Yes! Yes it was!
Sorry, that was a little aggressive. But you know… it’s kinda hard to talk positively about Valentine’s Day. And I am using that as my excuse for not posting this on Valentine’s Day. Also, I have a had a headache for 3 days straight and looking at this screen is making it worse.
The thing is, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, you’re either swallowed by shallow commercialism or raging cynicism. And for me it’s more the latter. Most of what I hear every Valentine’s Day is talk about how superficial it is, how pointless it is, that it’s some kind of vain delusion… how people shouldn’t care so much. Or the inevitable jokes about how the chocolate will be cheaper the day after and that’s the real life hack. Har Har Har. And this often comes from people who don’t have a partner or a date so they’re using humour and still being part of the day and that’s fine. But couples do it now too! Comments about how they’re too cool to get drawn in to the love hearts and teddy bears and are just gonna do what they always do…watch Netflix in their pyjamas at home.
I mean you do you but Valentine’s Day isn’t bad. An you’re not uncool for liking it. I’m cool dammit! And I wanna talk about my love hearts!
Why the cynicism?
It’s not like I don’t understand where the Valentine’s Day Grinches are coming from. I would say there are two main perspectives I tend to hear and both basically focus on the superficiality of the whole thing.
The first is that celebrating Valentine’s Day is disingenuous. There’s this idea that having a day dedicated to something means there is less focus on it the rest of the year. I hear this with Mother’s Day too. You should love your mother EVERYday you ungrateful child! And similarly, eVeRyDaY should be Valentine’s Day if you really love them!! From couples I tend to hear frustration around Valentine’s Day due to an implication that you are being forced into having fun. This is where the accusations of shallowness also occur. Love doesn’t need a day and if it does need a day that just signals that there is a problem with the relationship. The relationship itself is shallow because it relies on heart-shaped chocolates and goofy cards to survive.
I find this whole idea quite baffling. It’s a weak response that can be extrapolated to all human celebration rendering culture itself somewhat moot, no? Should I not celebrate my birthday because technically I should celebrate my existence everyday? Should we abandon weeks or months designated to raise awareness on social issues because we should raise awareness every day? Can nothing be special? When does the madness end? We cannot do everything all the time.
It’s nice to have yearly reminders and celebrations of things we value. I don’t want to have a romantic dinner every night because if every night is special, that becomes a new normal and the Hedonic Treadmill carries on ruining everything. This is where the false conclusion that the rest of the year must be bad comes from. The rest of the year isn’t bad, it’s fine. Valentine’s Day is just special. It’s the sugar on top. It’s – you get it right? It’s not hard right? I can stop providing examples? I’m talking down to you and I’m sorry but this argument really frustrates me and it’s probably just me doomscrolling a bunch of comments from teenagers who think they’re cool but I am still affected.
And I am not ordinarily affected by people being cynical on Valentine’s Day. But I have been in lockdown for basically a year at this point, I live online and I think I am less forgiving to people who are uncoupled at the moment. We’re all having a hard time okay? Which brings me to the second argument I hear: Valentine’s Day is nauseating and a big ol’ middle finger to the singles out there.
So I have been in a relationship for a few years now. And it is pretty awesome. So I do get this. I understand the impulse to roll your eyes at a person in a relationship typing away on a silly little blog telling you to stop making fun of her special day. I would like to refer back to my previous disclaimer: I’m bored and feeling antagonistic, it’s a whole lockdown vibe. Plus the headache. But Valentine’s Day isn’t for single people!! It never has been. I always see this in movies and TV shows where Valentine’s Day is around the corner and this prompts characters to feel bad if they don’t have a partner and hijinks ensue as they try to get a date so they don’t feel like they’ll die alone. Remember that Futurama episode?
But that’s just so there can be a Valentine’s Day episode. Actual single people don’t need to do that right? We’re not all expected to get married at the age of 22 anymore right? So why does it matter? And not to be a total arse, which I think I am being throughout this post, but I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day before my current partner. Actually, I’m lying. I think I went on one first date back during university on Valentine’s Day. And the pressure from it being a first date was bad enough without the whole… “must have a romantic Valentine’s Day” pressure. Honestly, I don’t recommend it. I don’t see why you would have a first date on Valentine’s Day. It’s tense. If you are uncoupled on Valentine’s Day, just be. You don’t need to be involved.
And just to get back into your good graces let me clarify that I am not saying you are not allowed to celebrate Valentine’s Day if you are single. I see plenty of positive stuff on social media with people making it a day that is a more general celebration of love, rather than a celebration of couples. So get something for your grandma or your gal pals or your brother. It may deviate from the “origins of the day” but keeps in theme with love conquering all. And that’s sweet. So no, I am not policing your celebrations. I am more just encouraging you not to feel pressured to be in love or feel bad if you’re not coupled up. Just celebrate the people you love and be happy for the couples celebrating theirs. Because we really need it. We really need it.
Why do I need it so much?
Relationships need constant maintenance. Everyday cannot be Valentine’s Day because that sets a new baseline. Relationships don’t work well with only a baseline. Life gets boring. You need special days, you need anticipation, you need lazy days, you need fluctuation. You also need time apart, time to just talk, time to cuddle. You might be having the best day of your life but your partner isn’t so you need to have a consistent supply of patience and empathy. You need to be honest and reasonable. There are a lot of mental gymnastics that takes place in a relationship. That’s why saying it’s “easy” to be with a person is very romantic and #goals. Because the easier the mental gymnastics are, the easier the relationship is.
So… that boring baseline? That can happen in a relationship. It’s when you’re stuck in a rut. Same ol’ food, same ol’ netflix or same ol’ dates. Things don’t feel bad exactly but the relationship is kind of treading water. And it gets boring and you start getting cranky without realising why. And because you’re in a rut, breaking out of that by dressing up and going out or planning a romantic dinner starts to feel kinda exhausting. It becomes like going to gym – you know you’ll feel good if you just go and exercise, but you end up making excuses and maintaining a miserable status quo.
Now. You know what makes a boring baseline? Lockdown… a year’s worth of lockdown. You know what the rut can lead to? Extreme crankiness and shouting matches at worst and slow deterioration of love at best. Ruts = bad.
Because as a couple you develop certain tools to aggravate the baseline and lift it or lower it. You lift it when you need something fun or different like going to a movie or a holiday. Maybe going to the movies is actually your baseline and going to the theatre is the extra fun thing. Couples work this out over time. You lower the baseline when you actually need to be upset about something. Maybe one of you lost their job and aren’t feeling the normal things, you need separate coping mechanisms for that. Maybe one person steps up, or you visit your parents for advice or your routines change until the other person feels better. Maybe you just talk. Anyway thank you for coming to my Relationship Baselines Ted Talk, let me get back to my point.
The point is that losing social systems really messes up that baseline and how to cope. And if you’re a couple, you’re scrambling to find a new normal baseline just for things to function again. Especially, if you have kids, because they come first. I don’t have kids and it was still such an adjustment for us to stay in sync. Because as a couple you shoulder one another’s emotional, social, financial and filial burdens. But what works for you emotionally, socially, financially and … filially (?) might not work for your partner. It takes longer to find a baseline. And when you have bills to pay and might lose your job due to a pandemic, or if one of you is still working and the other isn’t, as was my case, it can lead to imbalances you’ve never coped with before. And as you try to get back to treading water and having a functioning baseline again… romance can get forgotten.
You know what helps? Using Valentine’s Day as an excuse to break out of a rut. Or a birthday, or Christmas or anything that’s a trigger to start thinking about a relationship in a slightly different way. Buying gifts, getting roses, doing all the generic crap is super fun. And yes, maybe I’m being basic but I refer you back to my “relationships require maintenance” comment. It’s nice to use something shallow as a jumping off point to re-contextualise a huge aspect of your life. It’s only shallow if you make it shallow. The smallest things can have meaning.
My Valentine’s Day
There was this news article in the middle of the pandemic that crudely, but understandably, divided couples into two camps; the ones whose relationships did not survive lockdown and the ones whose relationships were strengthened by it. My partner and I feel we’re in the latter camp. It’s been lovely having more time with him and being able to be close. And initially reassessing our new baseline was difficult but we worked towards it together as a common goal. And now that we’ve found it… it’s really bloody boring! We miss seeing our parents, our friends and just being a part of society. We were meant to have a wedding and see all our family together. But everything is on hold until everyone is safe.
But Valentine’s Day was great because we both made an effort. The rut was strong so we kept our expectations small because remember my gym analogy? We aimed for 1) Fun Food, 2) Ambience and 3) an Activity. And we didn’t exactly have a fancy budget because of the times we’re in so we decided to go with Aldi. It’s the closest to us and they were doing these cute heart shaped pies and rose shaped vegetables. We didn’t want to order a takeaway because we try to keep it to 1 per month and had already ordered for my partner’s birthday. So Aldi was food. Ambience was actually dressing up the table with a tablecloth and candles. And for an activity, Aldi had this soap-making kit and we were super into it.
So yes, after all my complaining and TedTalking, the Valentine’s Day I am describing was making soaps from a kit and eating food from Aldi. Underwhelmed? Well that’s kind of my point right? You might be thinking, “oh well that’s fine, I only dislike the couples that go all out and spend huge sums just to validate themselves to one another.”
Well, maybe they’ve got a different baseline? And disliking them shouldn’t invalidate liking Valentine’s Day. I think we sometimes take things a little too seriously. Yes, capitalism can be a little tasteless when you look at how commercialised meaningful traditions get. But you retain a choice in how you use those traditions to ameliorate your life.
And I like Valentine’s Day. It makes me very happy. And I now have soaps and feel romantic.
Questions for the comment section:
Did you do anything special on Valentine’s Day?
Are you glad I didn’t shorten it to V-Day like I wanted to in this post?
Do you have a face mask on? No, I mean the skincare ones. #selfcare #waronacne
If you’re more an email person, join my mailing list. I post weekly-ish. I promise I won’t spam you.
Or read some recent posts that I am quite proud of:
- Do you ignore your tea until it gets cold?3 min quickie about when your tea goes cold. Heavy journalistic stuff. Proceed with caution.
- I took a week off work, but it didn’t change my life.5 min read about expecting too much from yourself because #alwaysbehustlin’
- My Sunday evening: doomscrolling, taking offense and yogaQuickie 2 min read about that dread you feel every Sunday evening.
- Was Valentine’s Day even relevant in the pandemic?Defending Valentine’s Day for 7 minutes straight. 7 mins of reading I mean.
- What school assignment still haunts you? Mine is the Tiger EssayGorgeous 10 min read about a formative childhood experience. With #siblinggoals