The XX Factor

Anti-Anti-Anti-Valentine’s Day

It’s interesting to me that annoyance or even hatred has coalesced around Valentine’s Day so much that it’s now gotten to the point where defending it gives you a chance to earn some contrarian credibility.  I did appreciate your defense of the holiday, KJ , in no small part because I think childhood is basically the last time many of us ever got to really enjoy Valentine’s Day, mostly because adulthood ushers in permanent guilt mixed in with the pleasure of eating chocolate. I feel like I have to stand up now for the embittered and cynical, particularly against Torie Bosch characterizing those of us who skip out as snobs who have been suckered into thinking we’re just oh so superior.

Instead, I’m talking about the couples who say they are “above” Valentine’s Day. You know what I’m talking about: those who sniff, “We think our love should be celebrated every day” or “I don’t need Hallmark to remind me that I love my wife.” They make a big deal out of not making a big deal out of Valentine’s Day.

My feeling is more along the lines of, “I can gorge myself on food and wine and have a guilt-ridden conversation where we both realize we’re too stuffed and tired for sex any day I want.”

Skipping Valentine’s Day is only a big deal the first year you do it.  After skipping it for many years, I managed to skip it this year by completely forgetting about it until about five minutes before I decided to write this post. I can and have concocted many an ideological argument against Valentine’s Day, though not an anti-materialist one.  (I love presents and shopping too much for that, and make a fuss over Christmas and birthdays.)  But, at the end of the day, many people boycott Valentine’s Day because it sucks.  It’s no fun.  The political analysis about compulsory (and conformist) demonstrations of romantic love tends to develop after one too many Valentine’s Days that ended up in disappointment, or worse, tears.

The problem is that, even if you know better, once you set out to celebrate Valentine’s Day, you’ve started to create expectations.  And those expectations are going to be shaped by the cultural pressure to fit a very specific romantic model.  Even if you reject that, you’re just reacting to it, and so you end up creating a set of counter expectations for a very unique kind of romance.  Either way, the expectations get way too high, and the odds rise exponentially that the sex, food, or presents are going to disappoint.

For me, having a partner who looked relieved when I said I don’t do Valentine’s Day was far more romantic than all the set-aside time in the world for some kind of formal reminder.  It made me feel safe and comfortable, like I don’t have to evaluate my “performance” as a girlfriend based on how much appreciation I get on the day set aside for said appreciation. I guess you could characterize me as a snob, but it really does feel more authentic to let displays of affection develop around those things we have in common as individuals and not around our status as a couple.