As a self-proclaimed queer feminist, Valentine's Day is something I have come to loathe. It is both the commercialization of the holiday and the sentiment that has always been unsettling to me. A whole industry has been spawned out of this day, and companies make millions of dollars from floral arrangements, cards, and dinner reservations. Valentine's Day is also the unofficial end of engagement season, interestingly, and nearly 10 percent of the total number of engagements for the year happen in February. So from the gate, February is already pushing you toward a heteronormative plotline.
There is so much hype and buildup, but for what? One day does not undo the other 364 you share when you're involved in a relationship. Random gestures of love and kindness should happen throughout the year. What does this say about the history of patriarchy? And the larger romanticized dream of love and what society dictates it should be? The long and short answer to both these questions is that it's complicated. However, for me, it has always been helpful to consider the larger history of the holiday to get a more nuanced perspective.
The origins of Valentine's Day are rooted in the Catholic Church. And as a Catholic-turned-atheist, this is yet another reason this holiday is unsettling to me. The Church holiday is named after St. Valentine; however, when you do a bit more digging on who exactly St. Valentine was, things become a bit murky. There are three Valentines that the Church recognizes, each of whom died in different ways.
While the history is interesting and there is even a potential pagan holiday the Church took over in an effort to overshadow it, there are still bigger issues at hand. As a person in the world, you should regularly put time aside to honor yourself and those around you who matter — and maybe a day like this is one to help you take pause. How and who you love are not the issue; it's whether or not you're taking time — any given day — to recognize and celebrate it.
Regardless of whether you are single or in a relationship, this holiday can put pressure on both situations. If you are in a relationship, there is larger societal pressure to shout it from the rooftops that you love your significant other. If you're single, you probably are going to hate it regardless, but for me, I have found it helpful to take pause and practice self-care on a day like this.
The older I get, the more important it is for me to surround myself with the people and the things that make me happy. Regardless of my relationship status, taking time for myself is one of the most important things I can do for myself any time of year. Valentine's Day has reminded me to take stock of my love life but also to help me keep me on track for what I am looking for in the long run. Overall, the pressure we put on the holiday just isn't worth it. Your time is better spent putting your efforts into your own happiness and the health of your relationship if you're in one — every day of the year instead of just one.