I never considered myself someone who subscribes to the intoxicating buzz that Valentine’s Day brings. On the contrary, I find myself swiftly moving past the aisles of chocolates in supermarkets around this holiday, avoiding the gaudy shelf talkers that flutter around the shelves begging me to buy a treat for that “someone special.” And, what light through yonder window breaks? It’s the fluorescent lighting above the flower section which surveys the dejected foliage, obviously wilting away. During Valentine’s week, these sad tulips and blushing roses seem to double in quantity, and more than ever, I am encouraged to take a sharp turn in the other direction.
Even the history behind Valentine’s Day lends itself more to tragedy than to love. I had a look at some of the history surrounding this holiday, and according to the BBC, the namesake of the day, Saint Valentine, was allegedly a priest who defied Emperor Claudius II’s orders to ban marriage after he decided that married men did not become strong soldiers. It’s theorised that Saint Valentine continued to marry young lovers anyway and was subsequently sentenced to death. While he was in jail, it’s even speculated that he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, writing her a love letter that ended with the words “from your Valentine.”
I don’t think that William Shakespeare himself could write a more forlorn tale.
Due to all of this, I generally stick with the more straightforward holidays and try to veer away from the lovesick cronies who flock to Bootson February 13. But as a fledgling journalist, I could not help but examine the roots underneath my aversion to this holiday. I would consider myself quite a hopeless romantic, yet for some reason this day never aligned with the part of me which believes in fairy tales. I’ve begun to realise that I don’t have an issue with love itself on Valentine’s Day, but rather, I just loathe the overcommercialised clutter that gets endorsed, only to be thrown in the bin a week later.
I’ve found it difficult to separate the two entities of Valentine’s Day: the love, and the junk. Perhaps my overly sentimental brain could never link the two things together and therefore refused to accept Valentine’s Day as anything other than a sham.
But this year, I decided to take a new stance and shift my perspective. Instead of focusing on all of the ‘flaws’ that this holiday flaunts, I decided to celebrate with those I love the most and solely focus on the ‘love’ dimension of this day. I figure that Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be about celebrating the love in a romantic relationship, so it seemed apt to send a text to some of my closest friends reminding them that I love them. Perhaps that sounds cheesy, and in many ways, it is, but when I look at all of the people in my life who are in love or have a significant other, I can’t help but smile at the beauty that it is just to love or to be loved.
That magic is not just reserved for the romantic lovers, but on the contrary, it treads its way through every relationship in your life, even the platonic ones.
I’ve been reading up on the concepts of ‘self-love’ and ‘self-care’ too, and how these two things are arguably the most fundamental part of being able to love another person in the first place. Rupi Kaur even says that “how you love yourself is how you teach others to love you”.
On the way to pick up some groceries on Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t help but notice all of the lonely teddy bears that were left behind in the wake of the gigantic shopping haul. Their besmirched grins didn’t seem to irritate me as much as they had before, and I even considered buying one for myself. I figured that it could be an act of ‘self-care’ and that I could maybe even get myself a Harry Potter DVD and a hair mask while I was there to immerse myself in the whole concept. After all, Valentine’s Day celebrates love in all shapes and sizes, and the care that one can show for themselves counts just as much as the love between anyone else.
So, here I am. I somehow managed to sway my opinions on Valentine’s Day by simply getting with the programme and engaging with the parts of it which applied to me. Of course, I will never be someone who shows any interest in gifts on Valentine’s Day, and I will likely always dash away from the confectionary section of the shops once February arrives. But next year I hope to continue with my newfound Valentine’s Day traditions and carry with me the notion that love is special enough just as it is. Once you push back the commercialised baggage that crowds the way, Valentine’s Day is, at its core, another day to show your love for the most important people in your life. Including yourself.