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Friday, March 24, 2023


Got a case of the Valentine’s Day blues?

As the beloved Valentine’s Day approaches, as Billy Ray Cyrus would say, “Don’t tell my heart, my achy breaky heart.” I Illustration by Khalid Al-Alawi/The Cougar

For some, Valentine’s Day is a designated time to celebrate the people around them and express their love — whether romantically or platonically — with their significant other and loved ones. For others, the thought of the day creates anxiety, can cause depressive thoughts and serves as only a reminder for their loneliness.

Over the years, Valentine’s Day has become over-romanticized with extravagant expectations. Romance doesn’t equate to a dozen red roses or a box of chocolates in a heart-shaped box. Nowadays, people seem to be equating love with materialistic items rather than loving gestures.

Valentine’s Day wasn’t always this way. While hailed as the most romantic day of the year, the history behind it is a little darker than may be expected of a holiday about love.

Where it all started

There are tons of myths about St. Valentine, but the most common is that he was a Roman priest who was imprisoned for performing secret weddings against the wishes of the Catholic Church in the third century. Church authorities sentenced him to death for his actions. Before he was put to death, he sent a lady of his adoration a note signed “Your Valentine,” thus starting the Valentine’s Day tradition.

The holiday has evolved since then, but according to the History Channel, “Valentine’s Day only became associated with love in the late Middle Ages, thanks to the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.”

In the late 1300s, Chaucer wrote the poem “Parliament of Fowls,” which contains a line that reads, “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day when every bird comes there to choose his mate.” Is this where the term ‘love bird’ comes from? Aha! Everything is coming together.

By the 1400s, nobles inspired by Chaucer had begun writing poems known as valentines to their love interests.

The madness

Valentine’s Day sounds good in theory, but the heightened expectations for performative romantic gestures can cause people to feel more stress and less love. Back in the 18th century, poems and handmade cards were the primary form of exchange between lovers on the holiday. Nowadays, consumers spend an average of $161.96 on Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation.

This number varies, but it shows the extent to which people are fixated on the material aspect of the holiday.

Some couples are choosing to opt out of the holiday altogether. According to a National Retail Federation report from January 2019, more than “60 percent of American adults planned to celebrate the romantic holiday a decade ago, today only about half expect to.”

It is almost like now that the holiday has become over-stigmatized by media and retailers, people are beginning to opt out. The whole holiday itself has become over-stigmatized over the years, resulting in more and more people flocking from the holiday.

The “three overwhelming reasons that (people chose not to participate) were that: there was a sense of feeling among some consumers that Valentine’s Day is over-commercialized; people also tend not to participate if they do not have a significant other, and then they just weren’t interested anymore,” said Director of Industry and Consumer Rights for NRF Kathrine Cullen.

In order to avoid the over-commercialized, pressurized aspect of the holiday, people are deciding to take a more laid-back approach, maybe even going back to the roots of the holiday and handwriting poetry to express their love. 

Why the stress?

Why is there still stress associated with Valentine’s Day, even as couples move away from pressure-driven expectations?

This has to do with the practice of constantly comparing oneself to others. One of the reasons behind this has to do with our society’s tendency to post everything on our social media accounts. If we don’t post about it, then it didn’t happen. This especially happens on holidays though because now people have a reason and excuse to post every aspect of their everyday happenings.

“It’s hard, both for those in relationships and those single, not to compare ourselves to the loving couples shown in the commercials,” according to Psychology Today. “We may feel a deep loss if our lives don’t measure up.”

The important thing to remember is that everyone is different. Some individuals get excited about dressing up and having a fancy night on the town, some would rather stay in and order takeout and some want to disregard the holiday altogether. It is all personal preference.

This Feb. 14, avoid a case of the Valentine’s Day blues by remembering that love is subjective and can be expressed any day of the year in a variety of ways. It’s the thought that counts.

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