Valentine’s Day is a strange thing, culturally. For some, it’s a day to be dreaded and/or grumbled about (“Here’s to another Singles Awareness Day spent alone at home, bleh”); for others, an excuse to pamper themselves (“I may not have a date, but I’ll darn well have dessert!”). Couples have to self-consciously navigate societal expectations (“We’ve committed to building an egalitarian relationship, but does that mean I shouldn’t get her flowers?”) while uncomfortably aware of all the bitter facebook posts piling up on their news feed.
Relatively few people, it seems, actually buy into the cultural narrative of Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers to blissfully appreciate and celebrate each other. All the associated baggage about gender roles, marketing and consumerism (not to mention its emphasis on traditional romantic partnerships at the expense of single people or less conventional relationships) could make even the most romantic and carefree of people feel awkward about enjoying Valentine’s Day.
Personally, Valentine’s Day is actually more uncomfortable for me when in a relationship than when single. Will my significant other and I acknowledge, celebrate or ignore it? Will we echo traditional gender roles or intentionally flout them? What if I want to do something special but the other person thinks the whole holiday is bullshit, or vice versa?
An admission: I want an egalitarian relationship free of gendered expectations, but I also feel a little bad, sometimes, when my significant other decides to completely eschew the holiday. Sure, we should be showing our appreciation for each other year-round, and we shouldn’t feel pressured to spend money on unimportant things, but does that make affectionate gestures unimportant, or a romantic evening inappropriate just because many people don’t like being told when to have one? What’s the point of my relationship overlapping with Valentine’s Day for once if I can’t celebrate it, damn it!?
This blog post from The Pervocracy describes the “Valentine’s Day dilemma” excellently:
I don’t want diamonds and I don’t want to receive without giving, but I think exchanging goofy heart candies for goofy reasons is an opportunity to say “You know what? Sometimes validating feelings is more important than always fighting the good fight.”
(There is also a related post on how romantic love is socially construed versus the author’s individual experience of it, if you’re interested.)
This post actually began as a description for the links above, but it outgrew caption status. Man, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything approximating a blog post or journal entry. I’m having flashbacks to the LiveJournal era! It’s good practice for starting my Gwangju blog, which will hypothetically have actual readers. :P