Teddy Chunias (he/him) is a junior history major. He is the supplies manager for the Meridian Coffeehouse — a DIY arts and event space. He is also a DJ for WCWM Radio. Email Teddy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
Valentine’s Day is either a holiday that people love or love to hate. The question that separates the lovers from the haters: Is Valentine’s Day an overly commercialized Hallmark holiday or a special day to express your love and appreciation for partners, friends and family?
I have always been ambivalent towards Valentine’s Day, but maybe that is because I have never had the opportunity to celebrate the holiday with a serious significant other. This year will mark the first year that I am celebrating the holiday with a romantic partner, and she has expressed that she would like flowers. “Why?” I asked her. According to her, it’s because she has never received flowers from a partner before, and she thinks it would be nice. My hunch is that she does not care as much about the flowers as she cares about receiving flowers from someone she loves.
If we apply this example to gift-giving on Valentine’s Day, it is less about receiving the flowers as a material gift and more about the sentiment that the flowers convey to your loved one. Namely, that you love and care about them enough to give them a beautiful gift; I can accept this notion of Valentine’s Day as a special time for symbolic gestures.
However, I think there is a media-driven notion of the holiday as a desperate scramble to find a date in order to avoid feelings of loneliness. These are similar to media narratives that promote the idea of one true love or love at first sight, which are not realistic representations of romantic love. I believe there are multiple people that could be your “true love” and that love does not develop only through physical attraction. I think these media representations of love are misleading and make people overly value romantic love, at the expense of appreciating platonic love.
My sense is that the holiday has traditionally been more about the media-fed notion of romantic love. Therefore, when you do not have a significant other on Valentine’s Day, you feel like something is missing or you are compensating for your loneliness by celebrating with friends. Wouldn’t everyone at a Galentine’s Day celebration or platonic Valentine’s Day gathering rather be with the love of their life?
If Valentine’s Day is only about romantic love, then people without a significant other find themselves feeling especially lonely and longing for a deep romantic connection. However, if the spirit of Valentine’s Day entails expressing all types of love, then people can simply appreciate all the loving relationships they have in their lives — from parents to siblings to friends.
I think Valentine’s Day is about all kinds of love. Even if Valentine’s Day has focused on romantic love in the past, people can evolve the holiday into a day to cherish all the loving connections they have in their lives. Especially in our new COVID-19 reality, it is important to express to your loved ones how much their love and support means to you as we continue to cultivate meaningful relationships while staying safe.
Although I appreciate the value of Valentine’s Day as a focused expression of love, I think that there should not be a single day to express love, just like there should not be a single day to appreciate your mother or to appreciate workers’ labor. People should express their feelings all 365 days of the year. They should give gifts and have a special night out with their partner spontaneously because surprises are so much more fun than a planned festivity.
I may be a cynic for presenting this take, but I am also a romantic — I see the value in gift-giving and other overt expressions of love. There’s just something about a good surprise and incrementally telling people how much you love them that trumps the allure of a single day for love. So, here’s to demonstrating our love every day of the year — Valentine’s Day included.