Valentine’s Day is the most disgusting and blatantly capitalist holiday of the year — when I’m single. When I am in a relationship, it is a beautiful, romantic day to celebrate the most wonderful aspect of the human experience: love. It is also a great excuse to overindulge in chocolate.
But why have we, as a society, chosen to make this one day such a big deal? It hangs like a bulging pink cloud over the entire month of February.
Turn your calendar over from January, and you cannot ignore the huge red heart pasted right in the middle of the page. It is inescapable.
The Valentine’s Day craze starts young. I remember my mother bent over our kitchen table, hot-gluing shimmering paper hearts to a shoebox to create my valentine box when I was in kindergarten. Every year we dreamed bigger. The box became more sparkly and more pink with each passing Valentine’s Day.
It was important to get right because the valentine box was the ultimate measure of social status in grade school. Sure, everyone was supposed to give the whole class a valentine each, but there were still ways to subtly play favorites. You gave your friends and your crush the best ones from the package and gave the kid who picked his nose during every gym class the plainest. I lived in constant fear of receiving sub-standard cards and knowing I had been designated as unworthy of the fancy and expensive cards that came with stickers or candy. By ensuring the box on my desk was precisely the right shade of pink, I thought the prettiest valentines were sure to be slipped inside.
Now the only person I receive valentines from is my mother. They come two days late from the Fordham post office and contain passive-aggressive reminders to call home more often. However, I do not take the noticeable lack of Hallmark cards from friends and lovers as a sign that I am unloved. It has been years since those grade-school paper hearts and I have learned to relax my idea of what Valentine’s Day should be.
For women, there seems to be a more specific sort of anxiety placed around the holiday. Young girls are taught to seek approval and affection, and this heightens during a time of year when your worth seems to be measured by whether someone bought you a heart-shaped box of chocolates from Walgreens. It is easy to fall into that mindset and feel bad about being lonely on the most romantic day of the year.
Yet this generation of young women seems to be better at tuning out that noise. I wanted to learn how women at Fordham have deconstructed all the crushing expectations associated with Valentine’s Day and learned to enjoy it.
I asked several cast members of “The Vagina Monologues,” the celebrated feminist play written by Eve Ensler and put on at Fordham last weekend by the Women’s Empowerment Club, about their feelings towards Valentine’s Day.
Kate McGuire, FCRH ’20, said she thought Valentine’s Day has become less stressful for modern women.
“Our generations of women are empowered and independent,” she said. “They don’t really care [about Valentine’s Day]. And the women who do? Good for them.”
Kiera Mullany, FCRH ’23, admitted that she does not pay much attention to the holiday.
“Most years I don’t even know it’s happening,” she said.
She said she thought Valentine’s Day was actually less stressful for single people.
“I feel worse for the couples on Valentine’s Day because they have pressure,” she said. “I can just go home and watch ‘Love, Actually.’”
Mullany also added that affection for a partner should not be confined to one day of the year.
“Anything you would do on Valentine’s Day to make it special, you should do all the time,” she said.
Shelby Daniel, FCRH ’20, said she sometimes lets the pressure surrounding Valentine’s Day get to her.
“Sometimes I do feel kind of overwhelmed with all of the hearts and the pink and the red and everything in your face,” she said. “I don’t think it’s uncommon to get a little sad if you’re single on Valentine’s Day, but also I go out of my way to make sure I spend time with friends.”
Daniel also shared the special connection she feels to her family on the holiday. She described the unexpected care package her parents sent her during her freshman year on Valentine’s Day and what it meant to her.
“For me, that was so special because it was my first year of college, my first year alone … It just reminded me that I love them,” she said.
Erin Benedict, FCRH ’20, said she and her partner plan to keep things simple this year.
“We’re not doing gifts because Christmas was too recent,” she said. She also shared why she thinks Valentine’s Day can be valuable for couples. “I like the idea that there’s an excuse to do something with your partner if you’re not people who prioritize themselves.”
Whether you are single, in a relationship or just planning on scrolling through your Tinder matches all day, Valentine’s Day can be a fun and special day shared with the people you love. Chocolates and roses are nice, but so is going to your favorite restaurant with friends or just watching your favorite guilty pleasure film by yourself.
My boyfriend and I might get dinner this Valentine’s Day. We haven’t decided yet. He suggested ice skating the next day at Bryant Park or maybe visiting MOMA. What matters more to me than how much money he spends or how cute our Instagram pictures turn out is that he’s excited to spend time with me.
I am going to make sure I spend Valentine’s Day appreciating all the love in my life. And I’ll actually remember to call my mom this year.