It’s Valentine’s Day! Bring on the flowers and the stuffed teddy bears, the candy hearts and the drugstore aisles lined with pink and red. March out the prix-fixe menus, the Hallmark cards and the heightened expectations of those who are young and in love and anxious for a diamond-studded proposal.
Or — as a small but vocal minority would like to suggest — we could just . . . not.
We could, instead, do something else — like call the whole thing off.
Or at least put some age limits around it. Maybe condone celebrations up until the fourth grade, when people still have the common courtesy to bring in a valentine for everyone who sits in their general vicinity. And then, for those who insist, allow it to be picked back up by the over-60 set.
The rest of us? We get a pass.
“It was cool when you’re little. But I kinda learned over the years to dislike it,” says Jay Cataldo, a New York-based life and dating coach who’s been on an anti-Valentine’s Day crusade for several years. “To me, it actually creates more problems in relationships than any good that it does.”
For people who are part of a couple, it can be a cauldron of unmet expectations and an excuse to not be sincerely romantic the other 364 days of the year, he says. And, “if you’re alone, you see all these couples walking around, you see flowers coming to all these cubicles around you, it makes you feel bad about yourself — and it becomes more of a competition.”
Dean Obeidallah, a comedian and radio show host, agrees. “The idea that we are somehow pressured is what I resent,” he says. “The commercials. The walking around in stores — and you feel like if you don’t buy into it, you’re not being romantic, you’re not caring about the person you’re with.”
He thinks that the holiday tradition should be changed so that everyone “in a relationship should give gifts to the single people — anything to make them happy and not make them feel like this day is hanging over them like an albatross.”
As an unmarried restaurateur, Zena Polin finds the holiday doubly dreadful. Even more so this year because it falls on a Saturday. Valentine’s Day customers at her establishment, The Daily Dish in Silver Spring, have a tendency to be slightly demanding. And the whole thing just feels like a slap in the (already wind-burned) face.
“It’s February. It’s cold. You’re not dating anyone. You’re probably at your heaviest weight. You haven’t been able to get outside for months,” she says. And along comes a parade of (seemingly) happy couples on a holiday that leaves single people in the dust.
To combat the hype, she started offering an “Anti-Valentine’s Day Menu” three years ago. This year, it will feature items that include a “Bitter Betty Martini,” a “Love Stinks” cheese board and a dish called “Consciously Uncoupled” — a vegan lentil patty served with beef short ribs.
“We’ll have single women, a priest, divorcees,” she says. “We don’t normally take reservations at the bar, but yesterday I had someone call who said, ‘I’m coming in for the ‘Love Stinks’ and I’ll be there at 8.’ ”
A Web site called Ban Valentine’s Day — “because it’s the prostitute of holidays” — allows readers to submit their own reasons to get rid of the holiday and sells hooded sweatshirts promoting the cause. “Because I don’t need to be reminded that I’m going to die alone and miserable,” wrote one anti-Valentine’s Day supporter. “You can love someone any day of your life,” said another.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan aired his plea to cancel Valentine’s Day on the “CBS Sunday Morning” show last week. “Who was this Saint Valentine, anyway?” he asked. “I assume the patron saint of bad gifts, because that’s how we express our love on Valentine’s Day.”
Karen Lange, co-founder and artistic director of Pinky Swear Productions, found that most of the members of her femalecentric Washington theater group agree that Valentine’s Day “is a bogus Hallmark holiday.” Having discovered that the holiday would be directly preceded by a Friday the 13th this year, they decided to put on a variety show called “My Bloody Valentine,” featuring monologues about terrible breakups and dramatic readings of OkCupid e-mail exchanges gone very, very bad.
“We consider this an antidote to the chocolates and the going out to dinner on the most expensive night of the year and the incredible amount of pressure to get it right with your significant other,” Lange says.
Deborah Carr, a sociologist at Rutgers University who studies relationships, understands why people might resent Valentine’s Day. “The whole holiday conspires to make people feel that they’re not living up to this standard of lovely romance,” she says.
Even those in relationships often feel “disappointed they aren’t feted properly. It’s a lose-lose proposition for most people other than restaurants and card manufacturers.”
Carr says it’s only gotten harder in recent years, with the advent of social media — a forum where it’s all “classic impression management. No one puts up an ugly picture of themselves, or the bad gift they got from CVS.”
The stream of Facebook posts is what put Scott Manning over the edge. The Manchester, N.H., graphic artist was just coming off a breakup a few years ago when the holiday hit, and his news stream was taken over by photos of mixed bouquets and public declarations of everlasting love. “You’re getting hit over the head with it, especially on Facebook,” he says.
So he decided to (half-jokingly) fight back and put up a new page of his own on Facebook. The “Petition to Ban Valentine’s Day” page sees a bump in traffic around this time every year, as people post their rants and ironic e-cards. And the reactions he has received have been decidedly mixed. Some people write him wanting to know how they can take the movement to the streets. Others are furious that he would condemn such a happy occasion.
Manning doesn’t really care. As long as the page provides some solace to some people, it will stay up.
Meanwhile, Manning had a different conundrum this year. He has been out with a woman a few times, and they planned a date for Saturday night before either of them remembered that it was Valentine’s Day.
“I was doing the whole awkwardly freaking out thing when I first found out,” he says. But they talked about it and agreed that it was too much pressure on an early relationship to go out on Valentine’s Day.
So the date is off. And he will toast the occasion in the manner he finds most fitting.
“I’ll probably just sit at home,” he says. “And watch horror movies.”