Have a Happy Valentine’s Day(s)

February 13, 2011

by

There are few holidays more polarizing than Valentine’s Day. Yes, Columbus Day has attracted some bad vibes recently, with its affront to modern sensibilities of political correctness. Some are upset and offended by it, and its eradication from our national calendars is frequently discussed every September. But people hate Valentine’s Day, and talk about hating it year round. For a day that greeting card companies will firmly tell you is about love, it sure does inspire a lot of rage.

With the two competing camps in mind—the lovers and the haters—I used to think of Valentine’s Day as having two possible types. It is either upsetting or inspiring.

But upon closer inspection, it seems that Valentine’s Day has more than two possible types. And as I thought about it more, and considered which form of celebration was best, the true answer surprised me.

Graphic by Evan Caughey.

The All-entine’s Day

The first subtype of Valentine’s Day is that enjoyed by elementary school children everywhere. In second-grade classrooms

Secretly, probably antacid. | from flickr user sloanpix.

around the country, the day has nothing to do with getting it on (or moping about not getting it on.) It rather revolves primarily around chocolate, and Tums cut into the shape of hearts with messages printed on them. This is not love by traditional standards, but for children, it might as well be.

The implementation of childhood Valentine’s Day is borderline socialist in its structure. All students bring in cards and candy for their classmates. Everyone gives. Everyone receives. Everyone is happy, except possibly the teacher, who now has to deal with a classroom of full of children on a sugar-fueled rampage.

This form of Valentine’s Day, while enjoyable for most, cannot be the best, because of its premature expiration date. It is limited to children within this early-elementary age group, and dies a sudden and deeply upsetting death around grade four, the moment one little brat decides that she’s only giving cards to the cool kids this year.

The AAAW-entine’s Day

This is Valentine’s Day as it is advertised, as celebrated by the demographic is it marketed for. Their targets are young and still in the exciting phase of their relationship. They cuddle, enjoy one another’s company, and are somewhat enthused about the concept of a day devoted to celebrating themselves.

It includes all the swanky dinners, the jewelry boxes, the passion-fueled-lovefests. Occasionally things go awry—flowers fail to deliver, chocolates melt. Sometimes these missteps catalyze Chernobyl-sized disasters that leave hearts broken. Candles burn to stubs and the Barry White and Al Green playlist, selected to carefully, goes unused. But generally, romance is the intention.

But AAAW-entine’s Day  can’t be the best form of Valentines Day that there is. It doesn’t last forever, and even if the relationship sustains, eventually it turns into…

The Parentine’s Day

This form of Valentine’s Day could also be referred to as “Blahentine’s Day.” It’s the kind of Valentine’s Day that adults have after several years together. It’s not completely lifeless, exactly. There is an exchange matching cards with poems on the front in loopy, slanted print. There might be a nice dinner involved. Flowers usually happen, but this is the phase where sending an Edible Arrangement is not entirely out of the question.

In a way, this Valentine’s Day is the most endearing of all. It represents love and commitment without vomit-inducing sappiness. But it’s what some might call stale.

The Fail-entine’s Day

For a long time, I had considered the single and miserable Valentine’s Day to be the worst of them all.

Being alone on the loviest of days seems awful for all of the obvious reasons. If the what’s-wrong-with-me self-doubt isn’t defeating enough, there’s also the constant guessing game of why-did-my-last-relationship-go-wrong and the no-one-will-ever-love-me blues.

But in a twisted way, the gut-wrenching pain of being single of Valentine’s Day can actually make it the best way to celebrate.

On what other day is it excusable to be so sour? When else are we allowed to be the host and guest of honor at our very own pity party? We can stuff ourselves with chocolate and cheesecake and watch bad movies without any judgment; as far as the rest of the world is concerned, our excuses are made.

And there is a transcendent catharsis in ripping on everyone else who is enjoying themselves on Valentine’s Day. Kids are naïve and diluted. Young lovers are annoying, and the old are stale and boring and fooling themselves. It is a day to casually remind our friend who got new bling about the bloody history of world diamond trade, and describe the grisly death of the real Saint Valentine to anyone on the bus who will listen. We can curse the recipients of Godiva gift-boxes to a future of Type 2 diabetes, ignoring the irony as we dig into a fourth pint of Rocky Road.

We’ll keep the instrumental, celebratory nature of whining on the down-low, of course. The rest of the world can continue to think that Valentine’s Day is about the hugging and the kissing, and our rants about that fact will continue unencumbered. But on the inside, we’re celebrating it, reveling in it, and loving to hate it.