Now, bear in mind that this article is somewhat tongue in cheek, but only somewhat. I truly have disdain for this “Hallmark” holiday, which is, in fact, a trifecta of indulgence, a promotional conspiracy between the greeting card, jewelry, and floral industries to drive consumers into guilt spree spending. (By the way, this “holiday” has quite a violent past … but more about that in a moment).
If you don’t believe Valentine’s Day is a blatant manipulation by the industries mentioned above (along with anyone else who thinks they can find a way to get you to open your wallet in the name of love), here are some sickening Valentine’s Day spending statistics from an article called, “38 Surprising Valentine’s Day Statistics Marketers Will Love.”
Before I continue, I can hear you saying, “well, what about Mother’s Day?” To that, I say, wait until you have raised a teenager who is hormonally ungrateful and petulant 364 days a year, and you will understand why being guilt-driven on Mother’s Day, no matter how old you are, is a kindness and penance for those demonic years.
But I digress.
Back in 1990, when I was a weekly columnist, I wrote a piece exposing the truth about the holiday. I must admit that I started out biased because of all the years I was unhappily unattached, remembering how, every year, I had to suffer through an inescapable two week period where the universe gleefully rubbed my aloneness in my face.
But when I began researching the article, I was shocked to discover another reason to eschew Valentine’s Day — the holiday’s violent beginnings, which involved sacrifices and beheadings.
Lest you think I am the Snow Queen, if you read my old column, you will see that I’m not opposed to the SPIRIT of Valentine’s Day. No, indeed. I believe that any time we can express our love and gratitude to our partner is a good time.
It’s the way our society has connected the essence of the holiday with having to spend money to prove that you love your partner that bothers me.
And what about those without partners?
In my opinion (as well as my personal experience), Valentine’s Day just makes singles feel lonely and couples feel guilty.
I can remember too many years feeling sick at heart on Valentine’s Day because I was not in a relationship. Why can’t the spirit of the day be extended to anyone we love? It’s cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on those who are already all too aware that they are not in a relationship to be surrounded by all that nauseating romance for the first two weeks of February.
But if you are happily unattached, I suppose you might revel in the freedom of not having to dole out money to prove you love someone.
A Change of Heart
I have been with my husband since 2001. I told him from the beginning of our relationship not to buy me a Valentine’s Day gift. For many years, he agreed … but bought a gift anyway, thinking it was a trap, a trick, or a test. He figured if he didn’t buy me a gift I would then say I hadn’t meant it and he should have known better. Twisted, right?
Finally, a few years into our relationship, I sat him down and set him straight. And we have (happily) not exchanged gifts for many years (though I still make sure to remind him in early February that nothing has changed). I feel great about it. We use the day as a conscious reminder to be kind and loving to each other, maybe spending a little more time together.
The Best Gift
For compulsive spenders, guilt is often a driving force in spending more money than you can afford. I’m grateful that I’ve stood my ground with my husband about not “celebrating” the day. I remember last Valentine’s Day, I was in line at the grocery store behind two men with double bouquets and cards. I watched one grab a last minute discounted box of candy cane cookies that matched the red of the card. I’m sure his beloved was touched by the thought that went into this gift.
Seriously, is this really how we show our love for each other?
What a gift it would be to release your partner from feeling like he or she needs to break the bank to show how much you are loved.
As a recovering compulsive spender, I don’t believe that spending money just because a marketing campaign tries to make me feel obligated is the sober way to express my love for my partner. In recovery, I know that buying out of pressure is not sane spending for me. It’s just a boldfaced lie that the best way to show people you love them is to buy them stuff.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t buy gifts for each other. I’m simply suggesting that you not bankrupt yourself to do so. That you keep in mind the spirit of the holiday so you don’t get confused about why you are buying a gift. And that you don’t let guilt pressure you into spending more than you can afford.
It’s a boldfaced lie that the best way to show people you love them is to buy them stuff.
If you do insist on observing Valentine’s Day, why not create a tradition with your partner to exchange homemade gifts and cards, or make a special dinner at home instead of going out? What could be more loving than taking the time to create something unique or making your own special tradition to celebrate your love instead of standing in line to buy the same tired old thing as everyone else?