Valentine’s Day; or, Glagh!
‘Lo, everyone. Alex Adrian; Diary of an Atomic Man. This week:holiday we celebrated Tuesday. The 14th…? Valentine’s Day…? (I swear to whatever gods exist–if any do–that I’ll stop with the sentence fragments, now. Anyway…) Valentine’s Day just…it leaves me…it…well, you see it’s…I just…GRALRAGHHHH!!!! The Hell with Valentine’s Day and all its overcommercialized, heteronormative, mononormative, anti-single, marriage-tracked…Ahem. Anyway…I bet you want to know what my specific grievances against it are, right?(I mean, besides the ones I listed.) Right. Let’s get this started.
Valentine’s Day. How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways:
1. Thou happenst in the month of February, a month during which I findeth mineself disgusted more often than usual;
2.Thou art inherently heteronormative–at least as thou art practiced in the United States–leading to exclusion of those of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persuasions.(Th’art also discriminatory ‘gainst the polyamorous, but see ye below.);
3. Thou art discriminatory ‘gainst those who practice the form of relations known as “polyamory”. (Those readers who may be interested in the ethics, practice, and forms of poly are directed to The Ethical Slut, by Janet Hardy and Dossie Flores. Anyway, plug over.)
4. Thou assumeth that all are in a relationship, or wish to be in one, even if that be untrue;
5. On a related note to the above point, thou hold as one of thine highest assumptions that all in a commited relationship wish to engage in that which is called the highest sacrament by many, the act of marriage, even if, Heaven forbid, they should enjoy their current relational status;
6. And, perhaps most dammingly, thou art nought but a vast corporate conspiracy, a sham based on half-truths, hearsay, Victorian-Medieval romanticism, and the wish of certain corporations (namely FTD Florists, DeBeers, Hallmark, and American Greetings, but let’s keep things civil, shall we?) to raise their bottom lines, a commercialization and commodification of one of the most beautiful emotions ever conceived into a crass commodity like cattle, oil, or pork products.
Okay…let’s dig into my specific grievances. (And, before we move forward, I’d like to state that I have nothing, absolutely nothing, against the institution of marriage, monogamous long-term pair bonding, heterosexuality, romantic love, or any of the other things my remarks above could be construed as slagging. Anyway, on with the show…)
Compared to the rest of the grievances I mentioned above, the February thing seems almost negligible. It just happens to be that this February is the month I first noticed Vanity Fair‘s Lick the Arse of All the Actors, Directors, and Producers in Town issue–forgive me; “Hollywood Issue”–and it also happens to be an election year, so more disgust than normal is being produced, perhaps?
Answer me this, and answer me well and truly: in what universe (that doesn’t count in base-nine) is an 18th anniversary worthy of a “collector’s edition”? Well? Huh?
The other charges against the holiday are far more damning. The heteronormativity is particularly subtle, as is the mononormativity. The anti-singleism and the marriage-tracking…rather less so. Much of the first two is contained in the phrase “that special someone”, which is to Valentine’s Day as “the Spirit of ’76” is to Independence Day, “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” to Columbus Day, and “merry Christmas and a happy New Year” is to the entire grey bleak month of December: a phrase so specific to that time and place that any invocation of it outside of that time and place gets one looked at funny. It is in “that special someone” that all that is problematic with Valentine’s Day (beyond the commercialism–more on that later–and the fact that the only suitable abbreviation is shared with venereal disease–not an association one desires with a holiday designed to celebrate romantic love. Anyway…) is contained. First, although this is a general thing, the usual assumption is that the significant other is of the opposite sex, something which admittedly pervades American culture as a whole.
Secondly, there’s the assumption that you have a significant other of either sex, which may not be entirely accurate; I know it’s not in my case. Moving the stress to the next word, there’s the assumption that you have a significant other, which is doubly bizarre given all the recent coverage of polyamory after–among other things–Newt Gingrich’s proclamation that he “discussed” having an open marriage between his second wife and third and current wife. And then the marriage thing–my mom pointed this out to me a few days back, when I started working on this post, but should we honestly be encouraging teenagers–the most hormone-addled human beings on the planet–to consider getting married? Given the sheer relational drama–it’s like a soap opera, high school, what with everybody crushing on everybody else, constant talk about sex, homophobia, etc.–sanity suggests no; and marriage is becoming only one of a number of options, for we seem to be getting to the stage of no-one caring about who one sleeps with, so long as all involved are consenting adults. (At least, I don’t care. Anyway…) I, for one, try and ignore it altogether. And yet…
And yet all the dark forces mentioned in my final grievance still conspire to push this holiday on us, to sap the spirits of love, honesty, openness, and acceptance in search of profit. And yet, despite all this, V. D. is still on of the top holidays in the U.S., a “big” one like Christmas, Easter, Hallowe’en, and Presidents’ Day, which is this weekend. Disgust, disgust, disgust… (I personally blame the Victorians. Although it was celebrated throughout the Middle Ages, being a feast-day and therefore kind of mandatory, this whole Valentine Day thing didn’t really catch on until the early Nineteenth century, which is close enough, as they say, for government work; besides which, the Victorians were all about the sentimentality, which they’re best remembered for today–adorable moppets with ringlets and Fauntelroy suits, sappy poetry commemorating the home and the wife’s place atop it, severe prudishness and repression, and of course, casual misogyny and assumptions that society’s gender roles were enthroned by God. Also, racism. Anyway…) So. Score one for corporate greed? Or does this round go to cynicism and pissiness with an idealistic core? I’m rooting for C&P, if only cos they’re the underdogs and I’d like to see a victory for those values I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. This will be a long battle, but I can’t help but see a light. For America gets better and more open about these kinds of things by the day; my home state of Washington just passed a law legalizing gay marriage, and the courts have struck down California’s Prop 8. If we act now–let the people know there are alternatives, that you don’t have to feel left out because of who you love or how many or if you love someone at all, that love can be platonic, that friendships can last a lifetime, that even the monogamous hetero-lifemating that this abomination of a holiday honors doesn’t have to look like a Hallmark card–we may be able to reform it, to return it to what it’s “supposed” to be: a celebration of love. Just some thoughts.
–Alex Adrian, 2/17/12