So, it’s Valentine’s Day.
I’ll warn you now: There are probably a lot of women out there (and some men) who shouldn’t be reading this. Because I’m going to be brutally honest and tell you that I think Valentine’s Day is highly overrated.
Like Christmas, Valentine’s Day is supposed to have deeper personal and family meanings, but has become so commercialized as to have been reduced to nothing but a boon to the economy. At least Christmas has a great religious significance; despite the “Saint” in its name, Valentine’s Day has been effectively stripped of its religious origins.
This season is marked by insipid radio and television advertising that encourages wasteful spending on trinkets. I am offended that these commercial interruptions, which insult our intelligence, have even invaded my Spotify music stream.
Most of these ads are oriented toward men. The predominant modus operandi is one of subtly instilling guilt and browbeating men into preemptively avoiding the negative consequences that are bound to result from failing to adequately bestow expensive tokens of affection upon one’s beloved. At times, it feels as if my fellow males are being hit over the head with a truncheon, but I say “subtly” because the ads are generally couched in terms of the carrot rather than the stick. Either way, the message is abundantly clear: If you mess up, guys, you ain’t gettin’ none.
Of course the flower and candy hawkers are in deep. But no one has as much invested as the jewelers, which specialize in showing us the adoring looks of the female recipients of their wares. Sometimes, they even bring the children into this schlock: “He went to Jared!” But my favorite is still the sexual hard sell: “Every kiss begins with Kay!”
It is true that my remarks are dripping in sarcasm like some type of perverse chocolate icing. Many feel that I overreact, that Valentine’s Day is essentially a harmless, lighthearted holiday and that there is no need to read so much into it.
Now, I’m all for the lighthearted approach endorsed by my fellow blogger, Linda, in her post A Word about Valentine’s Day for Children. But this is not how I was raised. While others exchanged handmade heart-shaped cards with their elementary school chums, I attended a strictly religious Jewish school in which any day that started with the word “saint” was anathema and simply was not discussed. Accordingly, I was blithely ignorant of Valentine’s Day traditions until I hit my public secondary school education. By that time, peer pressure demanded that the things of childhood be put away, including the little paper hearts. Valentine’s Day was largely ignored, which suited me fine.
In the home in which I grew up, Valentine’s Day was a nonstarter. I never saw either of my parents bestow any type of affection upon the other, which Dr. Freud would probably say accounts for a lot of my standoffishness in adulthood (although my little grandniece is starting to change that). In any event, I never saw so much as a Valentine’s Day card or a flower pass between my father and mother. I mention this both in the name of full disclosure and to provide a broader context for my remarks.
I do realize that, in the United States at least, my curmudgeonly stance on Valentine’s Day places me in a tiny minority. After all, every girlfriend and wife expects to be remembered with candy, flowers and bling on the fourteenth of February, and woe to the man who forgets. Not that the shrill advertising in every media outlet will let anyone forget. It makes me sick to think of all the money I wasted back in my single days on all manner of Valentine’s Day junk and flowers that died and were thrown in the trash two days later.
But then I think of a friend of ours who was so upset today because her husband gave her nothing for Valentine’s Day, not even so much as a card. Even if the occasion means nothing to him, it seems to me that he should have taken her feelings into consideration.
I am everlastingly grateful that my wife and I are like-minded regarding Valentine’s Day, as we are on so many things. I make dinner reservations, we have a nice meal out, and that’s that. Neither of us believes in wasting money to enrich Hallmark, the florists and the diamond hawkers.
This in no way diminishes our appreciation of each other. Why should we wait until a particular overcommercialized date on the calendar to express our gratitude? And why should we demean our importance to each other with meaningless tcotchkes?
After all, my wife is the greatest gift and blessing I could ever ask for, and I get to enjoy her company every day of the year.