The sweet smell of pheromones has been
replaced by rotting flower bouquets and half-eaten boxes of candy.
The cards have been read, checked for the important Hallmark seals
and tossed out. Valentine’s Day is officially over. Men,
relax; the pressure to impress your wives, girlfriends, mothers,
etc. is over, until the ever-inane Sweetest Day arrives at least.
But we women still have a few more weeks to brag — oohing and
aahing over the gifts we received.

Laura Wong

Every year I celebrate the onset of Valentine’s with a
severe case of sarcasm and indifference. Although Valentine’s
Day is traditionally intended to commemorate the delight of
romance, society has misconstrued the holiday as an excuse for the
country to increase its gross domestic product; in other words,
corporate interests dipped in chocolate. According to the Greeting
Card Association, an estimated one billion Valentine’s cards
are sent each year, making it the second largest card-sending
holiday of the year, while the Society of American Florists
estimated 156 million roses were sold for Valentine’s Day in
2003. Thus a day of affection turns into a day of consumption, with
couples clamoring to prove their love in the form of Teddy bears
and candlelight dinners. The usual rule of thumb: The more you
spend, the more you love.

At this point I probably sound like the proverbial CSF —
cynical single female. For those who have never been so lucky as to
be single on Feb. 14, the CSF is the person who vehemently opposes
Valentine’s Day — a Valentine’s grinch of sorts,
who would rather have a root canal than down another one of those
trite candied hearts. But can you blame me? Society has conditioned
women in particular to gauge their self-image via this day, right
after birthdays and Christmas. If you do not receive any gifts with
especially hefty price tags, consider yourself worthless and in
need of improvement. Being giftless further negates your chances at
bragging rights. Contrary to popular notion, most women pay little
attention to the creativity or impetus behind a gift selection;
baubles or jewelry by Tiffany’s are steeped in cliché
and yet women yearn to receive them. This is because the real treat
of Valentine’s Day is not the present itself, but the element
of competition, comparing with girlfriends and obtaining the
coveted envy of others. It is not so much what is acquired as how
many people know about it. Why else do you think people are so
eager to receive flowers and gifts in the workplace?

Many bachelorettes do their utmost to escape the leprosy of
singleness, if even for one day. Every major female-oriented
publication boasts ideas for a dateless holiday. Some of the more
revolting suggestions: “Wallow in Self-Pity for One
Day” and the incomparable “Pretend You Have a Secret
Admirer: Send a dozen red roses to your workplace and sign the
card: ‘To the most beautiful woman in the world.’
You’ll feel so special and no one will be the wiser.” With
about 85 percent of all Valentine’s cards actually purchased
by women, the latter is more disgusting than improbable. Some
women, though, opt for a more noble approach. Instead of sending
gifts themselves, they beg men to do it for them. Many girls would
rather feverishly scroll through their cell phones and solicit the
most vapid men as dates — even if this entails suffering
through a terrible dinner and even worse conversation — than
spend a night alone.

There exists a profound paradox here. We as women pride
ourselves in being modern, more intelligent and autonomous than our
mothers. We do things for ourselves and not for men; you’ll
never catch us bare-foot and pregnant in the kitchen! Yet once a
year we tell feminism to take a respite and exchange our war cry
with superficiality and pathetic groveling; anything to avoid the
risk of being labeled a “dateless wonder.”

There is nothing innately wrong with exchanging affection with
loved ones on Valentine’s Day, but there is a problem when
actual love is replaced by an artificial display of love.
Valentine’s Day should be a time to commemorate special
relationships, not to upstage and marginalize others. If you choose
to, go ahead and celebrate with your mate, friends or even
yourself. But do so out of personal choice, not out of the pressure
to publicly consummate your love and your worth to the world.

 

Correction: It has been brought to my attention that my last
column lacked some information. When discussing Nobel Prize
nominations, I failed to mention that individuals other than those
on the Nobel Committee can make nominations (e.g. members of
national governments, international courts of law, and foreign
affairs leaders). The questionable President Bush and Tony Blair
nominations should be equally attributed to these people as well. I
apologize for any misunderstanding this may have caused.

Krishnamurthy can be reached at
“mailto:sowmyak@umich.edu”>sowmyak@umich.edu.

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