My 2018 Valentine’s Day Rant

It’s Valentine’s Day, so it’s time for my annual Valentine’s Day rant. I’m rerunning last year’s post, but just want to add a couple of thoughts. I despise this marketing manipulation day for so many reasons, but really hope to convince you, at the least, not to fall for the hype and spend money you may not be able to afford as the Valentine Svengali’s are hoping to persuade you to do.

If you MUST “celebrate,” consider sending a free e-card in lieu of enriching Hallmark or American Greetings, who are part of this $18 billion dollar industry, using a sub-text of guilt to draw you into their web of unnecessary spending.

One of my favorite words is “sheeple.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means docile, compliant, or easily influenced : people likened to sheep.

I don’t know if it’s “sheeple” complex driving this industry. Or guilt. Or an easy way to use money to show love. But you don’t need a specific day to remember to show those you love how much you care about them.

If you must engage in this nonsense because it matters to that most important person in your life, there are a million ways to express your love without giving in to the pressure to buy candy, jewelry, flowers, or cards … ways that will be far more meaningful and remembered more fondly. Here are a few examples:

* Write them a poem
* Make a collage of photos from significant events
* Take them on a picnic to a romantic place
* Make them breakfast, lunch, or dinner
* Do their household chores for a day or a week
* Spend the day in bed with them and watch movies, snuggle, or whatever
* Let them win an argument – better yet, when you feel the urge to argue, pause, let the moment pass, and tell them you love them
* Treat your special person with respect every day

I’d love to hear if you have other ways that cost nothing to show your most important person you love them. Now, read on to learn more about Valentine’s Day’s violent past and why I don’t believe in it.

I’m writing about Valentine’s Day in the hopes that I can convince those of you who fall under its twisted spell to see clearly through the deceptive veil that masks “the day of love.” As you may surmise, I’m not a fan.

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.

Bloody Beginnings

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?

4 thoughts on “My 2018 Valentine’s Day Rant

  1. Happy Valentines Day to you dear Susan B! (sorry that’s all you’re getting 😉 )

    I love that this is an annual reminder! Keep preaching the word! This year we are just 3 weeks money sober, so no reserves, only debt, and so it was a matter of making dinner that was dressed up to sound sufficiently gourmet and a bottle of inexpensive bubbly. Even Miss 16 jumped on board and made her boyfriend heart-shaped cookies rather than buying the ubiquitous teddy with its little ‘I love you’ heart.

    Mind you, I’m glad I stayed away from social media on HVD – ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and all that 🙂


  2. Hi Molly, I’m so happy for you that you are three weeks money sober! That’s fantastic. And WOW about your daughter’s choice of gift. It’s never too late to make an impression on our kids around money. You’ve made my day! Susan B.

  3. Dear Susan,
    In a world of overwhelming consumerism, I find your message so refreshing! Love and money should not be a ‘couple’.
    Thank you for all of the time you have spent sharing your knowledge and insight.
    I’ll be looking into YNAB. I found you last week in the search for a budget ( I know you hate that word), now I’ll be trying to figure out a spending plan instead. 🙂

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