When I was growing up I didn’t have any interest from potential lovers on Valentine’s Day. Every year I crossed my fingers and hoped that a heart-shaped greeting card would await me when I came down for breakfast on February 14, but alas, it never happened.
However what was waiting for me every year without fail, was a chocolate-dipped strawberry fondant mouse. I’m not entirely sure why my mother decided that this would be the ideal gift for each of her three children on a day designed for lovers, but I happily chomped on that sweet little rodent instead of my regular bowl of cereal every year with delight. It tasted like love.
Now that I’m a 32-year-old married woman, I still have an odd relationship with the holiday. My husband and I always exchange cards but we rarely do anything else other than flop onto the sofa and watch a film. It’s not that I have anything against Valentine’s Day, but for us, romance is apparent with keen regularity on hundreds of other days throughout the year. Sometimes it’s a surprise bar of chocolate after work or a hug when you least expect it (or even better, when you really need it). Sometimes it’s moving quietly around the house on a Sunday morning to allow for a much-needed sleep in. These small acts of consideration are what make the bad days feel a little more bearable.
This got me thinking. Why is Valentine’s Day just for lovers? I know lots of people who choose to ignore the day because they say it’s just a marketing gimmick to sell more roses, but what if we all fully embraced love in the truest sense of the word? As a basic concept for daily life? Why can’t we be more like my mom and give chocolate and hugs to the people we value the most?
I spoke to one woman on Twitter who told me that she sees the day as an excuse to express love in any form, and chooses to send a card to her mom. Obviously, this made me feel all the warm and fuzzies. Then I spoke to my friend Sinead, who has no choice but to focus on her son because Valentine’s Day is also his birthday. She is absolutely thrilled at the prospect of having a good reason to avoid all the soppy traditions. “I’ve never been into the whole ‘show me how much you love me’ rubbish, so it’s actually a nice excuse to ignore it all,” she tells me when I probe her on the subject. Instead, she and her partner will take her son, Eli, out for a burger and be long gone before the couples roll in after work.
Why can’t we be more like my mom and give chocolate and hugs to the people we value the most?
I think kids should be allowed to take advantage of the holiday as a reason to build strong platonic relationships, too. Sending friendship cards is a nice way to encourage kindness and appreciation with peers and also helps challenge the idea that one needs to have a love interest to find fulfillment.
For people like me who have a partner at home, I can’t help but wonder about the people who are forced to spend Valentine’s Day alone. I don’t think that they need sexual partner to feel complete, but the expectation of companionship can trigger unwanted feelings for vulnerable people.
Kindness can go a long way on days like these, so consider sending a card to someone you know will struggle to feel positive when everyone else is being wined and dined. An elderly relative perhaps who feels the painful absence of their spouse? Pop in to say hello and make them a cup of coffee. A friend who is single or feeling they don’t fit in? Extend an invite to the movies, a bite to eat or a friendly chat over a bottle of wine.
Even employers can take the lead. One online business owner told me that she is treating all of her staff members to a grocery store voucher that they can use to buy a nice meal. A manager from another brand told me that their entire office has been gifted tickets to Cirque du Soleil. Even an extra long lunch break or a genuine thank you email can go a long way in a world where people are rarely treated with kindness in the workplace.
Above all, Valentine’s Day is just a day like any other. Does that mean we should ignore it and go about our business? I say no. I say we strive to be better, starting with a few small acts of kindness for those who need us most. Whether it’s finding time to visit a friend or a date night with the kids, we all can—and should—spread the love on February 14th.