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I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day. Most people who say that are either single and lying or coupled and tired. Personally, my birthday is only a week before it, so everyone I've ever known romantically has lumped my birthday and Valentine's Day together, the same thing that happens to kids born on Christmas Eve. "These flowers are for your birthday and Valentine's Day."
This Valentine's Day, I went to bed with a bronchial cough and woke up with my period, the white bedsheets stained with a large pool of blood. An itchy rash has erupted on my left arm; poison ivy or poison oak, or some other poison thing I must have run into on the trails. Meanwhile, Mike had his head cut open to remove cancerous cells from what he thought was a cyst, but turns out, was a small tumor. He came home later that day and lay in bed in the dark, his head throbbing in pain from having a knife stuck in it (he's fine). On Valentine's Day evening, we watched Jim Jeffries on Netflix, took a CBD gummy, and went to bed early. Despite not celebrating the happy-stupid-love day, I felt more love for Mike than ever before. Watching someone you love endure pain is painful, too.
The stupid thing about Valentine's Day isn't the part where you confess undying love or write your partner a note, or buy someone you love a gift. The stupid thing about Valentine's Day is the grotesque, plastic-covered, bright, shiny, offensive red and pink commodification of every damn item you might ever need. Valentine's Day dishware and greeting mats and home décor and yard ornamentation. Valentine's Day clothing and cakes and helium balloons. Valentine's Day memes from companies who have nothing to do with Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day greetings from dentists and car insurance agents. Valentine's Day discount codes from every blessed brand I've ever bought anything from. If the entire world hadn't tried to remind me that it was Valentine's Day (and sell me something to boot), I may have honestly forgotten.
Complaining about the commodification of a holiday isn't very original, so I'll also say this; according to Gordan Ramsey, Valentine's Day is the worst day of the year to go out to dinner. Overcrowded restaurants mean hectic kitchens mean sub-par food. You can buy a dozen roses on Valentine's Day for thirty dollars, or you could buy them the next day for six. And the bear you bought, that's holding a cute heart, will probably end up in a landfill.
This year, Valentine's Day was on a Tuesday, meaning that the entire world still had to do all the same old Tuesday stuff. The world does not just pause and let us celebrate love, the world tells us to celebrate love, then tries to sell it to us, and not for no reason. According an annual survey from the National Retail Federation, Valentine's Day spending was slated to reach $25.9 billion this year, that's $192.80 per person celebrating. Men were expected to spend twice as much as women, and were expected to spend $5.5 billion on jewelry alone.
Valentine's Day has been around a long time, but it wasn't always sugar-coated and chocolate-dipped.
The Romans celebrated the holiday for three days straight, from February 13th to the 15th. According to NPR, Roman men sacrificed goats and dogs, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. The Roman women believed that these whippings would make them fertile.
In 2023, in lieu of sacrificing helpless mammals, we spend a bunch of cash to ensure that our loved ones feel loved. It's stupid, but it's the big, happy, stupid love day, so spend away we shall. And because it is 2023, we cannot celebrate anyone without celebrating everyone, so February 15th is Singles Awareness Day, to celebrate a lack of attachment and to "embrace the possibility of love."
I bought Mike some chocolate and wrote him a nice card. He brought me a dozen pink roses, and they're yet to wilt. Small gestures, sure, done in the name of the happy-stupid-love day. But later, we sat curled into each other on the couch, him nursing his head wound and me nursing cramps. Love is too often portrayed as shiny and easy and grandiose, but more often it's quiet and simple; difficult but deeply rewarding.
Happy stupid love day, everybody.