Trigger warning: this article discusses domestic abuse.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, one may feel the inevitable pressures of romantic relationships prompting looming loneliness. Each February, premade cards can be found in your local pharmacy or grocery store, displaying illustrations of pink and red hearts and proclamations of love mostly catered to the likings of heterosexual relationships.
The true origins of Valentine’s Day are gory and abusive. From Feb. 13 to 15, the ancient Romans celebrated the fertility festival of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then ran around the city, whipping women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. They believed this would make any woman hit with the hide fertile.
As time passed, the traditions were warped and rebranded into a day for people to express their love. Hallmark, along with many of your favorite brands, took this as an opportunity for profit and began making millions of dollars each year. For some perspective, every year approximately 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged worldwide.
To sum it up, Valentine’s Day is a capitalist holiday that benefits mostly the rich and powerful and therefore should not be taken too seriously. But besides that, and perhaps for that very reason, it lacks inclusivity.
Romantic and sexual love is not something that resonates with everyone. For many, it has a negative association, and for others, sexual desire isn’t something that they experience. Approximately 70 million people identify as asexual, about 1.6% of the world’s population. Asexuality is generally defined as a lack of sexual attraction to others or a lack of interest in sex. For those who identify as asexual or aromantic, Valentine’s Day may be difficult given the holiday’s emphasis on sexual and romantic love.
Like many holidays, Valentine’s Day can be a dark time for people across the world, and the constant commercialization is a painful reminder of this. Lingerie goes on sale, and phrases like “text me” and “too hot” can be found on the Sweethearts passed around by students in an elementary school classroom.
But don’t let this discourage you. Despite what advertisers would have you think, Valentine’s Day is also about friendship, familial love and self-love.
A day about love is a time to celebrate platonic relationships and show love to the people we care about. This doesn’t mean we are obligated to present a grand gesture; it can be as simple as sending a text to a friend or expressing your gratitude. It’s a perfect day to appreciate the friendships you have.
Rather than sitting at home to watch “The Notebook” with a box of tissues, go to the movies with an old friend. Take Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to reconnect and reminisce. Call a relative and tell them how much you love them; they’ll appreciate it more than you know. Treat your sibling to a fancy dinner or cook a meal for yourself and go to bed early, you could use the rest.
In the United States, one in four women and one in seven men experience domestic abuse. Valentine’s Day can be a sensitive time for victims and a reminder of the pain they experienced. If you know anyone who has suffered at the hands of an abusive partner, check in with them on Valentine’s Day, as they may be using the time to heal.
We need to break down the idea that Valentine’s Day is a romantic holiday reserved for couples. Everyone deserves happiness on Feb. 14.