JESSICA CHOTINER ’17
In Ferris Athletic Center, gym-goers have the luxury of viewing ESPN or Fox News on the TVs that line the gym walls. Recently, I found myself doing exactly that, but instead of the usual dabbing Cam Newton, I had to run through an ad for the Vermont Teddy Bear Company.
It offered salvation for anyone who still hadn’t picked the perfect gift for the signicant other. The ad showed hapless men offering their women the boring gifts of chocolate and wilted, flowers. All chance of romance appeared lost, promising an evening of sexual frustration, until these men bought the four-foot “Big Hunka Love Bear”. Naturally, it solved everything.
Why is this worth mentioning? Well, first, Valentine’s Day recently passed, and though I sincerely hope no one purchased this 4th-grader sized stuffed animal for their date, it seems necessary to comment on a holiday that might inspire an act of such blatant stupidity.
Valentine’s Day a unique holidays; all the others foster feelings of community, mutual joy, and inclusion. However, one might still celebrate any of those holidays happily alone. But on Valentine’s Day one cannot be alone, or feel the benefits of a community-oriented gathering. The unwritten rules of the day imply that one must be in a “couple” to celebrate.
The day’s exclusivity divides us into two categories: those who find it alluring because they are in a relationship, or believe “coupled” is the ideal state, and those who are embittered by the pretense of couple-hood. Members of the latter group may be found declaring things like “Valentine’s Day is so consumer-driven; it isn’t even a real holiday”.
And they would be right, for what does Valentine’s Day celebrate? The holiday is not religious, patriotic, or historical in nature; it is strictly of cultural construction. Perhaps that is why tensions run so high. For many, having a romantic partner is a status symbol; it implies that one is lovable and has the physical, intellectual, and material resources to attract a mate. Typically, someone’s relationship status is not up for public scrutiny, yet on this holiday, relationship status is brought into the spotlight.
Of course, there is no holiday-rule book to say that those in a relationship are singularly qualified to celebrate Valentine’s Day; in fact I just received an adorable Valentine’s Day card from my mother. However, there is a strong undercurrent that implies the romantic nature of the holiday and makes those of us who celebrate as singles feel a bit imposturous.
Being single and celebrating Valentine’s day is much akin to using applesauce in place of fat in a recipe. This option is nice for vegans, health-nuts, or anyone who finds themselves low on ingredients. The properties of applesauce do parallel those offered by oil or butter, and may even be the healthier choice. Yet, we all know the butter-made pastry will taste better. This raises the question: if a cake has to be made with applesauce, should it be made at all?
When one finds himself single on Valentine’s Day, it feels as though everyone suddenly has an acute awareness of how single he is, of his ingredient shortage, so to speak. It is not hard to feel defensive in this situation.
Then there are those who love Valentine’s Day. These individuals are also probably in love with love itself. But the big day can cause those in relationships distress. The day puts pressure on relationships, as it’s dripping with implications about love, commitment, and the seriousness of emotion. Those are all very scary things for someone who really only wants to Netflix and chill.
Even if a pair is confident in their relationship, there is still pressure on partners to perform, to prove that their love is real. This causes panic, and the belief that a four-foot stuffed bear is a legitimate manifestation of one’s emotions. It is hard to be romantic on command.
We need to take Valentine’s Day for what it truly is: the gift of discounted candy. So what if it’s a Hallmark-holiday? Show me the holiday that is not consumer-driven, that does not entail themed candy, cheap decorations, or greeting cards. Someone that finds “true” meaning in Valentine’s Day is basically the same as the aunt that finds meaning in covering her entire house in Christmas lights: over the top but harmless. Similarly, the fact that it is not a “real” holiday (whatever that is) should alleviate the pressure of proving something with a gift or a gesture.
As to whether or not we should recognize the holiday even if we are single, if we should bake the proverbial applesauce cake, I say absolutely. In life, we are not handed that many occasions to celebrate, and it best to make the most of every opportunity.
JESSICA CHOTINER ’17