How Valentine’s Day highlights all that is wrong with our attitude towards relationships
February 14th isn’t for everyone. As the date approaches, anti-romance can increasingly be found orbiting cyberspace as more and more of us fall out of love with Valentine’s Day. For some, it’s a good excuse to eat somewhere nice and drink a lot of wine. For others, all the heartfelt gestures are a bit too much to stomach.
We’re a dysfunctional, peculiar lot: if Valentine’s messages told the truth, many would never get written. An anonymous card might mean you have a secret admirer, but it could also mean anything from “I’m incapable of verbalising how I feel, so I got this card to say it for me” to “you don’t know me, but I stare at you when you’re not looking and draw weird pictures of what our future children will look like.”
Often “I love you” doesn’t quite pin down what you need to say, but apparently it’s not quite as romantic to write, “we’ve only been dating for a month and I don’t actually feel that way yet, but I think we have potential.” Relationships go through a lot of weird stages, yet the tradition tries to suggest that we’re all in a uniform state of hopeless infatuation. Funnily enough, cards that say “divorce is stressful and expensive, so Happy Valentine’s Day” or ‘thanks for keeping me company while I wait for someone better” aren’t readily available.
It’s often said the British aren’t great with their feelings, but sometimes that could be a good thing: no one wants to open a card that says, “I’ve been hiding in a bush outside your window for a week and I think I’m ready to take the relationship to the next level.” Luckily, these days people can just use social media to side-step their limited ability for self-expression. Surely there should be a more inclusive celebration for the cynical and emotionally-detached among us. Why is there no national day for chain-eating junk food and watching DVDs? Valentine’s is great if hearts and flowers are your thing, but there’s no point pretending you’re a lovesick teenager when really you mean “we’ve grown old and disgusting, but we still have each other.’
How do we deal with this annual predicament? Is it better to just lie than say “I only love you when I’m drunk?” Is telling someone you’re “quite fond” of them okay? Many of us just see the date as an opportunity for consumer marketing to cash in on a yearly obligation to confess feelings that we either don’t have, or aren’t comfortable admitting to. So for how long will the remaining traditionalists continue to spend money on celebrating the event if they’re only doing it to avoid hurt feelings?
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