Valentine's Day Cometh · 9 February 2007
I approach this holiday with mixed feelings every year. As much as I dislike the idea of the modern day celebration of Valentine’s Day, I do believe in taking time to make people feel special.
A little prompting from the calendar to remind people to set aside time for loved ones isn’t a bad thing, but Valentine’s Day is a holiday whose origins have been obscured and buried under the shiny new covering of commercialism. I have an admitted fondness for Christmas, a holiday that has fallen down the same rabbit hole, but that has more to do with the food and the fellowship than the actual roots of the holiday. Valentine’s Day picked up no such bonuses from being commercialized. If Valentine’s Day had transcended its muddied history to become an all inclusive orgiastic expression of our love for one another, I doubt I’d have any problems with it; but, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that encourages people to express their devotion in very rigid terms.
If you don’t have a partner, Valentine’s Day adds insult to injury, first by excluding you, then by bombarding you with ads showing you tenderhearted men and women oozing affection for their significant other out of every pore. If you look closely enough in the background of some of those ads, you’ll see the second-class single citizen draped in black and attempting to fade away into anonymity. Realistically I know that not every holiday can be made for everyone, but no other holiday seems to give the excluded such a bad bout of low self esteem, and I don’t have to like it!
As to the ads themselves, remember that adage about gift giving that “It’s the thought that counts?” In its modern day incarnation, Valentine’s Day is the day you show your lover that you care about them, in recent tradition with a home made card as a token of your affection. But really, who has time to make cards these days? And what kind of way is that to show someone you care about them? The retailers have a better idea than some lovingly crafted gift. Hallmark, Ben Bridge, DeBeers, See’s Candy, and your local florist are out in force this season, enticing you to buy. You see, there’s this modern idea of romance, and it includes chocolates, flowers, and expensive jewelry.
Some women like these things, and yes, they may be tickled the proverbial pink by receiving one or all of them for Valentine’s Day. But, for those of you who are just going to buy an item off the above list because advertisers force fed you the idea during these vital weeks before shopping, let me deconstruct the options a bit for you so you can decide if your significant other will really appreciate it. Give her the gift of at least thinking about whether she’d like your present or not before you go spend your hard earned money on something the advertisers told you is romantic.
First let’s dissect chocolates. If you were paying attention during the holiday and New Year’s Resolution time, you may have noticed that your significant other was complaining that she overindulged and was resolving to work off the few extra pounds that she picked up. If she did, I’m not saying that she won’t love the chocolates, she probably will (unless she hates chocolate but if she does you already know this). But, if you know that she’s trying to eat healthy, exercise, and not give in to temptation, don’t put that temptation right in front of her in a silky heart-shaped box as a gift of your undying adoration for her. What you’ve done by this is set up internal conflict for your girl, she doesn’t want to eat the chocolate because she’s resolved to cut back on sweets, but she doesn’t want to reject the present either because it can be seen as a rejection of your love. So be sensitive to your significant other’s stance on chocolate in her life right now and purchase accordingly. It’s a good relationship tip to avoid introducing conflict whenever possible, especially when you’re trying to do something nice.
Second on the list of traditional gifts are flowers. Even using the most cynical lens possible, I can’t bring myself to say anything bad about flowers. They brighten a room, often smell wonderful, and re-affirm our connection with nature if we’re stuck in an airless office building all day. But, here are a few flower warnings. Not every girl loves roses. Really. Aside from that, the price on roses is often horribly inflated for Valentine’s Day. Remember those rules of supply and demand? Well, the demand doesn’t get much higher for roses than on Valentine’s Day. Sure, there are bargains to be had, but there is also a salivating horde of florists hoping to make money off the holiday rush. Remember that idea of thinking about the gift you’ll give? Try to do a little pre-holiday research and find out what flowers your significant other likes best, or purchase some that are a memorial of an outing you’ve taken. If you went on vacation to Hawaii for example, get her hibiscus, plumeria, or orchids. If one of your favorite activities as a couple is hiking, see if you can find a florist that will make you a bouquet of local flowers and foliage that you’ve seen together. Show her that you can think outside the prepackaged holiday gift box. (Now, if her favorite flower really is the rose, feel free to ignore what I’ve said).
The final item in the trifecta of “traditional” Valentine’s Day gifts is expensive jewelry. I blame DeBeers. Not content to have warped the minds of generations into thinking that diamonds are the only stone “good enough” for engagement rings, they’ve decided to expand their monopoly into anniversaries and other gift giving occasions. A true rant about DeBeers deserves its own post, so I’ll leave it there for now. For most people, diamonds aren’t in the budget, so while DeBeers has created the desire for jewelry, it’s left the mass market jewelers to meet the needs of people with less than unlimited funds. Out of this vacuum, comes a plethora of what I consider tacky baubles. While they’re not cheap (you can easily spend $100.00 for one of these heart shaped diamond pendants), they are predictable and low quality. The jewelers are pumping them out in quantity, advertising them on special, and if you buy something that’s Valentine’s themed, you can be sure that you’re only one of a thousand people in your metropolitan area that made the same pick Please, unless your significant other has been pining for something red and gold that looks like it went out of fashion about two decades ago, do not head for the seasonal aisle in your local jewelry store. For significantly less cost you can find jewelry that your significant other can wear outside the month of February at a number of other cool places. It’s probably too late to shop online, but check out your local Cost Plus World Market, Target (yes Target has some awesome funky jewelry) or your local boutique.
If you want to chance late delivery, and are comfortable giving a picture of what you purchased to open for the actual holiday, Rare Birds also has a ton of awesome links for jewelry and fun and unusual gifts. If your girl is the eclectic type, there is probably something for her here.
If this is all too overwhelming, well, you can always go back to the modern roots of the holiday. Spend some quality time with your significant other, make them that antiquated handmade card (inspiration and shopping linked to the below picture), and just tell them how much they mean to you.