Ohhh, I Think Differently About Valentine’s Day Than Other People Do
Once upon a time (otherwise known as until this very week), I thought that disliking Valentine’s Day came either from being single or being coupled up with someone who maybe wasn’t great at celebrating things (no shade).
I mean, those have historically been my reasons for dreading the holiday. Thanks, world for reminding me that my life is void of romance!
But this week, as I’m reading Medium stories and talking with friends, I’m beginning to realize that what everyone is hating on is a set of expectations for Valentine’s Day that really is foreign to me.
Yes, I’ve seen every chain drugstore and retail store begin to fill with pink and red teddy bears, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, and cookie-cutter Hallmark cards each January.
I’ve seen the (out-fucking-rageous) prices listed for a dozen roses.
But never have those things been a part of how I’ve done Valentine’s Day, and damn, if they were, yeah, I would consider the holiday to be lame and overpriced and a total corporate money-making sham.
Instead, my introduction to Valentine’s Day — the mold created for it in my earliest years — was far more creative, hand-made, and personal.
For school, my mom helped me cut out and write cards for all the kids in my class, and each card was different because each kid in my class was a different person. I think one year, we went out on a limb and decided to make pretty bookmarks for everyone instead.
I actually recall being confused a few years later when I first saw someone hand out those Valentine’s “cards” in the shape of baseball cards from a pack. What were those? Why were they giving out something so meaningless?
At home, I helped my parents make gifts for each other. The memories are fuzzy, but I remember a huge heart cut out of plywood and then painted (and given to Mom from me and Dad).
I remember hand-painted shirts. I remember little messages and doohickeys made from small copper sheets and other things my dad had in his workshop area.
And all the way up through my teen years, my dad always made things for my mom. Always.
My parents did things for me for Valentine’s Day too, although the only one I can recall distinctly is because it was embarrassing: They got me a Ricky Martin photo biography… because they’d determined I had a crush on him. (They weren’t entirely wrong.)
The point is, I saw Valentine’s Day, and most holidays, as something personal. You created a gift or an experience for someone, and you used your knowledge of the person to do so.
These things never felt obligatory. It felt like we wanted to do them. I wanted to do them! Valentine’s Day was an opportunity — a day set aside to try to create those extra special moments.
Now, sure, I hated Valentine’s Day as a teenager who was angsty that no one loved her, but I fully intended to be into the holiday someday!
And actually, in my early twenties, I did have one boyfriend who was pretty good at these things. Yes, he went over the top sometimes, but he just loved this stuff.
The one Valentine’s Day gesture I will never forget was when he got me a piñata and filled it with all sorts of fun stuff and set it up in my apartment.
Why did he do this? Because he remembered a story I’d told him about how, as a kid, I’d been cheated out of my turn to bust open a piñata thanks to an overzealous younger brother (not my own).
This boyfriend remembered that story, and he gave me an opportunity that I’d felt I’d missed out on, as silly as it may have been. That was thoughtful. That was special.
And that’s the type of thing that I think of when I think of Valentine’s Day.
So am I penning a story here in defense of Valentine’s Day? Yeah, I guess I am.
No, I don’t think it should be the only day you do something nice for the person or people you care about. It shouldn’t be a day that feels like an obligation.
I think Valentine’s Day is an opportunity — a nice annual reminder to put a little extra thought into something that maybe someone will think back on years later and remember fondly.
But! If you get me a teddy bear, an impersonal card that you didn’t write anything in, and spend $100 on roses, I’ll think you’re lazy, don’t know me that well, and are bad with money.
I’ll also know you don’t read my Medium stories…