If you’re anything like me the “V” word is one of those words that, when seen dangling ubiquitously in all its red and pink glory in the window of every card shop in town kinda makes you want to vomit. In fact, it may even bring up nightmarish flashbacks from youth…checking your mailbox daily to see if there was a card from a secret admirer waiting inside, just for you—only to find nothing but your parents’ junk mail and a couple of bills.
During my teenage years, Valentine’s Day should have been called Rejection Day. One of the fundraising groups in high school had a yearly Valentine’s drive. A couple weeks before February 14th you could pay a dollar and buy a chocolate rose on a lollipop stick for your sweetheart so that on V-day it would be delivered by hand during homeroom. For four years straight I had to sit through this ritual of watching chocolate sticks with little love notes be delivered to cheerleaders, football players and other more popular types, while I sat at my empty desk, pretending to study for a test I didn’t have, feeling the swoosh of movement every time the delivery kid would pass me by.
In my twenties, it was much the same. I dated guys whose idea of Valentine’s Day was to break up with their girlfriend—me—before the holiday ever arrived. Or, if I had been halfway lucky to date a decent fellow, I may have received a carnation from the local convenience store. But never much else. No dinners out, no jokey porn gifts, no red hearts or box of chocolates. Mostly, I was alone on this holiday, and forced, like much of society, to sit on the sidelines like a wallflower at a dance, watching shmoopy couples exchange tokens of love and celebrate something which was as foreign to me as a trip to the moon.
Even during my seven-year marriage I can’t say Valentine’s Day had ever become a day to look forward to. In my mind, I had high expectations. I wanted everything I had been denied all those previous dating years. I wanted to be showered with gifts, taken out to fancy restaurants. And I wanted the pop of the champagne cork to explode like fireworks of love and adoration. None of that happened. My ex-husband was from a foreign country and lacked the cultural knowledge it took to celebrate Valentine’s day the American way. Sure, I taught him that this is what you buy and this is what you do and this is the way this day is supposed to go. But it wasn’t the same. It’s never the same when you have go out and buy the flowers and chocolates yourself, wrap them up, then give them to your husband and say, “Here. Give these to me tomorrow, along with this card and then, tell me you love me.”
So, it’s no wonder that after years of crushed expectations, when I finally did find a really great guy who knew the meaning of a flower, a kiss and a card, I couldn’t appreciate it anyway. In fact, by this point, it disgusted me. I had become so beaten down by the yearly rejection of the day that even though I was with a loving man, the thought of celebrating it left me feeling a little nauseous and avoidant to say the least.
Absolutely no flowers, please. I don’t appreciate them, I said. And I don’t like chocolate. Please don’t get me any. Forget about dinner. We’ll order Chinese and eat in. And there’s no way we’re having sex tonight, just because it’s Valentine’s Day. Too cliché and expected. Nope. No way.
I had adapted so well to not celebrating this holiday, that I had brought myself to a point of not being able to celebrate it. More interestingly, was that I had an “us vs. them” mentality. Over the years I had taken to protesting the commercialism of Valentine’s cards, gifts and other mass-produced junk that society forced upon us all. Anyone who willingly celebrated—my lovely boyfriend—was the enemy. He had had great experiences celebrating Valentine’s Day. He was popular in high school, always had a girlfriend and did all the things associated with the formal celebration of love. How would our relationship be able to survive this vast disparity? February 14th would forever be a day that made apparent the coming together of the haves (him) and have-nots (me).
But, as it turned out, he didn’t want to celebrate it either.
“Why in God’s name not?” I assumed his “type” celebrated this holiday with fervor as if it were their official day of tribute.
“Because it’s a cheesy holiday for when you’re young; it’s not really for adults,” he said.
“A cheesy holiday?” This didn’t make sense. “You mean, Valentine’s Day is not the end all and be all of your existence?”
“Nope. It’s just a cheesy holiday spurred on by great marketing from Hallmark and chocolate companies.”
We had something in common. We both believed the day was one big marketing scam.
But it did make sense that he could think it was “cheesy.” He had the luxury of thinking this way. When you’re able to partake in a cultural tradition year after year as a normal, healthy part of growing up and coming of age, you’re free to let it go when you’re older. It’s allowed to become “cheesy.” But when it’s been denied you for many years, it tends to take on this larger-than-life significance, something you desperately want, or something that, in my case, is so out of reach, you end up protecting yourself against it with an abnormal aversion.
Needless to say, it’s not a very celebrated holiday in our house. If we do anything at all, we exchange books. And maybe, just maybe, we go out to dinner, not exactly on the 14th, but thereabouts. But, I have lightened up over the whole V-day thing. It’s not high on its pedestal like it used to be when I was a girl, nor do I have an abnormal aversion to it anymore like I did in my twenties and thirties. The dog bit me so long ago that I can no longer find the scar. And yet, one thing’s for sure. Chocolate roses on lollipop stick and carnations are officially banned. Every girl, after all, has her breaking point.
So…if you’re the type to have either an unnatural, extreme dislike of Valentine’s day, or an unrealistic desperate need to celebrate it, here are a few fun facts to help put things in perspective, or simply help you maintain your sense of self worth and happiness in the face of all the shmoopiness around you.
Fact: There are approximately 96.6 million unmarried, single, divorced or widowed Americans in the U.S., which equals 43% of the population over 18-years old.
Fact: 31.7 million people in the United States live alone.
Fact: Statistically speaking, single people are happier. “Dr. DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After says there is no truth to studies that show married people are healthier and happier than singles. Instead, the method is flawed and doesn’t take into account the divorced. Other studies that have followed people for 20 years from the age of 16 show that the respondents become slightly happier around the time of the wedding and then return to being as happy or unhappy as they were when they were single. “So they get a little honeymoon effect. It doesn’t last,” she says. “The averages are not consistent with our myths about happily ever after.” After evaluating many of these surveys for over a decade, she finds that “the single people are always on the happy end of the scale.”
Fact: “Antivalentinism is an objection to the “forced” observation of romantic love and/or consumerism. The criticism of forced observation of romantic love is based on the idea that if a person is forced by culture to profess or observe their love to another (especially on a universally agreed-upon day), or else suffer within the relationship as a consequence of not doing so, then there is no free will in said expression and thus it is not love.”
Fact: Japanese females believe that store-bought chocolate is not a gift of true love.
Fact: In India, public display of affection is a criminal offense with a punishment of imprisonment of up to three months, or a fine, or both.
Fact: Valentine’s day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 500 AD. It was deleted from the Roman calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, but its religious observance is still permitted.
Fact: No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of the two martyrs named Valentine.
Fact: In Saudi Arabia, in 2002 and 2008, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items.
Fact: According to Hallmark, Christmas is the largest card-sending holiday in the United States with approximately 1.5 billion cards sent annually, not Valnetine’s Day.
Fact: One in four Americans does not celebrate Valentine’s Day at all.
Fact: The most popular recipients of Valentine’s Day cards are Teachers.