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Valentine’s Day: A Cauldron Of Unmet Expectations




Valentine’s Day perpetuates a tyrannical fantasy of what love should look like, according to Deborah Carr, a professor of sociology at Boston University. “The whole holiday conspires to make people feel that they’re not living up to this standard of lovely romance,” she told The Washington Post in 2015. Even then, social media was already making matters worse by expanding public practices of self-performance and concealment: “No one puts up an ugly picture of themselves, or the bad gift they got from CVS.”

Nobody really knows how Valentine’s Day began. Depending on your sources, its origins can be traced back to an ancient Roman fertility festival involving sacrificial goats or to a Chaucer poem about birds. “It is one of those mysterious historical or antiquarian problems which are doomed never to be solved,” The Times wrote in 1853.

It’s perhaps just as well that the holiday’s history remains disputed. Either thousands or hundreds of years later, Americans seem likewise unable to agree on whether Valentine’s Day is a hallowed celebration, a marketing scam that entrenches the hegemony of the nuclear family or just a harmless convention that everyone needs to calm down about. a bit about when we were younger and less harried, is a gift, one that emerged from repetition, from doing the same thing every year on this maudlin, crushed-velvet, chocolate-dipped holiday that I love.”

Valentine’s Day is so difficult not because it makes love a commodity but because it presents us with the challenge of looking at the richness, or lack thereof, of our romantic lives,” she writes. “When people say, ‘I hate Valentine’s Day,’ what they often mean is, ‘I hate being forced to take inventory of the quality and volume of love in my life.’”

Few holidays inspire a greater sense of victimization among those who fall outside the charmed circle of its intended devotees than Valentine’s Day. Said one sad single person in The Journal of Business Research: “I would like to extend a warm thanks to Hallmark, the official sponsor of Valentine’s day, for reminding me that without a significant other, how truly worthless my life is.”

But romantic love is not the only kind of love worth honoring, as Briallen Hopper argues in her book of essays, “Hard to Love.” She is one of a growing number of people who now observe “Galentine’s Day,” a holiday on Feb. 13 that Amy Poehler’s character on the TV show “Parks and Recreation” invented to celebrate female friendships.

In Estonia and Finland, Feb. 14 is known as “Friend’s Day,” a celebration of platonic love, as Mélissa Godin reports for Time.

You can also use Valentine’s Day as an occasion to practice self-compassion, as Tara Parker-Pope suggests in The Times.

Credit: New York Times

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