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Love, Ames: On Valentine’s Day, open your heart, not your wallet

Last week, I was chatting with some friends about how I prefer not to celebrate Valentine’s Day. A few of my friends agreed with me that it’s become more about spending money and showing off and less about love, but most of my friends seemed shocked that I wasn’t going to do anything for my significant other on Friday. 

It isn’t just with my friends, but with my family, too. My grandparents send me annual Valentine’s Day cards. Even my mother said to me on a call, “Maybe you should think about doing something this year.” 

But why?

Let’s start off with the obvious: Valentine’s Day is no longer wholly about love. Instead, it has turned into one of the most capitalistic, money-grubbing holidays of the year, outdone only by Black Friday, Christmas and (to some extent) Halloween. When one of the best things about a holiday is the sales during or after it, you’re not really celebrating the actual idea behind it. 

On Amazon, it can cost up to $200 to buy a 91-inch teddy bear for your sweetheart. Russell Stover sells 24-ounce boxes of chocolates normally priced at $20, plus shipping. A “classic rose royale” arrangement from Oxford Flower Shop costs nearly one hundred dollars, and on their website a warning reads in large red print how busy they are on Valentine’s Day. 

Everyone is buying flowers for their darlings, so much so that the Flower Shop doesn’t deliver anywhere except workplaces on Feb. 14.

And now we have Galentine’s Day, a holiday from the TV show “Parks & Recreation” during which you’re supposed to celebrate your best female friends. That’s a whole other set of people for whom specific gifts and cards are being created. “You are an opalescent tree shark!” “Fries before guys!” “No boyfriend, no problem!” read Galentine’s cards being sold online

But wasn’t Valentine’s Day supposed to be about celebrating everyone in the first place? Not when adding another holiday will rake in more cash.

Is it really a holiday about love if you are forced by social expectations in Western subculture to celebrate your significant other and the other important people in your life?

Flowers, candies, overly-large stuffed animals. Seeing adorable Snapchat stories of your friends and their significant others. Half-priced chocolate the day after. There are many great things about Valentine’s Day, but have we ever stopped to consider the implications?

It is so ingrained in our culture that we must celebrate the folks we love on this one specific day, Feb. 14. We must buy them chocolates and/or flowers and/or comically large bears, and if we don’t do so … well, then, obviously we must not love them enough. 

Some argue: why can’t we celebrate everyone at random times of the year? We can. That’s not the issue. If you want to take your significant other out on a very nice date at a fancy restaurant on Sept. 4, or send your parents a bouquet of red roses in late April, you can. 

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The issue here is not that we as humans don’t celebrate those we love enough, it’s that we feel the societal pressure to celebrate them in a few specific ways on a very specific date.

We spend more time showing off and spending money on Valentine’s Day than we do actually caring for our loved ones.

But it’s ingrained in our society —  businesses want to make money, and they will jump on any crazy fad that comes their way in order to do so. (Take gender reveal parties, slime, short video apps and freakshakes, just as a few more recent examples.)

Some like to say “if you build it, they will come,” and that applies here: if businesses sell it, people will buy it. And if someone posts it on social media, then even more orders will come a-flooding in.

So celebrate Valentine’s Day, but instead of the stereotypical fancy dinner or box of chocolates, however, maybe do something that doesn’t buy into the money-making machine this year: handwrite a love letter, cook a meal (if you’re not in a residence hall) or go out on a date where you try to do 10 things and only spend less than $10. 

Show the people you love, instead of the corporations, that you care.

Love, Ames