Despite the ardent capitalism endemic in American society, recent years have seen a backlash against the over-commercialization of many once-beloved holidays. Families across the United States attempt to return to the “original intent” of celebrations like Christmas and Thanksgiving, emphasizing the togetherness and family spirit generally evoked by the holidays, especially since the economic downturn has hurt pocketbooks everywhere. Yet one special occasion, already much-maligned, has gotten the even shorter end of the stick — if that was even possible.
I speak of Valentine’s Day, which, at least at first, has nothing going for it. The romantic sentimentality it is meant to celebrate is commonly derided as a hackneyed mockery of true love, a superficial effort to get partners to buy each other chocolate, flowers or whatever the typical present du jour is, as if sex were something people could simply buy with token offerings. The real problem with Valentine’s Day probably has nothing to do with this. Again, actual holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, survive despite the fact that they’re routinely blasted as having grown too maudlin and separate from their original character, because they’re holidays.
That is, most people can actually take time off during them to rest, recover and come back refreshed to their obligations. Valentine’s Day, by comparison, may be a major social and commercial phenomenon, but it is not exactly a recognized holiday in terms of free time. It’s safe to say most business will not grant their employees some kind of special leave to be with their significant others on Valentine’s Day, and for all the federal government has done to help Christmas and Thanksgiving be economic successes, as well as times for families to celebrate together, Valentine’s Day has gotten comparatively little, if any, attention from Congress or from other government action.
To properly take advantage of Valentine’s Day, then, takes a bit of pragmatism and perhaps more than a bit of careful prioritizing. The one advantage to having made this day such a social custom is that the grand majority of people recognize it as a time to be with partners: thus, particularly if Feb. 14 happens to fall on a weekend, each couple has a ready-made excuse to avoid other engagements, no matter their nature.
The “original intent” of Valentine’s Day, as much as there is one to it, is to celebrate romantic love. Playing on this bit of social psychology gives couples a bit more latitude to choose how to spend their own time on a day that, after all, should be for them. If couples feel like a day together, they can always report themselves sick to any relevant institutions and go off on their own. Foodies can cook meals together, film buffs can go see movies, the outdoorsy types can take walks and hikes. Or, of course, they can just stay home and, y’know, fuck. Christ, do I have to spell it out for you like that?
Morales is a member of the class of 2011.