Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine’s Day

I’ve never understood all the fuss over Valentine’s Day. Why focus on romance just one day of the year? And why spend money to prove love?

I blame primary school for my attitude.

In my earliest years in school, every February we were required to bring in brown paper bags. We’d decorate them with hearts clumsily cut out of red paper, some pasted first onto white lace doily things, then onto the bags. A few scribbles from crayons, and we were set.

The teacher put the bags up at kid-height with thumbtacks (we weren’t allowed access to sharp things) to serve as a sort of letterbox. Our parents bought us boxes of kid valentines made out of cardboard and saying all sorts of inane things. We were required to fill out and deliver a valentine to each and every kid in the class, even the ones who were completely outcast.

I remember two things about all this. First, the globby, funny-smelling paste we used to stick the decorations onto our bags. Legend always had it that some kids ate the paste, but I never knew any who actually did. It was the first time I felt fascination and revulsion combined together.

The other thing I remember is how stressful delivering valentines was. It was important to avoid giving one that was too friendly to a girl, but it was even more important to avoid giving one that was too personal or, well, nice to an outcast kid. It was intensely embarrassing to put a valentine into outcast kids’ bags, even though we all had to do it, because we didn’t want to be seen doing it. Most importantly, we didn’t want the outcasts to see which valentine was ours.

Kids are cruel creatures. I have absolutely no idea why some kids were outcasts. At such a young age it couldn’t possibly have been anything they did or said, but just some social judgement, a group-think. The teachers were, I imagine, trying to teach us some proper egalitarian values, that we should treat everyone with respect and dignity, whether we liked them or not. But the message we really got was that it was better to be in the group than out of it, and that meant conforming to social norms of irrational exclusion and victimisation.

So, I never developed positive feelings for Valentine’s Day. Back then, it meant spending money to express false emotions. I did like decorating those bags, though.

When I grew up and began having relationships, I was briefly a fan of the day. This had to do with the novelty of being able to experience love and romance with another man, something I never expressed openly until university. That wore off.

Now, I’m back where I started, not getting anything out of the day. My man and I don’t express our love on only one day a year, and we also don’t need to buy anything to prove our devotion.

There are plenty of people who feel differently. Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas in the amount of money spent on gifts. Little wonder with all the advertising urging us to spend up large on the one we love.

Still, there are plenty of people who don’t like the day. Some actually loathe it. Singles, for example, sometimes feel left out of a day devoted to couplehood. It’s just another way pop culture and society remind them of what they don’t have—even if they don’t want it.

I don’t loathe the day. I’m just not a fan of it. If people want to spend money on baubles or whatever, that’s their choice, and I respect it. I just expect the same respect for my decision to opt out. We’re not in primary school anymore, after all.


lost in france said...

I love Valentine's day -- and just posted on it!

Arthur Schenck said...

I don't hate Valentine's Day--I'm mostly just indifferent. But the post on your blog was great!