It is a much discussed day in our calendars: a day that we either love or to hate, solely depending on our relationship status. If you are in a relationship, close to this time of year, you are bombarded with questions about what plans you have made; what present you are buying your other half and whether you have planned any surprises for them, sexual or otherwise. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are single, it can feel as if you are expected to curl up with a tub of ice-cream and indulge in a night of weeping about your own loneliness and watching Bridget Jones on repeat.
It is because of these expectations that Valentine’s Day can provoke anxiety for so many people. Those who are with someone begin to panic over what nice things they can do or get for their partner (or be seen to do and get) , and those who are single begin to dread the day they are expected to feel most pathetic for being ‘alone’. Even younger adults and teenagers are persuaded that being ‘alone’, that is, not in an intensely committed romantic relationship, should be some source of shame or sadness.
It seems ridiculous that a day which is supposed to celebrate love can create so much tension and stress. Many of us know of couples who fought so badly on Valentine’s Day they broke up. Equally we can remember fights with current or ex-partners when they cancelled our Valentine’s Day plans, despite the fact that up until that moment we had insisted and believed that we didn’t care about the day or what we did for it.
It’s a holiday which can suck you in no matter how hard you try to keep your distance. The heart-shaped chocolates, the flowers, the new lines of lingerie that pop up all over the high street as February begins are inescapable. They suggest that, if you are in a relationship with someone then yes, you should buy these chocolates and this card that says ‘I Wuv Woo’. If you are single mean while then you should obviously feel terrible about it. Yet it is these cards, these flowers, these chocolates and crotchless panties that show just how unpleasant the holiday has become.
Perhaps it’s time that we reclaimed the day. Stripped down from all the commercialisation, Valentine’s Day is a sweet idea to celebrate the person you love. It’s worth remembering that the word ‘love’ can encapsulate a lot. Why does this have to involve extravagant chocolates and expensive meals? Why do any incredible romantic plans have to be made at all? Of course, there are those of us who take to this sort of thing like ducks to water, but for those of us who can’t even decide what takeaway we want, let alone plan a romantic evening, why can’t a cheap bottle of wine, a meal and a night in do? We should ignore the chocolates and cards that turn the day into a commercial gold mine, and focus on one another, or even ignore the day entirely if that’s what we want.