When I was in elementary school, Valentine’s Day meant two things: homemade cupcakes and handing out cards. My teacher would photocopy the attendance sheet and give it to each student in my class. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom, writing out To: Ryan, From: Rebecca. To: Sarah, From: Rebecca. And the list went on and on. It didn’t matter if you were weird, a loner, or my best friend; you got a card with a cartoon bear hugging a heart. It was the social protocol amongst eight-year olds at the time.
As I grew older, I realized Valentine’s Day was not about cartoon bears or handwritten notes. It was about sex, lust, and relationships. If I wasn’t romantically linked with another person, I was supposed to hate February 14 and sulk in loneliness.
At the brink of entering my twenties, I now see Valentine’s Day for all that it truly is: a social construct. Once again, we are a pawn in the corporate hand, spending tons of money on flowers and chocolates to give to our significant others because societal norms dictate that we are not good human beings if we don’t. By not being in a relationship of some sort, we are losing out on a huge rite of passage.
Today, I can honestly say that I am working my way back to my younger self’s casual love affair with Valentine’s Day. I’m handing out cute cards to my parents and sending Neruda poems to my friends. I think today is valuable because it reminds us that it’s okay to be vulnerable, but we need to work harder to emphasize that romantic love is not the only valuable form of love out there.
Don’t buy in to the media’s idea of romance. Send flowers to your girlfriend because you want to, not because you have to. Tell your friends you appreciate them because you genuinely do, not because today is the “appropriate” day to make a show of it. Furthermore, let’s make it cool to be able to express unconditional love more often. Don’t wait for a commercial to remind you to express your admiration for those around you.