Rohit's Realm

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February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day, Revisited

Two years ago, when I published my surprisingly saccharine (yet resolutely indifferent) Valentine's Day manifesto, one of the most common responses from self-ascribed hopeless romantics (a.k.a. idiots) was that I would understand the so-called meaning of this most important of holidays only when I had the fortune of being in a relationship when it fell. Well, on my second such Valentine's Day meeting that criterion, I still cannot say I have found the meaning that was guaranteed me. Is something wrong with me?

Perhaps that was not the best way to phrase that question—there are many things wrong with me, not the least of which is that I am a callous, heartless miscreant1. However, when it comes to finding meaning in an otherwise insignificant day on the calendar, I do not think I am at fault for not being able to do so. Most people (myself included) cannot even find meaning in their mere existence and yet, somehow, we are brazenly told to blindly believe that we will discover the meaning of love on a day that has all but lost its original cultural relevance to years of mass-marketing and capitalism? How is that possible?

Why should I feel differently about anyone today as opposed to yesterday or tomorrow? If one considers many of the other holidays that occupy an equitable amount of cultural relevance as Valentine's Day in the United States (at least in terms of marketing), one would be hard-pressed to find a holiday that asks people to feel differently. New Year's Day is a celebration of the year past and the year that awaits (appropriately commemorated by most people through heavy drinking); Christmas, though arguably secularized, still retains its significance for Christians as the birthday of Jesus Christ; and the Fourth of July remains of importance as the birthday of our nation. These are celebrations of people or events, not mindless consumerism to mask the ultimate futility of one's life and relationships.

But Rohit, Valentine's Day celebrates St. Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, the intrepid romantic might argue. Certainly it does, and the association between St. Valentine and love dates back to Chaucer. Shakespeare even tossed in a reference to the day in Hamlet, if I recall correctly (always a dubious assumption). Admittedly, insofar as the holiday is meant to celebrate love, whether that be romantic or platonic, it is consistent with its cultural history and I have no problems. However, what we experience as Valentine's Day these days can hardly be seen as a mere celebration of love; it has transformed into a decadent celebration of love for its own sake, whether said love exists or not.

Why do elementary kids give everyone in their class valentines? Having been through elementary school (and lived to talk about it), I can personally attest to the fact that it's hardly a place of universal love. Why do we ask our kids to disingenuously express love that likely does not exist across the board? Leaving aside the (legitimate) concerns about inclusiveness, what that action essentially does is remove the meaning from the holiday. I would argue hardly anything has changed from those long-forgotten days of yesteryear for most adults. Most people go through the motions on Valentine's Day precisely because that is what society (and perhaps, their significant other) demand; how many of those people actual consider, in between trying to secure dinner reservations, order dead plants on a 300% mark up, and find that perfect gift, why they are exerting so much? Hardly any, I would venture.

On the other hand, why are all those individuals spared the hassle of celebrating their love lamenting their single status? Relax, assholes. There will be plenty of time in the future to waste money and time on grandiose gestures of love that on February 13th or 15th could have been expressed with a simple greeting card.

Real love is about the small things—the things that are expressed daily, not yearly. That is not to say that people cannot use the holiday to reaffirm their love and celebrate it, but it hardly warrants what Hallmark, et al., and the writers of idiotic, unrealistic romantic comedies would have us believe is necessary.

If you are one of those with big plans (and an empty wallet) tonight, I challenge you to think about whether it was worth it. Did you really celebrate your love today, or did you actually compensate for the past year of not feeling any love at all? If you are one of those lucky individuals to be spared the hassle, I challenge you to stop whining and think about who and what actually matters in your life. And if that does not work, there's always one solution; I encourage you to consider it. As for me, I'll be celebrating by first attending a recruiting event at Berkeley and then, a late dinner at a relatively unpretentious restaurant. Hardly the most exciting of plans, but real life rarely lives up to Hollywood; any attempt to do so would only acknowledge how little meaning still remains in St. Valentine's Day.

1 I mean this in the archaic sense, i.e., heretical; I do not consider myself a vagabond, though I suppose you are entitled to your own opinions, dear reader.


*actually (5th paragraph)

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