A holiday I always really disliked, mostly – let’s be honest – because I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 17. I really had no problem hating Valentine’s Day and I was good at hating it. Was I jealous of everyone who had a boyfriend? Of course I was.
As a not terribly feminine female, I also never really resonated with a lot of the imagery the consumer universe sold me about Valentine’s Day. Pink, first of all, turns me off and everything looks pink for Valentine’s Day. I don’t really think chocolate says “love” to me, at least not from someone else. I mean, I “love” chocolate all by myself, so I don’t really feel like I need someone else to give it to me to show me they love me.
As for jewelry, I didn’t grow up in a family where my mom expected expensive jewelry or where we could have even afforded for that to be added to the family budget, honestly. There were no diamonds. My Dad of course got my mom other gifts and he was really creative and artistic. He made elaborate cards for my mom and sometimes for me. But as for expensive gifts, it didn’t happen at my house and I didn’t need it to.
I handed out Valentines in school as a child, but mostly I felt bad when I was left out of someone’s affection (ugh, that sucked), and I felt bad for kids who got left out. Like, the nerdiest and most unusual kids in class eventually didn’t get Valentine’s when we were old enough for the teacher to not enforce that everyone make cards for everyone and it just felt sad all around.
I like sad music. I like dark cynical literature. I don’t really have a fantasy romantic vision as part of my make-up. So honestly, Valentine’s Day just never did it for me.
The people who usually chastise me for this fall under one main category: women who like that stuff. And far be it for me to tell someone what they should want. The thing that upsets me and makes me sad and which is the basis for the reason GrokNation exists is so I can say this: I don’t understand why we have a culture that has determined that – for the most part – men need to buy women expensive things on Valentine’s Day to show their love/affection/acknowledgment of the holiday. Period. I don’t get it.
And I know that plenty of men make handmade cards and for a lot of people it’s not about the money and I love those men and the women who love them; I really do. But for the most part – again, I am generalizing – we have a culture of encouraging men to spend a lot of money on women and women expecting that. (And yes, for same-sex couples, I assume it exists and I’d be curious to hear if both men in a gay relationship are expected to do that and what happens in lesbian relationships!?! I’m sure it all gets figured out, but I do honestly wonder!)
I have spoken to a lot of reasonable smart successful women – many of whom have incomes themselves – who have told me straight-faced that they expect expensive jewelry and/or flowers X number of times a year and if they don’t get it, there will be hell to pay. Sometimes these women are in families where resources are not super abundant, but they expect this above and beyond the “practical” things money could go towards.
I don’t understand the emphasis on Valentine’s Day in this sense at all. If women want to expect that stuff, of course they can. Enjoy it! I am not judging. I am simply saying I don’t understand it for me.
Because I am a total Scrooge, I feel the need to draw attention to the following Valentine’s-related issues.
- Blood diamonds. Many countries that mine the diamonds we use for jewelry use child labor and it causes great damage to the communities where mining is done. For more information, read here.
- Resources. As with the cloning article, I can’t help thinking about how much we could achieve if the money we spent on, for example, Valentine’s Day jewelry went to feed children in the cities we live in. Or went to provide school supplies to children who have none. Or went towards building schools for children who need them all over the world. Or to providing clean drinking water for the millions of people on this planet who don’t have access to that. And so on. Is there a better way to spend our money? I think there is, don’t you?
- V-Day. Some have taken the phrase “V Day” as an opportunity to call attention to the crimes against women and girls that go on all over the world, simultaneous with this season where we are flooded with images of love being in the air on every billboard, in every commercial, and in every shopping mall. V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls. Learn more here.
- Perspective. Maybe we can try to shift our perspective a little. Think hard about why we think women “need” jewelry and gifts for this day. Find ways to celebrate with your honey that are maybe a tad old-fashioned but can still be meaningful. Make cards. Have a meal together or cook together or just be together and enjoy it without the pressure of gifts. Or – super nerd ball idea coming at you here – take the money you both would have spent on gifts and cards and all of that stuff and donate it to a charity you both like.
- Cliches. I know it sounds like a cliche to say that if you’re loving someone, you have to love them every day and show them every day and Valentine’s Day is just a day that the card companies added to the calendar to make money, but honestly…if you think about it, it’s kind of true. Every day is an opportunity to be loving and supportive and happy to be with someone (if you’re happy to be with them.) It’s okay to buck the system a little bit every once in a while!
Grok with us:
- What are your initial associations with Valentine’s Day?
- When do you remember first associating it with expensive gifts, or what do you associate it with if not that?