At this time of year, the world seems to divide into two camps: people who quite like Valentine’s vs. people who really don’t.
Most of my friends and many of my exes, though thankfully neither of my current partners, seem to fall into the latter category. About 75% of them grumble on about how you don’t need a special day to tell someone that you love them and that the whole concept of a Hallmark Holiday is inherently offensive. They also suggest that this culturally mandated jollity leaves a small number crying in the corner because Valentine’s Day is apparently just nature’s way of slapping single people in the face.
You know what, though, Valentine’s Day moaners? It’s time to lighten the fuck up, and here’s why.
Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark Holiday created just to sell cards, though, right? Or alternatively it’s an ancient pagan tradition co-opted by the Pope, and we should all stick two fingers up at it so as to object to Christian imperialism?
I’m not going to try and give you a history lesson here. I will point out this, though: not only is the concept of St. Valentine probably bullshit but so is nearly everything anyone says about it. See also: cherubs are not cute pudgy little flying babies but are, in fact, fucking terrifying.
Humans seem to naturally throw parties at about the same time as each other all around the world throughout history. I’m quite enamoured of this concept. Over time, these festivals end up being drawn together.
You’ll hear people say this has something to do with Christianity demonising the natural earth religions or whatever, but that doesn’t usually stand up to much scrutiny. People think Pope Gelasius invented Valentine’s Day to stop the Romans celebrating the pagan festival of Lupercalia much, and that Halloween and Christmas are ancient pagan traditions that were stolen by the big bad church, but there’s really no evidence for any of it.
Whatever the origins, we’ve had paper Valentines for far longer than we’ve had Hallmark selling them to us. There’s at least one that we can accurately date to the 15th century; she wrote the date on the letter and everything.
So Valentine’s Day could just be thought of like a sweet little blip of happiness there in the middle of what is objectively the worst month of the year, right?
Much as everyone from Plato to Pepys has been grumbling about the youth of today for all of history in much the same way as we do now. So too have the mass media moaned about Valentine’s Day as much as they’ve advertised it. Here, for example, is a quote from the New York Daily Tribune in 1847:
“There was a time when Valentine’s Day meant something. Then it was a business of real lovers, and there was sweetness under its delicate, shy disguise. Good graces! That’s gone long ago. Now nobody makes more than a joke of it. [...] We hate this modern degeneracy, this miscellaneous and business fashion. Send a Valentine by the penny post too? Bah! Give us the sweet old days when there was a mystery about it.”
It would seem that being grumpy about the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day is as old as - well, as the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day. (You can read the article for yourself here, incidentally; it’s rather lovely.)
Here’s the thing: being grumpy about stuff usually doesn't make things better. I don’t mean important things, obviously, but the little things, though? It’s usually easier just to shrug and either enjoy or ignore it as you see fit.
Here’s an exercise for you: rank the following ways to spend a day from best to worst.
Doing some small, lovely thing with someone you care about, potentially involving delicious food and a pretty card and getting laid.
Having a perfectly ordinary, unremarkable day in which nothing particularly bad or particularly special happens but that is nevertheless nice enough by itself.
Spending a day being grumpy and unhappy about the fact that other people are doing a thing you don’t like, and you either can’t or won’t join in.
Here’s a hint: I’ve kind of already done it for you.
I’m not saying you have to fall madly in love with the concept of Valentine’s Day, I promise. I’m as prone to wanting to punch capitalism in its silly patriarchal face as the next Guardian-reading, Green-voting, too-much-jewellery-wearing hippie. Just - seriously, guys, lighten up a little, will you?
Love Valentine's Day or fucking hate it? Let us know in the comments!
Abi Brown is a freelance writer and general pen-for-hire devoted to sexual deviancy, far-left politics and wearing too much jewellry. Find her at her website or @see_abi_write.
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