Today’s valentine: where has the special meaning of Valentine’s Day gone?

Image courtesy of Murphy Jewelers

Roses are red, violets are blue, Valentine’s Day is near, are you going to buy me something new?

Valentine’s Day sparks romantic, loving feelings within those in committed relationships, as well as single individuals. Expressing love and care towards anybody is not only considerate, but also necessary. Yet Valentine’s Day seems to be the only day where showing love towards a loved one determines the status and outcome of a romantic relationship.

Take this opinion for what you want. Call it a sad, desperate message from a single, lonely young woman. Call it a cry for help from a girl who has nothing better to do than watch Netflix on her Friday nights. But the societal problem associated with Valentine’s Day remains. In order to truly understand why we celebrate this day in the first place, we have to look back on its history.

Valentine was a saint of the Catholic Church during the reign of Emperor Claudius II in the third century. Claudius II had prohibited all acts of young marriage because he believed younger, unwed men were more suitable for becoming soldiers. St. Valentine then performed marriages of all ages in secret, and was sentenced to death by the Emperor. This saint in particular was a true soldier and defender of romance and love.

Now, the long-time popular holiday of St. Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. The true meaning of Valentine’s Day is an expression of our own love for others. But this does not mean we are required to shower our loved ones with gifts that have absolutely no meaning to them. A simple reminder of our feelings for one another is priceless compared to a dozen roses that will be dead in a short week.

According to statistics from Time, in 2012 each person in the United States was expected to shell out an average of $123 for the holiday. Expected? I understand this is a statistic, but the term “expected” only makes me want to run for the hills—fast. Why are people spending so much on this particular day? Why does Valentine’s Day seem to be one of the few days when love must be outwardly, physically and materialistically expressed out of the year? Perhaps we should follow the actions of St. Valentine and simply defend our love for the ones we care for.

Giving gifts and fancy dinners is always an immense amount of fun and enjoyment, but among couples, it seems as if these rituals are expected. It is natural to enjoy being showered with love and affection—both emotionally and materialistically. However, Valentine’s Day in particular serves as a condition of the relationship. It honestly baffles me that receiving diamonds, candy and flowers can make or break a relationship after just one day. Flowers that die, candy that causes cavities and jewelry that may be outgrown or lost should never determine the happiness of any relationship.

The people who are not in a committed relationship—including myself—have been taught by society that we are supposed to feel left out, sad and lonely; that Valentine’s Day is intended for “happy” couples to shove their artificial affection straight into our faces with bright red balloons and teddy bears as tall as we are. As singles, we are expected to mourn our pathetic loneliness at home, indulging in empty calories and watching sappy romantic comedies that lack any relevance to our lives. All in all, in order to enjoy Feb. 14, we are required by the norms of society be in an intimate, impassioned relationship.

What about our families? How about our friends? Just because one is not romantically involved with another should not mean love cannot be expressed in other ways towards other people. I enjoy expressing my love towards my family and closest friends. As singles, we should not languish among the many couples out there, but be happy and content with ourselves.

Another ridiculous part of this specific day pertains to women who feel a competitive edge based on whether she has received a gift, as well as what the gift is. I have witnessed several scenarios of young women and girls who walk around with a huge teddy bear in their arms next to an empty-handed girl with the envious look in her eyes.

To many women, Valentine’s Day is “the big game”: to show off those flowers to single girls, to gloat about the romantic surprise from the boyfriend, and then to ask, “What did your boyfriend get you?” This problem—among many others—is just one reason why the meaning of Valentine’s Day is lost and wandering in the abyss.

I used to be the bitter woman who hated anything red, pink, or heart-shaped being held by another ecstatic woman. However, Valentine’s Day is not the day to dwell in the single life. It is a day to honor your love for anybody in your life: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, grandparents, and yes, significant others. This holiday is not about having an excuse to be superlatively affectionate and loving—that should be expressed every day of your relationship— but a day to simply remind others around you of how much they mean to you, with or without clichéd Hallmark messages and crowded, expensive restaurants.

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