How Hallmark bastardizes our love

Love is in the air. And it stinks. As you are either painfully or blissfully aware, Valentine’s Day was Monday. The Hallmark-promoted holiday that divides the population into two categories: those with significant others, and those who have to endure the day constantly reminded that they are without.
Valentine’s Day isn’t even a holiday true to history. Today, the Catholic church recognizes not one, but three different saints named Valentine. The holiday is an admixture of both Christian and Roman traditions. In fact, many historians assert that Valentine’s Day was born out of the pagan Lupercalia festival.
Lupercalia, which began on Feb. 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture as well as to the Roman founders, Romulus and Remus. To commence the festival, members of the Luperci would gather at a sacred cave where Romulus and Remus were said to have been cared for by a she-wolf. Then these Roman priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. Then, boys would slice the goat’s hide into strips, dip the strips into blood, and flagellate women with them.
Later in the day, all the young women would put their names in a big urn. The single men of the city would then each choose a name out of the urn and pair up with his selected woman.
How romantic. So it seems if you really want to celebrate Valentine’s Day true to history, you have to kill a dog and goat, play something akin to the “car key” party game and go home with some random woman.
But instead of staying true to the holiday, those with significant others literally buy into the holiday, sending flowers, chocolates and other love knickknacks to their sweethearts.
Valentine’s Day is just a holiday contrived to generate revenue: boxes of chocolate, bouquets of roses, big-ass $5 cards with some rhyming poetic verse to eloquently express to your sweetheart sentiments you’d never find yourself saying. According to the Greeting Card Association, about a billion Valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second-largest card-sending holiday of the year.
Valentine’s Day is really just a manipulative holiday that panders to women. It is an amorous version of “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s the “official” day that serves as a litmus test to see whether your beloved loves you or not, where he has to take you out and tell you how much he cares for you. If your boyfriend doesn’t do something special for you on this day, it’s a sign he doesn’t love you.
So guys go out and spend their money on gifts because if they don’t, they’ll really get it — or, more correctly, they won’t. If your girlfriend is the only one of her friends not to get flowers, you’ll hear about it again and again. Not only that, she will feel bad for feeling left out as if you don’t care about her as much as other guys do for their girlfriends.
Clearly, it’s not a holiday for men. Think about it: What guy do you know who looks forward to Valentine’s Day? For most guys, the holiday is a virtual minefield. What should I buy her? Where should I take her? What card is just sappy enough to express sentiments I cannot, in my myopic masculinity, begin to fathom without overdoing it to where she’ll think I want to get married immediately?
Traditionally, it’s a holiday where the guy takes the girl out to dinner at some fancy-schmancy restaurant and gives her a present. I know that many women reciprocate, but it’s not like the guy is excitedly thinking, “I wonder what she’ll get me!” The men typically just want to have it pass without causing any fights or creating any resentment.
It’s silly to be pressured into demonstrating your love for your sweetheart on a particular day. In fact, doesn’t it make the loving gestures of greeting cards, candies and gifts seem less sincere? Guys are essentially forced to make these gestures on this particular day. Wouldn’t it be better to just express your love all year long? Tell your special someone you love him or her on a noncompulsory day?
Yet the holiday’s malfeasance goes beyond the fact it’s a compulsory holiday. It’s a holiday that excludes a large segment of the population. While one section of society is smugly celebrating their companionship, the other has to endure the red- and pink-hearted decorations as a constant reminder that they don’t have a special someone. If these people are OK with that, fine. But what about those who end up sitting at home, watching television, despondently eating Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey? You have to feel sorry for that guy. Uh … or girl.
Remember when you were in grade school and all the other kids would get Valentines and you were the only kid who didn’t get one in their Valentine’s basket — except maybe from that icky girl with braces who always wanted to hold your hand during recess? Not that I know how that feels.
So I say, boycott Valentine’s Day. Celebrate your relationship on a day that’s special for both of you. Tell her you love her not just on one particular day that Hallmark decrees. Let not the forces that compose those saccharine greeting cards mechanize love into some perfunctory holiday, pressuring people into celebrating that which is really about the intimacy between two people. Let Valentine’s Day be something you celebrate with your loved one every day.
Matthew Brophy’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He welcomes comments to [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]