Kevin Quigley, BA Linguistics and Japanese Studies
Have you slapped a bran muffin out of your flatmate’s grimy, gorilla fingers after he compared your love life to that of Dobby the elf’s? Do you spend Saturday evenings watching You’ve Got Mail over two (three) bottles of white wine and a bowl of popped edamame? No one is judging you, but we need to have a talk about Valentine’s Day.
To be honest, I’m not the best person to distribute advice on the subject. Last February, I spent my holiday limply draped across a friend’s double bed: like a damp noodle, double fisting heart-shaped champagne flutes, and sloshing imitation Prosecco onto a bedazzled throw blanket. The year before, my mom took me out for a special Pizza Hut dinner because “if you’re going to be pathetic, you might as well do it with your mom and not with the 2006 cast of Gilmore Girls.”
The truth is, I’ve been a sloppy train wreck longer than Michelle Obama has been losing her mind over free-range poultry. Thankfully, I’ve learned some important lessons along the way that are relevant to all those prone to the Valentine’s Day blues. Namely, being lame is not cute. We are not Drew Barrymore, and life is not a 90s rom-com movie that ends with you sucking the face off of Matthew McConaughey. For some reason, the media has glamourised messiness so that weeping in the shower or throwing up on a Scandinavian tourist has become ‘quirky’ and ‘cute’. But being a sad and ignorant human does not do anything for anyone. Empower yourself! Buy a beret! Be a hero! I may be a bit of a shit show, but my hips don’t lie.
It’s time for us to reclaim Valentine’s Day, but first we’ve got to deconstruct the holiday and examine its parts. Valentine’s Day never used to be the commercial mess that it is today. Though the majority of Anglo-American cultures have come to associate February 14th with romantic love, in the past many people celebrated Valentine’s Day as the advent of spring and fun timez. In fact, it wasn’t until Geoffrey Chaucer, 14th century poet and dolphin-riding enthusiast, wrote a poem about sexually aroused birds on their way to a secure a wholesome shag that the general public went bananas and decided to make Valentine’s Day about love and eroticism.
If I was your great aunt Kathy, embittered because the public refuses to take Victorian step dancing SERIOUSLY and sad because the council will not allow her to adopt anymore feline companions, I would say that “Valentine’s Day is manufactured by greeting card companies because profits are down and Obama is a socialist.” But even if Valentine’s Day is a product of capitalism, we can always redefine it to suit our own interests.
Here’s a scenario for you: Karen and you are best friends—the kinds who list themselves as “in a relationship” with one another on Facebook because you mean business. Last summer Karen’s hamster, Nicolas Tesla, fell into a bowl of Crunchy Nut milk and drowned. She was upset for over 45 minutes and you were there by her side to guide her through her grief. So a fun thing you could do for Valentine’s Day with Karen is to conduct a rodent séance in memoriam. Crack open a bottle of sparkling rosé, put on a Frank Ocean album, and get out your Ouija board for a memorable evening with your double best chum.
Don’t worry if you’re someone who rejects magic and abhors communication with the nether-realm. There are alternative ways to celebrate February 14th no matter who you are. If you’re feeling bummed about being single, cut out pictures of your favorite boy/girl band (mine is the Twelve Apostles), make them into paper dolls, insert them half way into your pockets so that the tops of their heads are poking out (hey guys), and go about your day as you normally would. You can sing to them, tell them about the time you jumped out of a moving van because your sister said your Native American name would be “Running Pig” and you were FED UP. Hug them lots, and love them fully. You’ll feel like a star knowing that you’ve got your paper doll babies forever by your side. The point is that you’ve got options– even if you’re sad about being single.
Also something I’d like to mention: do not rag on couples who choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day. At one of the secondary schools in my hometown, there was a group of angst-y, Hot Topic-clad, teenage jerk-munchers who used to ride around in a 1998 Honda Civic and throw eggs at kids who decorated their cars/lockers for Valentine’s Day. They thought that they were being edgy and controversial, but when you ruin someone else’s good-natured fun, you’re just a menace.
If you’re single and bummed out about it, then I would suggest leaving your flat and doing something with some friends (cats). Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday this year, so get out there and do something! Go to a poetry slam about beekeeping and bloodlust. Find a café where you can pet an owl! Eat a flower—who gives a damn?! The options are endless! The thing is, you can assign new meaning to whatever you want.
Last year, my friend put a paper crown on her head and handed out stickers to dog owners because celebrating dogs and not humans makes her happy. Valentine’s Day is also a good opportunity to wear an inordinate amount of body shimmer. After all, holidays are great excuses to let loose and behave in a way that you normally wouldn’t. That’s why my mom was wrong when she criticised me for handing out custom-made heart-shaped hard candy with phrases like “bite it” and “you’re worse than a dictator” to my high school enemies.
Maybe you’re single this year and decide to celebrate your friendships because you’d be a tequila-induced slob without them. And if you happen to be in a relationship next year, then you can choose to use Valentine’s Day to celebrate that. It’s important to know, however, that nothing should make you feel bad about your current situation. We’re all trying our best and everyone’s journey is different (I know this because I’ve seen every Oprah episode ever recorded #thug). At the end of the day, holidays are just holidays. Have fun with them, ignore them, despise them, wave them around in people’s faces to prove your worth—the choice is yours. Valentine’s Day is just a thing that people created to celebrate something—it doesn’t matter what. Watch a crappy movie, make a smoothie, destroy the patriarchy, or take a walk. Whatever you decide to do, I hope that it’s something that is enriching and meaningful to you. As for me? You can find me in the street, cackling like a Batman villain, aggressively throwing gone-off chocolates at a very bewildered bio student because I have claimed him as mine and why the hell not?