Valentine’s Day: what’s love got to do with it?

The chubby cherub’s cross-bow hasn’t made Sara Sayeed feel warm and fuzzy this February 14th. She asks whether people really have to say it with flowers and cards.

Window-shopping has lost its charm for me. These days, whenever I turn my head to wistfully gaze at Office’s newbies, I end up getting smacked in the face by an obese cherub threatening to “spread the love” or else skewer me with a cross-bow. Honestly, I think I’ll go for the latter, take a leaf out of St. Valentine’s book and just impale myself.

Granted, I’m not one for gooey feelings; however neither am I averse to that whole ‘love’ concept. What bothers me about Valentine’s Day is that its ceaseless onslaught of all things pink and fuzzy has destroyed my savoured perusals and turned my typically rational friends into raving cynics. Frankly, it’s an inconvenience; suffered by the people and capitalised upon by the Hallmark moguls, it really makes you ponder, ‘what’s love got to with it?’

Before you hastily brand me a bitter singleton, take note that most Valentine’s Day angst is suffered by the coupled ones. My housemate who’s been in a near two year-long relationship, commented: “Valentine’s Day and all who revel in it should be locked away in a room where they can inflict their joy on each other. If I have to celebrate one more stupid Valentine’s Day with another bouquet of flowers I am going to make the guy eat it”. Later, I sceptically relayed the story to another paired-off friend and suggested that really, underneath it all, Valentine’s Day might actually be quite nice when you’re in a relationship. She, however, exclaimed: “What, are you serious? It’s a f***ing hurdle – like there isn’t already enough to deal with in a relationship. It’s a case of ‘does he want to do something? Do I want to do something? Should I ask?’”

Console yourselves, fellow singletons: the kinkiest Valentine’s actually gets is a rosy-flushed commercial orgy.

Not so warm and fuzzy then. Buying suitable presents is a particularly fraught issue: what if one person spends more than the other? Is the depth of your love going to be measured by the depth of your pocket? Another friend has decided to throw caution to the wind and buy her boyfriend a pork pie – however, she is attempting to bribe the baker into fashioning a heart-shaped version.

Unfortunately, the high street isn’t much help. While gleefully adorning itself with shiny red decorations, it fails to realise the psychological anxieties loaded upon its would-be consumers: “One week to go! Don’t forget!” in bold pink lettering is hardly soothing. Instead of creating an opportunity to express love, Valentine’s Day is more a reminder of the tedious obligations that come with a relationship.

Significantly, one of the first public acknowledgments of Valentine’s Day took place in Paris on 14 February 1400, with the establishment of ‘The High Court of Love’. The court was created to deal with violence against women, fickle married knights running off with swooning damsels – essentially basic domestic squabbles. On a contemporary Valentine’s Day, couples are not without their share of moral quandaries. According to, divorces, prenuptial agreements and annulments spike around Valentine’s Day — 36%, 28% and 21% respectively in 2005. On a more familiar note, if your boyfriend shows up at your door obscured by foliage, the initial response is probably one of embarrassment at not having come up with the goods yourself. Sure, there is always opportunity to compensate later on but, as my housemate reminds me, after all the wine, food and chocolate, the most physical contact you’ll actually be able to stand is a belly rub. Thus console yourselves, fellow singletons, with the knowledge that the kinkiest Valentine’s Day actually gets is a rosy-flushed commercial orgy.

And what a non-exclusive orgy it has become. There was a time when the monopoly on Valentine’s Day paraphernalia was tastefully retained within the Thornton’s/Clinton’s/flower shop circle – not so anymore. A tentative example is Wetherspoons’s witty and wonderful Valentine’s meal deal: two steaks for £9.99 with the tagline ‘Love me tender’. With this extent of commercial exploitation, it is no wonder that my friend Mariella has demanded, “Whoever sainted that bugger should be shot!”

The Greeting Card Association approximates that one billion Valentines are sent out anually; placing it a nose ahead of Christmas in the card-selling stakes. Add all the wine, chocolates and impromptu trips to Venice and you’ve got yourself a multi-squillion dollar conglomerate.
The pent up resentment over the commercial frenzy has found an outlet in a number of boycott ventures. There is ‘Canada’s Largest Singles Anti-Valentine’s Bash’, the ‘lovers-go-to die’ party against couples, and of course, Singles Awareness Day. The latter, celebrated on the 15th, involves singles giving gifts to one another in celebration of their unattached status. Unfortunately, according to Wikipedia, “the day is often used by less friendly couples to simply remind the singles about their current, uninvolved status”. I suppose it doesn’t really help that it forms the acronym SAD either.

The rife anti-Valentine’s day merchandise which has recently cropped up presents a more chirpy front. Websites such as offer everything from t-shirts to boxer-shorts emblazoned with pictures of cupid and the words ‘Shoo! You little bastard’ or slogans such as: ‘If it weren’t for you, I’d be a different person. Maybe even happy.’

However, all the buoyant Valentine’s bashing has been sucked dry by the greeting card industry. American Greetings now offer a plethora of ‘novelty’ and ‘funny’ valentines. AG’s chief shopper Shannon Coulstan has ominously commented: “everyone’s owning a piece of Valentine’s Day”. Suddenly the jingle ‘be mine’ has assumed a whole new meaning.

The problematic ethos that all this anti-Valentine’s jumble propagates is venerating it as so significant that some form of involvement is compulsory. Whether it’s dinner with your boy- or girlfriend or heading to Ziggys with a tub of gin-infused Ben and Jerrys in one hand and a wallet of VK-bound cash in the other, everyone has to have a slice of the proverbial heart-shaped pie. Singletons feel compelled to drown their sorrows with a bottle of Pinot and a cackle of girlfriends raging about why “boys suck”. One particularly acerbic online blog lamented, “Valentine’s Day is like herpes: just when you think it’s gone for good, it rears its ugly head once more. No wonder some people prefer to call it VD”. For a day dedicated to those pricked by the arrow of Love, really it seems to induce more piqued and prickling sensations.

The question, it would seem, is not whether you believe in or enjoy Valentine’s Day, but rather whether there is any way to actually avoid it. When St. Valentine jumped on a log fire and martyred himself, I wonder if he had any idea of the excruciating Catch-22 situation he was leaving in his wake.

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