In Defence of February 14 (Otherwise known as Valentine’s Day)

I admit it. I love Valentine’s Day.

I love the combinations of red and pink and purple and the conversation hearts with ridiculous sayings, like “I Dig U”. Mostly, though, I love the sentiment behind Valentine’s Day.

I feel as though I have to say that quietly, in a darkened room, with no witnesses. It’s as if it’s anti-intellectual or immature to love a day created to celebrate love. In saying that, I recognise that Valentine’s Day’s origins (St Valentine marrying Christians in secret, no less!) have been obscured by the marketer’s holy trinity of bribery, guilt, and shame.

This is what most people object to, I think. Marketers would have us believe that you have one shot at telling someone that you love her, and you’d better do it with diamonds, champagne, sonnets, calligraphy, and white unicorns. Or else. There can be immense pressure to “get it right” and to say “I love you” in the most extravagant way possible. Bigger is always better, right?

And then there’s the reality of having an empty mailbox on Valentine’s Day. Been there. Done that. I even have the tee-shirt. It says: Valentine’s Day Sucks Monkey Balls. When you feel alone in the world, there’s nothing like a holiday to make you feel even more miserable. I once had to attend an event on Valentine’s Day—alone—where I had to interact with my ex-partner and his new partner. Yep. Monkey’s Balls.

And finally, there’s the argument—circulated while swilling red wine and eating canapés—that somehow Valentine’s Day is a day for fools, for the less enlightened, for those incapable of expressing love on a daily basis. Why should there be day in which we are required to say “I love you?” Isn’t it better to say it freely and often?

This is an attractive argument. Every day should be a celebration of the goodness and love in our lives. If that were so, then there would never be a need for a sanctioned day of love. I agree that we should tell our friends and lovers that we love them all of the time. In that sense, every day should (and can) be Valentine’s Day.

The reality, though, is that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day every day. Or even most days. Instead, our days get caught in minutia’s nets of unfolded laundry and broken dishwashers and car repairs. We maintain. We rarely celebrate.

It’s like having the good china that you only use when company comes over. That’s the way we sometimes treat love. Only when company is coming do we say, “You know what? I really love you and here’s how I’m going to express that in a tangible way.” It can be as simple as the words themselves, or a card, a favourite meal, a bauble, or even a white unicorn. The medium of expression is far less important than the actual expression.

This is not limited to lovers and partners. When is the last time we collectively told our friends that we love them and that their support and love mean the world to us?

And then there are the loves that lurk in the shadows. There’s the trite saying that only fools rush in, but maybe like a tall glass (or three) of beer, Valentine’s Day is a big dose of liquid courage. I have a very good friend who sent the girl he’d mooned over for two years the biggest, gaudiest Valentine’s Day card ever possibly conceived. Valentine’s Day was the catalyst that got him to finally say to her, “I really dig you. I hope you dig me, too.”

You know what happened? She didn’t dig him back.

Major. Monkey’s. Balls.

“A ha!” I hear the Valentine’s Day naysayers proclaiming. “This is proof of the evilness of Valentine’s Day!”

Quite the reverse, I think. Yeah, he took a chance and he crashed and burned big time, but the simple act of taking that step made him realise he could take it again. And again. And again. He wouldn’t have taken the step except for the fact that there was a day in which all romantic foolishness, sentiment, and risk were licensed, encouraged, and forgiven.

I like a day that helps me remember what I love most about my partner, my friends, my family. I like a day that reminds me to stop, listen, and love, and most importantly, to share that with the people in my life.