declared Valentine’s Day cancelled last year.
But, allow me to let you in on a secret, reader: I love Valentine’s Day.
I know it seems bad, considering everything I just listed out, but I can’t help it! I just do! My love for Valentine’s Day goes beyond my deep appreciation for heart-shaped objects, which I suddenly have much more access to around this time of year — though, that is definitely a factor too. To me, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, one of the most important and powerful forces in the world. No, I’m not just talking about sappy, saccharine, romantic love that is packaged up and sold as a commodity in Valentine’s Day themed ads. I mean real, true, genuine love.
But what does that mean? What’s real, true, genuine love? Well, here’s the part where I have to confess that I don’t really know. But I can venture a few guesses. Real, true, genuine love is the feeling you get when you make your friends laugh—really laugh; uncontrollable and bubbling, the kind that makes your stomach muscles hurt. It’s the song that you can listen to on repeat and never get tired of and the poem that makes you acutely aware of some deep seeded emotion that you’ve never quite been able to name before. It’s a beautiful sunset, it’s a good soup, it’s a movie that makes you cry, it’s a walk in the cold that makes you feel awake and grounded.
Love, real, true and genuine, is any number of things, really, so long as it makes you get this growing feeling in your chest that makes you feel happy and alive.
One of the best things about love, though, is that we have the power to give that feeling to others. And, that’s pretty easy to do, too. Send an old friend a meme that made you think of them. Make (or buy) someone a coffee just how they like it. Be there to listen when someone needs a shoulder to cry on. In a world where it feels like, as discussed earlier, everything is kind of bad so much of the time, it feels like we should try to make others feel loved as often as possible. We’re not always going to be perfect at it, but we should at least try.
As for Valentine’s Day, should we really relegate this concept to one specific day a year? No, of course not. But, it’s nice to have a holiday that reminds us to celebrate love and all it can do.
So, this Valentine’s Day, don’t get caught up in the pressure of it all. Don’t get stressed about finding the perfect gift or the fact that you don’t even have a Valentine in the first place. Instead, focus on what you can do to make the world feel a little bit happier and a little bit lovelier for yourself and the people around you. Do something you love with the people you love. Be kind to one another. Let your friends know that you love and appreciate them. And, don’t forget to enjoy the discount chocolates on Feb. 15.