If you don’t know me very well, you’d think I’m exactly the type of person who would hate Valentine’s Day.
But I don’t.
Actually, I kind of like it.
I like seeing the explosion of red and pink hearts in store displays. I like the chocolate-heavy array of confections for sale. I like the idea of celebrating love for love’s sake.
Of course, I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to recognize it or acknowledge it, and I feel bad that it makes my fellow single people feel lonely.
I do take issue with the idea from popular media and advertisers and basically every movie I’ve ever seen that we aren’t fully validated as human beings unless we’re in a romantic relationship. Of course, that’s just wrong. And the fact that people don’t realize that it’s wrong is way more troubling to me than watching Savannah Guthrie interview someone on The Today Show about last minute gift ideas. (Really, I don’t have 95% of the problems that most people do because I’m happily and much better off alone.)
But I also take issue with the people who use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to rail against capitalism and commercialism. Because there are threads of capitalism in everything, and I think I mean that literally. And, yes, the economy is fake, and, yes, globalization is kind of alarming when you think about it too hard. But I like being able to eat avocados all year round and talk to people on the other side of the world through the internet, so I deal with it. And, frankly, I sleep pretty easy at night.
You see, I’m doing aging all “wrong.” I was told that I came out of the womb cynical, I was a bitter human being in my teenage years, and I was absolutely miserable to be around in my early 20s. But the older I get, the more idealistic I get. I still have my snarky moments, but I’m younger than I ever was before. And I like to think I snark in good fun.
The thing about Valentine’s Day is that whatever people think it is now, it predates industrialization and, yes, even Hallmark. Chaucer is who we tend to blame (although there are multiple legends involving various Saint Valentines), and by the Middle Ages, it was a day in which lovers would give one another flowers and sweets and valentines.
Now, I’m not much of a romantic, unless you want to peel away my rather prickly layers, but I, queen of solitude, have become increasingly fond of the idea of love. Romantic love holds little interest to me, but there are all other sorts of love – friendship, familial love, love of country, love of literature, love of music, hell, even Aristotle’s final cause that produces motion as being loved (1072b4).
And I’m glad I live in a part of the world where those kinds of love can flourish (well, maybe not so much Aristotle’s), where human beings connect with each other freely over their interests and ideas. Because I can imagine a type of world where that isn’t possible. I can imagine bleak landscapes and empty minds and factories where human beings are bred and brainwashed in a far more stringent way than we are now, shaped by the culture around us.
And it makes me grateful for the world I do live in. For my family. And my friends. And for music. And for words. And for love in all its forms.
Even if you can’t get behind me on any of this and want to scoff, I direct you to Charles M. Schulz who, even as a noted cynic, is quoted with the following: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
(Plus, the candy sales on February 15th are fantastic.)