Photographed by Guang Xu.
Yes, you heard me right. Amidst the rising cacophony of anti-Valentine's Day Internet jabbering, I'm coming in quick and early with an affirmative defense. Yes, Valentine's Day is a "corporate" holiday — in that many corporations both bolster and profit from its existence. But, I'm saying that doesn't matter. I like it anyway.
Many people decry V-Day because of its supposed Hallmark origins — but Valentine's Day predates the creation of the card company by a millenium, give or take. Though not originally associated with romance (it was just a regular old Saint's Day commemorating a horrific martyrdom), the term "Valentines" appeared as a synonym for "love birds" in Chaucer's 1382 work, "Parlement of Foules." Some of the other, earliest mentions of the term occur in Hamlet, and in works by both John Donne and Edmund Spenser. Are you going to argue with that menagerie of epic talent? I'm not.
Yes, Valentine's Day (along with many holidays) did eventually become commercialized, in the sense that culture at large became mass-produced and commercialized. Sure, we mass-produce doilies, artificial-cherry-flavored chocolates, and silly cards by the barrel full to celebrate the day. But, that's not Valentine's Day's fault, y'all — because we mass-produce and market everything. V-Day is commercial in the same sense that your pants are "commercial" — were your pants mass produced in a factory? Did you buy them, in some sense, because they were marketed to you?
Another commonly encountered insult to Valentine's Day is something along the lines of, "I don't need some corporate holiday to tell me when to express my love for my partner/family/pet." Fair point. We're not children, and it is up to us to clearly communicate our affection for the important people in our lives consistently. But, it must be said that, as a species, we love holidays. We love vacations. We love special days, because they're special — everyone looks forward to celebrations. It's part of being human, and there's nothing wrong with it. We work long hours, pay our rent, and sometimes get lost in the monotony of all our responsibilities.
Personally, I think it's nice that there's a day when we pen funny love notes and give handmade construction-paper cards to the important people in our lives. You do that all the time, anyway? Cool. But, not everyone takes such a manic-pixie-dream-girl approach to daily living. For the rest of us, it can be a fun excuse.
The "pressure" of Valentine's Day exists only if you or your partner is the kind of person who puts pressure on themselves or their relationship over a goofy holiday. Stop it. Single? Tell your friends and fam how much you love them. Send your mom flowers. I used to buy myself a new set of fancy underwear each February 14, even when I wasn't seeing anyone. Don't have any money? Just wink at people all day. A holiday is simply an excuse to do nice things for yourself and others.
Sure, the neon-pink aisles of your local Duane Reade and the stratospheric price of that restaurant's reservation-mandatory prix fixe can be intimidating. But, let's all take what we want from this holiday and ignore the rest. Come this Friday, you'll find me unhindered by hatred and eating lots of candy.