By Cady Inabinett, Editor in chief
Despite the fact that I’m a hard-boiled, serious student newspaper tsar and magnate, something about Valentine’s Day just always gets to me.
If you’ve been reading my column at all this year—or have had the immense pleasure, I’m sure, of interacting with me in person around campus—you’ll hopefully know that most of the lede is a joke. I cry pretty much on a weekly basis, I frequently worry that I’m an over-bearing, megalomaniac editor and would list “emotional,” “afraid” and “way-too-emotionally-attached-to-2004-film-Before-Sunset” as some of the top descriptors for myself. But, all of that aside, it is very much true that I love Valentine’s Day—it’s my favorite holiday and, hands-down, my favorite day of the year.
Early on in my tenure at The Alabamian I wrote an opinion piece—my first ever, might I add—on my love of Valentine’s Day. In preparation for writing this piece, I revisited it.
In this article, aptly titled, “In defense of Valentine’s Day,” I set out to argue against Valentine’s Day’s many detractors—those who claim it’s a holiday invented to sell more cards, or that it solely works to uphold heteropatriarchal standards. I, instead, argue that Valentine’s Day is what you make of it. It can be a day to celebrate your bond with friends, your relationship with a partner or just a day to eat chocolate. No matter what, it’s a day to remember what makes you feel happy and loved and appreciate those things.
Three years have not changed my opinions on this matter very much. I still think love, in all its many forms, is what makes the world go around, and I still think Valentine’s Day is a great day to remember this.
However, I noticed in rereading this article that I seemed very intent on making people take Valentine’s Day seriously by throwing notions of romanticism and big emotions under the bus. I even specifically took word space out in my article to caveat that I was not just writing about, “sappy, saccharine, romantic love that is packaged up and sold as a commodity in Valentine’s Day themed ads,” but that I meant, “real, true, genuine love,” as if the two belong in mutually exclusive categories.
Reading this with fresh eyes made me question: what’s wrong with a bit of saccharinity?
Not to get too “we live in a society” about this, but I feel as though we currently exist in a culture that is so hyper-nihilistic, meme-ified and irony-poisoned that to come across as anything other than aloof, nonchalant and somewhat distant is to debase yourself—let the better-than-thou mask we’re supposed to sport at all times slip. I mean, you don’t have to look further than the phenomenon of “cringe culture” to start believing that we culturally punish enthusiasm and passion. Earnestness is dead, long live sardonicism!
I suppose there is an argument to be made that it’s not, but the way I see it, saccharinity is the rejection of this culture of playing it cool. Saccharinity is the state of being so sweet on something that you can’t even be bothered to hide it. It’s an expression of earnestness. And, while it is an expression of vulnerability akin to showing someone your soft underbelly, it’s also a gift and a superpower insofar as it cuts through the noise of irony and nihilism to create a beam of genuine positivity, love and joy.
Now, I’m not saying everything has to be tooth-rottingly sweet all the time, but, often, I think we tend to be afraid of coming off too strongly than is warranted and, therefore, tend to come off as not very strong at all. Have you ever done something nice for someone, only to get nervous that they would think your actions were weird? I know I have. That’s exactly the feeling I’m talking about here. Perhaps, if we worked on leaning into saccharinity, we would feel less abashed and embarrassed about our earnestness.
I feel as though the call to action in “In defense of Valentine’s Day,” was to make sure that you do something nice for yourself on Valentine’s Day—something that makes you feel happy. I still stand by that call to action as well. Like I said in that article, Valentine’s Day is what you make of it, so make it a good day for yourself.
My current-day addendum, though, is to also make sure you do something nice for someone else this Valentine’s Day too. And, most importantly, don’t be shy about it! The phrase “it’s the thought that counts,” really rings true here—no matter what gesture you make, big or small, make sure it’s unmistakably clear that you were thinking of someone. Go forth and be saccharine!
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.