Image by Dave Gunn/Creative Commons
I love Valentine’s Day.
There. I said it, and I’m not even slightly ashamed. I’m not ashamed of my torrid love affair with chocolate, or the fact that while I prefer daisies, I find a well-presented American Beauty rose to be stunning. I’m not even embarrassed of my now annual ritual of watching Paris, J’Taime, and that I’m basically a sop for an adorable kiss filmed against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower.
Well, all right, I’m a tad bit cowed. Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is not a kosher day for the woman who scoffs at the commercialism of American holidays on a regular basis, much less a queer feminist.
Valentine’s Day’s marketing is rarely inclusive of much other than the belief that couples are composed of people who fall into distinct and opposite genders. Basically, Valentine’s Day can be a festival of the reinforcement of heterosexual and patriarchal roles people are subjected to every day. Only on February 14th, it’s with the guise of hearts and flowers and a fat, puerile cherub who uses a weapon to imbue unsuspecting and presumedly uninformed people with feelings of obviously non-consensual love (I have always felt rather uncomfortable about Cupid being used to further any romantic sub-plot in television or film, but that is probably because I find baby-like figures bearing weaponry to be an uncomfortable and slightly propagandist sight— but I digress)!
But why must the intention behind Valentine’s Day — to show appreciation for the people in your life whom you love— be subsumed and sullied by rigid ideas of the correct way to celebrate? Is it possible to embrace the intention, and mold it to fit your circumstance?
Is it possible to stand up to The Man in the name of love, freedom, and chocolate?
It seems as though I’m not the only person struggling with this holiday. In a bout of curiosity (which I’m liable to experience), I posed a question to all my Facebook friends: What is your least favorite and/or favorite thing about Valentine’s Day? To my delight, I received a large volume of answers, ranging from my closest friends to acquaintances with whom I only maintain an online relationship. While this sample of answers is not at all representative of the entire population of people with an opinion about the holiday, it provided me with some real insight.
The only consensus I can confirm revolves around the proliferation of chocolate Valentine’s Day encourages, and the disappointment experienced when said chocolate turns out to be subpar. I couldn’t agree more.
Of course, there was a more serious discussion at stake, as well. Valentine’s Day can be heavily marketed as exclusive to romantic love, making people who are not in a relationship feel somehow inferior, and people who are in a relationship feel as though they have an obligation to perform in a way that may not necessarily be natural to their person or the character of their connection. This, once again, sticks people in specially-marked boxes which make no allowances for the intensely personal and varied connotations that expressions of love may carry.
Ultimately, love, whether it be familial, romantic, or platonic, is nigh impossible to generalize, contrary to the belief of Hallmark. Because love manifests in myriad places and ways, anyone who attempts to sell Valentine’s Day cannot possibly encompass its full meaning, try as they might. I encourage everyone not to feel pressured by what other people or companies believe the day should be, and to celebrate exactly as you desire.
If Valentine’s Day means giving gifts, homemade or store-bought, to the people you love, your definition is valid. If it means renting romantic comedies and heckling them, it’s valid. If it means completely ignoring the holiday because it’s an arbitrary day and you choose to express your appreciation for your friends and loved ones on the days you choose, that’s valid as well. If your February the 14th is V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls, rock on. If Valentine’s Day is merely a pre-cursor to 50% Off Chocolate Day, then I salute you and encourage you to go on a rampage with me on February the 15th.
As a bonus, here are some slightly alternative Valentine’s Day-Themed goodies, from my gay heart to yours:
1. The Anti-Heteronormativity Valentine:
2. The Adorable Communist Valentine:
3. The Feminist Valentine:
4. The Truest Valentine of All