SCHONEKER: Where’s the love (for love)?

 

 

Jake Schoneker

It’s Valentine’s Day! That means one of two things: you’re either going to spend a nice quiet evening in front of a fire, enjoying tender time in the arms of a loved one, or else you’ll be brooding in a lonely room somewhere, plotting the gruesome murder of a certain flying cherub. There is one thing we can all agree on, though – Valentine’s Day is a day of passion and romance, a day that brightens our spirits and brings joy to our hectic lives. Wait, scratch that – Valentine’s Day is an evil corporate invention, a day that commodifies love and aspires to destroy the human soul.

It’s pretty clear that there’s not much middle ground regarding love – you’re either in it, or you’re out. If your heart-shaped “Be Mine” candies worked their magic and you’ve got a date for Valentine’s Day, then you’re all but guaranteed to have a good time. It’s rare to overhear someone in a restaurant say, “You know, I’m having a great time tonight, baby, but I kind of wish it were All Saints Day.” No, when you’re in love, there’s nothing you want more than to celebrate it. What could be better than a whole day set aside for love?

For those without a date though, Valentine’s Day can be a lonesome affair, a whole day dedicated to the love that you lack. Each year, this leads inevitably to a wave of Valentine bashing as people proclaim the ills of the holiday. Is it jealousy that drives the bitter and widespread hate for Valentine’s Day? Of course it is. But you have to admit, the cynics do have some valid points.

For one, Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, is in many ways more a celebration of consumption than it is of love. Today we’re all expected to buy flowers, chocolate, cards and jewelry for our lovers – expensive, symbolic gestures that we use to buy our way to the heartstrings. This is, in many ways, a true testament to our laziness.

Can’t think of a thoughtful gift? Well, you’re in luck, because if you’ve been listening to your radio or TV lately, you’ll know exactly what kind of love to buy. Why don’t we buy flowers and gifts every other day of the year? Why in the middle of February? Well, because everywhere we look this week we’re reminded to, reminded that she or he will be disappointed if you don’t. Propaganda works, kids!

Valentine’s Day is a magical time when you make up for the loving you missed out on all year. The husband who ignores his wife on a daily basis suddenly becomes an empathetic Cassanova; he sends flowers to her office and takes her out for a romantic dinner, all to rekindle a spark that he allowed to fade. Bickering couples decide that for one day they’ll quit arguing over the moral character of their cat and try to enjoy each other’s company. But that’s not love. The idea is to create love in your relationship every day, not to ignore it all year and suddenly come back to it when it’s expected.

Of course, these are just the arguments that those of us who have had bad experiences with Valentine’s Day use to justify our hatred. There are plenty of happy couples for whom these rules don’t apply, and there are plenty of things to be said for Love Day. But we’d rather not see them. It’s better to think that everyone else is miserable, too. At the emotional root, these arguments boil down to simple jealousy and disappointment. Is buying something nice for a loved one really such a bad thing to encourage? If a couple is going through hard times, why not have a day to remind them why they’re together in the first place?

If you’re not doing something special today, relax. It’s not Feb. 14’s fault you aren’t in a relationship. Instead of using today as an excuse to be unhappy, let’s think of all the positives. We don’t have to spend all our money on dinner and jewelry. And we won’t have to miss watching “Lost”! Best of all, there are 364 other days of the year we can use to express love the way we want to.

If you want to criticize our consumer culture and its detrimental effect on love, then that’s one thing. But don’t blame St. Valentine, and don’t ever blame love – it’s a beautiful thing, and you never know when it might find you.

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Jake Schoneker is a senior humanities and political science major from Landsdale, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]