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Valentine’s Day isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be

Valentine’s Day isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be

Valentine’s Day isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be
February 14
16:25 2020

It’s that time of year again where romantic comedies play endlessly on TV, rose bouquets pop up at every grocery store and engagement rings get flaunted on every social media platform immediately after New Years Day. 

As children, Valentine’s Day was a cutesy little day spent handing out silly cards and wondering if we had any secret admirers in class. Now, as adults, Valentine’s Day has become a day spent fretting over being single or trying to impress a significant other through cliché and often over-priced gifts. 

Valentine’s Day is a steaming, hot mess of insecurities and over-commercialization that society and social media have managed to set unimaginable standards for what romance and love should look like to the world. 

The history of Valentine’s Day is a muddled and dark one, starting with three different Saint Valentine’s, all martyred, in third-century Rome. One legend alleges that Valentine was a priest who defied the Roman Emperor Claudius II after he decided to outlaw marriage for young men. The emperor claimed that single men were better soldiers than those with wives and families, yet Valentine continued to officiate marriages and was later executed for his crimes. Another story claims that it was a different Saint Valentine who was also executed by Claudius II. 

Another legend claims that Valentine was imprisoned for trying to help Christians escape Roman prisons and during his imprisonment, he fell in love with a young girl who visited him in prison. This is where Valentine sent the first “valentine” greeting, and similarly to the other Valentine legends, he was executed. These bloody stories lent themselves to the popularity and romanticization of Saint Valentine and his — or their — holiday. 

On top of the gruesome history behind this day of love, it has also become a capitalist dream that has spurred an entire market surrounding romance and sex. Cards, chocolates, flowers, jewelry, lingerie, stuffed animals, balloons and dozens of other items are marketed for Valentine’s Day to burn holes in our pockets. In 2019, Valentine’s Day spending totaled to a record $20.7 billion, with the average American spending $161.96, according to the National Retail Federation

The day of love is only perpetuating our homegrown, American consumerism and is not even taking into account the environmental cost of Valentine’s Day. Roses are shipped from Colombia and Ecuador, where the cost of labor is much lower than in the U.S. for California grown roses, according to a study by the Washington Post. There are approximately 30 cargo planes flown from Colombia to Miami, Florida in the three weeks leading up to February 14, which amounts to more than 15,000 tons of flowers delivered in just those three weeks. In the U.S., 28 percent of our greenhouse emissions come from transportation, according to a 2017 report from the Environmental Protection Agency. Greenhouse emissions, specifically carbon dioxide and methane, trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere which contributes to our rising problem of climate change. 

If the rising issue of climate change hasn’t stopped you from thinking twice about buying roses, then maybe the unrealistic expectations of Valentine’s Day will. Lovey-dovey marketing and entertainment media have pushed unrealistic expectations of what love should look like in society. The idea that grand, romantic gestures are the only way to show your love for someone is, well, a bit ridiculous and pricey for some. Buying flowers and jewelry are not the only ways to show your love for someone, despite what romance movies and marketers tell you. 

If you truly love someone, why do you need one day out of the entire year to express your love? Maybe it is the bitterness of being single on the most “romantic” day of the year, but spending $25 on a bouquet of roses and worrying about being “boo’d up?” I’m good, love.

Featured Illustration: Jae-Eun Suh

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Sarah Berg

Sarah Berg

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