Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentine's Approacheth

Valentine's Day hasn't been the same since I stopped giving and receiving Transformers valentine cards.

Back then (and it was many years ago FYI), the valentine cards that were dutifully distributed to everyone's classroom desk were a fun little physical manifestation of being liked. Let's set aside the fact that it was largely compulsory. And that it didn't really have anything to do with being liked. To me, it *felt* like I was receiving Valentines from all my friends, even if that group consisted of everyone in Mister Jordan's fifth grade class, even the angry girl and the boy who smelled.

And it hasn't really ever been the same since. I've only spent one Valentine's Day actually in a relationship, and only two or three V-Days with women I was dating, but hadn't been dating long enough to make the day into a DAY. I've spent other fourteenths of February keeping my head down, largely ignorant of the fact (or pretending I was to myself), or lost in an existential hallucinatory haze. You know: as one does.

This year was probably going to slip by unnoticed until a friend mentioned that they were absenting themselves from the process this year. That triggered the usual "Oh, right, February" response in me that it often does. And I was reflecting on the fact that the day really doesn't mean much to me.

Perhaps that's because I live in a culture that has largely shunned V-Day as an outdated expression of romance. Many friends don't acknowledge it at all, find the base concept to be sexist and woeful, prefer to focus against violence against women, or just plain don't like flowers. I grew up in an age that was beginning to moan about Valentine's being a largely retail holiday, and my peers have taken that to heart.

Not everyone, of course. There are still many people who look forward to the day, planning scavenger hunts or elaborate evenings out. The effort seeming to be that if there's ONE day to share love, it might as well be that day. Most protest that they love their partners just as much on the other days, but somehow V-Day is special.

Others use it as a planned excuse to escape from children, relatives, work, social engagements, and other normal occupations, flitting away to someplace romantic or just straightforward while enjoying the other person's company. I don't have a problem with any of these uses of V-Day. Holidays are largely arbitrary anyway, so why not make them into what one wants?

I assume that the reason why it hold little relevance to me is that unlike some other holidays, there's no accepted "single person" way to celebrate. Even if I don't spend much time in the company of my friends and family for Christmas, I can put up lights, tree, and some version of "We Three Kings." Even if I don't leave my living room, I can lean one way and see the local fireworks display out my window. And even if I don't drink a drop or subject myself to confetti, I can still think through the old year and look forward to the new one in a room by myself. All are legitimate ways to celebrate that still retain the spirit.

But the spirit of Valentine's Day (as observed by the wider culture) is a two-person romantic boat ride. There's not an orthodox way to celebrate if you're just a single person. Lots of people have their own ways -- ordering pizza, volunteering at shelters, group dates for collections of single friends, loving EVERYONE instead of just one person) -- but none of these alternate ways follows through with a romantic "coupley" spirit.

It's just not a cultural observance that lends itself to being a single person. In the past, this manifested as a latent hostility to singlehood, with movies and television portraying people racing through the streets to find significant others in time, implying that the audience might want to consider the same if they don't want to be "weird." But we've grown as a society to the point where there's a good standard thread of "oh, this isn't for you, but that's ok. It's a Friday, and there's more chocolate at the store than there might otherwise be." So perhaps that's the feeling I have.

I don't have friends who ask about double-dating on the day anymore, though whether that's from an acknowledgement of my chronic mono-singleosis or them focusing on their important people is anyone's guess. And its weird that at a time in my life when I feel the loneliness of a single life more acutely than in the past, that feeling doesn't intensify around Valentine's Day, as it tended to in other years. I would expect myself to be feeling the separation more strongly, but... instead its just a day I can buy heart-shaped pizza for more money, if I so choose.

But I don't. <shrug> Maybe that's the sign of Optimus Outlook! -- a fighting robot who transforms into a glass that's mostly full.

[He's not all that fun to play with, to be honest.]

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