When I decided to write a blog about Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be best to look into its origins in order to understand it better. Before finding any information however, I found a lot of Google suggestions for previous searches along the lines of ‘why do we celebrate valentine’s day?’, ‘what is valentine’s day for?’ and ‘where does st. valentine live and could I take him in a fight?’ which struck me as the desperate last minute searches of men trying to find a historical reason to opt out of valentine’s day this year, by swotting up on its origins so they can explain to their partners that it’s all a scam invented by greetings card companies, teddy bear manufacturers, and anyone that can somehow profit from shit poetry. That’s the obligatory sexism out of the way.
I don’t know if it’s the company I keep, or if it’s a growing portion of society, but it seems that more and more people don’t really buy into Valentine’s Day, which I can understand to an extent. I think any occasion based on the prescriptive displaying of a certain emotion feels fake, even if that emotion is fundamentally good. Christmas and Easter don’t have a particular remit on how you’re supposed to feel, aside from ‘Christmassy’, and ‘sceptical of the relationship between chocolate rabbits and a resurrected Jewish carpenter’, respectively. You’re supposed to feel good at Christmas, sure, and there are clichés of how that’s usually achieved, but generally the idea is to do what makes you happy. Valentine’s Day is supposed to celebrate love, but only one very specific kind of love, the romantic love felt between two people in a long-term relationship. It’s a bit like if Mother’s Day was a celebration, not for all mothers, but only for German step-mothers with a part time job in retail. It would be limiting, is what I’m saying.
The symbolic language of Valentine’s Day is also very limited, consisting of only one colour and, aside from images of typical gifts such as boxes of chocolates and roses, only one symbol, that of the anatomically incorrect heart shape. While useful as a shorthand for a common emotion, the symbol for love is also responsible for, among other things, novelty confectionary labelled with unimaginative platitudes of possessive love (‘be mine’, ‘forever yours’, ‘I own you’ etc), which to my knowledge has never been successfully deployed as a method for wooing a potential mate, or indeed for anything at all. I would also like to point out at this juncture, that Love Hearts are not in the shape of love hearts, they are in the shape of miniature discs, with love hearts embossed onto them, although I realise that would be a less evocative name. We also have the love symbol to thank for allowing Americans and foreign tourists the ability to express their love for the state of New York in t-shirt form, or at least manifest the intention to wear a popular shirt with that sentiment on it, as an assurance that they visited New York, and all they got was a crappy t-shirt. And possibly an increase in blood sugar, cholesterol and smugness.
Such is the power of the love symbol, that a few years ago, Google tried to copyright the act of making a love symbol with your hands, popularised by Taylor Swift and unimaginative users of Instagram. Specifically they wanted users of Google Glass to be able to make the symbol with their hands in sight of the glasses, communicating to your social media that you ‘liked’ whatever you were looking at. How far has the symbol of love fallen, that it now acts as an icon to demonstrate a mild appreciation for any picture or sentence you see on the internet? And aside from words, this symbol is all we have left with which to portray committed, romantic love on Valentine’s Day.
If St. Valentine was alive to see this, he would probably wonder how he managed to live for hundreds of years, but more to the point, he would wonder if ‘love’ has been too commercialised for Valentine’s Day to be a viable opportunity to express a genuine sentiment. And he would wonder why his own day doesn’t proportionally reflect his other patronages. I propose we remedy this, and next year, in the name of St. Valentine, we celebrate not only love, but also plague, epilepsy and bee keeping. Feel free to verify those on Google, and let’s hope that next year, a lazy man, looking for an out before Valentine’s Day, stumbles across a few more suggestions in his online search – ‘Why do we celebrate valentine’s day?’, ‘what else was st. valentine the patron of?’ and ‘cheapest species of bee’.
Next time on the Bandwagon, I explain that Freddos will continue to increase in price indefinitely, no matter how incredulous you pretend to be, or how many times you tell Facebook how brilliant the 90s were.