Valentines Day. One of the few days in the year that elicits screams of ecstasy, joy, and other such positives, yet simultaneously some see it inherently force ostracism of their private lives. To get to the bottom of the matter, or at least scrape its surface with gusto, So So Gay asked contributors Jake Basford and Jamie Pohotsky to debate the merits and foibles of the holiday.
Jamie: One could easily say “Valentine’s Day is a holiday maintained by the Greeting Card companies to maintain profits through the post Christmas quarter” but that rather cheapens the reasons why Valentine’s Day is pretty much total bunk. First and foremost, it creates a day in the year when many feel as if we need to justify our present love lives, in whatever state they are. If one is single, it’s either a moment that makes one almost obliged to say “Why yes, I’m single, and there’s nothing wrong with that” or the other option seems to be to hide in bed with Ice Cream covered in Bailey’s watching HBO’s Angels in America on DVD. As much as I love Bailey’s, and though Tony Kushner may be one of the best American writers alive, Valentine’s Day, regardless of status, forces one to recognise its existence. Even if one ignores the holiday, that is still a conscious decision and someone will probably ask you about it and why you are ignoring it. Valentine’s Day is like a religion that won’t go away; even if one is an atheist, one still has to interact with it on some level– and that’s absolute rubbish.
Jake: Spending a day concentrating on romance is absolutely a religious experience – life changing, something that you think about for the rest of your life, and an utterly profound thing that breaks apart the dull after-effects of the Winter holidays. Just like a vision of God, however, it cannot be explained to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Valentine’s Day gives you one moment out of normal day-to-day life and gives you something that you cannot explain, but you know feels good, almost like an orgasm for the heart. Financially speaking, you are absolutely correct in terms of economic need, but you miss the wider scope in terms of employment, as the more we spend the more employment opportunities are created for those currently out of work and the less is needed by the state to uphold those who cant find a job. Why is it rubbish to focus on love for one day out of the year, when we are happy to focus on chocolate and a mythical bunny as a result of a religious icon’s story a month later? I would rather put my faith in humanity than a rabbit.
Jamie: Speaking of religion, wouldn’t it be significantly healthier for humanity to actually just “love one another” every day instead of saying it through the judgmental prism of being forced to feel good or bad about relationship status on one specific day? Valentine’s Day seems rather like Earth Day–the one day out of the year we are meant to be conscious of the environment. In this case, it’s being forced to be conscious of love. Similar to the idea of recycling all year round instead of just cleaning a park one day out of the year, wouldn’t it be healthier even for those -in- relationships to actively state that to each other all the time instead of on a specific day enforced by Hallmark?[pullquote_left]you have to hide in bed with Ice Cream covered in Bailey’s watching HBO’s Angels in America on DVD[/pullquote_left]Valentine’s Day is a holiday, like most religious holidays, with an attitude; but at least with actual religious holidays there’s a ‘believe in this, and if you don’t, I’ll back up my view with this [suicide vest, crusade, inquisition].’ The attitude that Valentine’s Day evokes is that of one who drives a Toyota Prius, it’s not a forceful belief that can be argued against (or blown up), but an insidious smugness. And there’s no match big enough to ignite that gaseous cloud out of existence. [pullquote_right]Smugness is only perceived by the loser in a fight[/pullquote_right]Jake: Who said we don’t love each other every day? You just need to look hard to see it – the guy who helps a woman with her buggy off the tube, the kid who picks up the pound an old lady accidentally drops, or the waitress who holds the door open for someone on crutches. It’s difficult to see amongst all the war and arguments over money or land, but like caring for the environment, small gestures are done every day to remind us if we choose to look. Valentine’s Day with love, as Earth Day for the environment, is a reminder and an opportunity to do something that you wouldn’t usually do. We are taught to be polite by our parents and so acts of love for another, helping others or giving money to the homeless for example, are devalued so that they are no longer special, and it is on Valentine’s Day we are reminded of the true significance of actions such as these, whether Hallmark endorses it or not. And ironically the argument that pulls every single religion together is the one that is used against homosexuals every time religion and sexual orientation are brought up in the same breath – love. Show me a religion that doesn’t want you to love and respect your fellow man, regardless of the arguments against differences in race, gender and sexuality. Like it or not, and whether recognised by the church or not, love between two people is what wins us over, and what we have fought so hard for. Smugness is only perceived by the loser in a fight, so again I suggest that the true meaning of this holiday can’t be seen until experienced. [pullquote_left]The attitude that Valentine’s Day evokes is that of one who drives a Toyota Prius[/pullquote_left]Jamie: It is true that most religions say to love one another—as Douglas Adams wrote one man even theoretically got nailed to a tree for saying how it would be rather good for people to be nice to each other for a change—but one merely has to look at the news for a matter of seconds to see how this message rather fails to instil itself in the hearts of the general world population. Even the major global religions fail to instil the message properly in their own messengers (see those American bishops speaking out against Gay Marriage in the last week) though I am sort of veering dangerously off course from the actual topic at hand.
Long story short (too late), I don’t like being told what to do or what to think on a specific day in the year. Let me love the way I want and when I want, and Hallmark cannot and will not make me feel bad for it. I may sound like a curmudgeon, but that occasional Troubled in Tunbridge Wells mentality is (hopefully) one of the things my current significant other actually enjoys about my company. Although if he doesn’t and he reads this…[pullquote_right]Or we could just be honest – we are jealous[/pullquote_right]Jake: Valentine’s Day is the biggest fear for someone who is single, because of the expectations pushed by romantic comedies, unrealistic dating scenarios and card companies. As a result, we are pushed into making stupid decisions and spend arduous amounts of money celebrating the day of a saint whose main contribution to society is concerned with mass amounts of bloodshed. And yet when you find that one person to be with for a stupidly long period of time, Valentine’s Day is seen as a blessed moment of relief as you spend all that pent-up romantic energy trying to impress the one you love. We could easily sit back and take a cynical stance, glorying in the socioeconomic depravity of it all. Or we could just be honest – we are jealous. As someone who is single, I am happy to admit that I am going to be on my own on February fourteenth and I am ok with that. Because it is my brother’s birthday, I am going to be celebrating familial love, which is just as real and worth celebrating as romantic love. Just because a day is set aside for us to love and be loved in return doesn’t mean we have to confine it to a partner, boyfriend or wife, and that is why we watch romantic comedies, picture ourselves in unrealistic dating scenarios, and eye up the big fluffy cards. That way, when we do get to spend it with someone who we are romantically tied to, we don’t feel so bad about shouting it from the rooftop.
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