It is an interesting thing, this concept of holidays.
We have religious holidays celebrated by those who identify with that religion; national holidays merely noted on calendar and marked by ceremonies, parties, and the halting of mail. Even St. Patrick’s Day is embraced by the masses playing Irish for the day.
Valentine’s Day is an extraordinary holiday. It is both celebrated and hated; some are consumed with the day, while others ignore it pointedly. It is an interesting debate amongst people whether to celebrate or not, and what is acceptable and expected behavior. This is a holiday built around social expectation.
I was single this year, not for the first time nor can I be sure for the last, but I think for the first time I opened my eyes and truly took the day in. I enjoyed watching the happenings of the day and the actions around me.
First to the debate: I watched those people in relationships receive flowers and other gifts. Perhaps my favorite being those in a new relationship and looking at the world through the bright and shiny eyes of budding love, which mainly translates to a lot of giggling from the girls and waves of nervousness from the guys.
The mailroom on campus was filled with people opening cards and packages from friends and family. A long line of girls stretched the length as they waited to pick up flowers sent to them. I waited with a friend as she picked up a dozen roses sent from her boyfriend. While waiting, I chatted up a professor as he jokingly teased all of the girls in line, many of which dished it right back to him.
There is something to be said for the fluffy sentimentality of a designated day to show those in your life what they mean to you. This argument is quickly wiped from my mind when I think back to the poor boys I witnessed sweating bullets over their Valentine’s Day plans. The pressure to impress and woo their sweethearts is great, and pressure from those selfsame sweethearts and society does not help the poor boys’ situations.
Calls to trusted female friends and scores of confused men standing in the card section of the store are regular happenings in the days leading up to V-Day.
There is also what we can call the “Anti-Valentine’s Day” school of thought. Now, many could assume this is merely made up of the lonely and date-less who sit bitterly at home consumed with the longing for a date and the anticipation of discounted chocolate on store shelves Feb. 15.
These people, however, would be mistaken. I know many people who are in couples who do not celebrate this holiday. Some complain that it is a consumer holiday and others put off their celebrations until they are less busy with school and work. One married woman shared her thoughts with me that Feb. 14 should be no different than the day before or the day or week afterward. You do not love someone more on that one day and you should always show your love every day.
Whatever school you subscribe to, you cannot help but notice the event transpiring around you. Both coupled and the single, those with plans, the plan-less, and those scrounging around for a date even on the holiday with the last shred of hope they still possess.
I watched and smiled at my friends’ plans, the dinners, the surprises. I remember watching one girl bound out of one of the buildings that afternoon as she spotted her boyfriend who drove from out of town to surprise her. Groups of friends banded together to be one another’s valentines and watched movies or went out in a group.
My best friend took her boyfriend on a special Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt around Sherman. There are endless possibilities for this loving, maddening holiday. I admit I do not know which category of belief I fall into now. I think perhaps this year I fell into the category of “Other.” Casually, I watched the world around me, and was not overly concerned like previous years.
To my mind, the world passes from Feb. 13 into a world of chaos on the 14, and calmly again into Feb. 15 with flowers given the day before sitting proudly on desks in vases and heart shaped boxes of chocolates on clearance in the store.
There was one thing I noticed. There was a lot of joy this year, whether between sweethearts, friends, family, coworkers, even strangers who offer you a conversational heart and a smile. The day marked to shower your Love with love as extended into showing our love more broadly, and whether this is a commercial holiday or not, there is more than meets the eye, and certainly more than just a capitalist agenda.