Who’s to Blame for Valentine’s Day

Now, I’m generally a rather cold-hearted, unromantic girl. I hate traditional romance novels, sentimental ballads and movies with a happily-ever-after ending. Not just because they are trash but because they are unrealistic. Their depiction of love is so far removed from my experiences of it. Maybe some people do get swept off their feet and never have any doubts or arguments or issues in their relationships but I have yet to meet anyone who has. Maybe some men really do perform these big romantic gestures to win their love’s affection but I don’t know any who have. Basically, I think it’s a lie. A lie force-fed us to the point that it becomes more than a fantasy or a fairytale but a fairytale some believe in, or even expect.

Valentine’s Day is the day that all this is meant to be celebrated. That’s what the problem with it is. It’s the expectation of some romantic gesture, or of someone to breeze into our lives and change everything. This is never going to happen. Yes, people meet people and fall in love but it’s not some sudden thunderbolt moment that fixes everything and makes us happy forever. Love brings its own problems – it takes up time; it forces you to compromise; it causes pointless arguments. Yet, for some reason, on Valentine’s Day, people forget the reality and expect the fantasy to come to life.

I have a confession. Even I am not immune to this. I don’t expect my boyfriend to plan some sort of ridiculous date on a roof involving a candlelit dinner followed by dancing. I don’t expect him to surprise me with a massively overpriced bunch of roses or a useless item of jewellery. I expect us to enjoy a nice dinner that we both cook, a bottle of wine and…each other’s company. However, I am ashamed to say a tiny part of me has always expected to discover that some card from a secret admirer has snuck its way into my bag or through my letterbox. Maybe I’m just so arrogant I expect men to fall in love with me wherever I go and all be waiting for Valentine’s Day to proclaim their love. Or maybe I’m just human and want to be loved. Not that I don’t know that I am loved. It’s just, I guess I take that love for granted because I know about it – a love that was a secret, now, that’s a whole new level. Of course, that wouldn’t even be love, which makes this even more stupid. I know.

So who’s to blame for this? St Valentine? Nah. Valentine’s Day as we know and despise it has nothing to do with the saint, other than the fact that St Valentine’s feast day used to be celebrated on the 14th February. In fact, very little is known about the original St Valentine, which is why it was removed form the General Roman Calendar in 1969. While there are modern embellishments involving performing secret marriages and even sending the first valentine to the saint’s lover, there is no historical basis for this. Such stories are just more of the lies that surround Valentine’s Day.

In fact, the first recorded association of valentine with love is found in a poem by Chaucer.

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

(For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day// When every bird comes there to choose his mate)

But is it really fair to blame Chaucer for all of the problems that Valentines Day causes? Perhaps it’s because I’m biased (what can I say, I love his sense of humour) but I don’t think it is. Sure, he started it, technically speaking, but it’s not him painting all these images of secret admirers or definitive moments in our love lives. (Besides, give Troilus and Criseyde a read and you’ll see what he thinks of sentimentality. Troilus isn’t exactly the most sympathetic of characters, what with all his pathetic whining.) It’s us. Well, us and all the wannabes churning out romantic trash in various art forms. But those wannabes are people too, albeit talentless people who rely on meaningless cliches. So where do they get it from? It must be embedded in our collective sub-conscious somehow. But how? I have no idea and I can’t be arsed to try to work it out now. The point is, they write about it because they believe in it and, more importantly, they know it will sell because we believe in it.

If we didn’t believe in all the lies that surround Valentine’s Day, we wouldn’t be disappointed by it. Those who are in relationships could celebrate it by spending some time together – just don’t expect any more than that – and for the love of Chaucer, don’t buy stupid trinkets – spending money is not the way to express your feelings for someone. Those who are single, either ignore it or celebrate your freedom – remember, there’ll be no Valentine’s Day arguments for you.

OK, OK, I know. All this is easier said than done. Those stupid expectations have a way of sneaking into our thoughts, right? Just try not to entertain them. And remember, if you’re sitting at home feeling like crap because of what a let down yesterday was, you’ve only got yourself to blame.

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