An opinion piece

‘To love or be loved’

That is the question.

It comes around early every 365 days. February 14th.

It is an event marked by an abundant plethora of teddy bears, love letters, chocolates, and various special activities. These unique 24 hours are characterized by a staggering, if not excessive, amount of distinct expressions of affection and special activities that shall not be explicitly mentioned. Thank you for your understanding.

Valentine’s day is particularly memorable to various people for so many different reasons. After all, all bets and expectations are placed on this day every year to see how surprised one would be. Basically, bragging rights. It’s the prime time to show how much you care for that special person and how much you’re cared for in return. All of this is based on your own personalised experienced.

It’s essential to note that most expectations are hardly ever met, especially on this day. Is this due to them being unrealistic, or just being stuck with unreliable partners. One cannot say.

As much as it’s a full 1,440 minutes of love, it’s also unequivocally, a day of heartache. While many are all boo’ed up, there are some, silently lurking in the shadows hating, observing, and providing stark commentary to the whole fiasco. (I’ve been unashamedly a member of the latter group before, a few times to mention. Presenting case 1; ‘Flower, it’s even plastic’)

Whichever arrow you are hopelessly shot by cupid; either hate or love, it’s all significant to making the festivities that much more enduring.

Despite how captivating the events of day of love are, it’s crucial for us to remember why it’s so universally practiced and celebrated.

The Mysterious History of the day.

The true origins of the event can only be perfectly described as an enigma. As with most of human culture, there are many perspectives and shades of opinions of how it all came to be. One thing we can undoubtedly establish, is that romance has always been the long-standing theme.

Our quest for the knowledge of Valentine’s weaves through many eras of ancient which includes Roman festivals, Christian martyrdom, and Medieval folklore.

There are beliefs that the celebration may have begun with the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia; a spring and fertility rite held in mid-February. During this festival, young men would draw names of young women from a jar, thereby forming temporary couples.

As the Roman Empire Christianized, the festival evolved and developed into a celebration honouring the legacy of Saint Valentine.

The most popular legend however, associates Valentine’s Day with Saint Valentine, a third-century Roman priest who defied Emperor Claudius II’s ban on marriage for young men, as he believed that single men were made for better soldiers. (Now that I properly contemplate it, my sorry a** would have been among the first set to be drafted. That’s beside the point) Valentine continued to perform the marriages in secret, leading to his eventual imprisonment and execution.

Myth has it that, during his imprisonment, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and sent her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” inspiring the beautiful tradition of exchanging love notes on this day.

By the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day had become notable with courtly love in Europe. Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetry further romanticized the day, therefore solidifying its connection with love and romance.

In the 18th century, Valentine’s Day became more commercialized with the exchange of cards, flowers, and confectionery. Today, it’s celebrated worldwide as a day to express love and affection for romantic partners, friends, and family, a tradition that continues to evolve and captivate hearts across the globe.

It is safe to say the occasion impacts everyone deeply despite their current relationship situation.

How does all that translate into present day?

We all have different interpretations of Valentine’s Day. These standpoints are primarily shaped by experiences and stories passed through connections. For example, this writer’s earliest memory was in primary school. This was when it was etched in mind that most gifts do not necessarily equate in value and thoughts. A box of chocolates and a nice journal was given, and yet pencils and white socks were received. Does this writer hate the day? Is he bitter? Not quite. But is he scarred by the experience? Most definitely. (Please do not give people underwear as gifts, especially on Valentines. There’s no way it makes any sense. And no, I don’t think its subjective.)

From a strong personal perspective, the very essence of the celebration has since lost its initial spark. There are hardly any true partisans to the cause of Love anymore. Signs of the times. Valentine’s is now so closely intertwined with consumerism, that lavish and extravagant displays are miles preferred to tear-jerking heartfelt displays of affection. Now, we aren’t necessarily delving into the subjectivity of gift giving, but rather questioning the actual motives behind it.

If the aim behind your intentions is to garner attention, engage in competition and oppression oriented, it’s nothing more than a lousy charade. Whatever relationship going on there, is a big joke. What is the use of a public display, if you don’t spend quality time with the person who means the most to you?

What happened to the masterfully orchestrated proposals to become someone’s valentine?  They still matter, even now more than ever.

A lot of the way affection is expressed these days is a result of undue pressure. There’s that inexplicable need to one-up the next person that it eventually leads to a catastrophic chain of competition. It’s no wonder that more and more people are actively choosing to become and remain single. Although, in the same vein, there are a set of aspiring couples rushing to form relationships to be prepared just in time for today. It’s honestly an interesting interaction to look at if you think about it.

What can we do about it?

It’s quite simple. We must collectively agree to be authentic and sincere in the way we articulate our feelings of love.

Not basing it on whatever the next person and their partner is doing. Essentially, doing away with all that toxic, unwanted pressure. It’s important we bring back, meaningful professions of love. Tailoring your gifts and acts to match your special person’s needs and intricacies. Only perform public displays if that’s they are comfortable with. There’s actually nothing to gain with the intention of oppressing the singletons. Trust that the chronically single ones have particularly scathing remarks in return.

There’s nothing wrong with self-gifting. It’s not exclusively for those in a relationship. (When you’re as comfortable as I am with being single and at peace, there’s hardly any bitterness in your soul.)

All jokes (which might include and not exclusive to some relationships) aside, today should hopefully be the start of a new dimension of commemorating this enchanting day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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