Kelly Coons ‘22 | Assistant Opinions Editor
Happy Valentine’s Day. This is a happy day, isn’t it? It’s a day about love, after all. However, this day, like most other holidays, has become commercialized and all about what society thinks love should be. Every relationship is different, but under the banner of Valentine’s Day, the measure of a good relationship is how much money you spend on extravagant gifts.
I’m not advocating for a Grinch-style ban on Valentine’s Day. After all, the holiday’s heart is in the right place. Love is important. I am, though, advocating for an observance of Valentine’s Day that does not thrust our relationships into the spotlight of social scrutiny. Instead, I think that on this Valentine’s Day, we should all take some time to love ourselves, as the societal pressures Valentine’s Day exerts on us can negatively affect our mental health.
Bruce Y. Lee, an associate professor of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote an article in Forbes listing 20 reasons for unhappiness during Valentine’s Day, highlighting how powerful societal pressure is during this time. People who are not in relationships are labeled as “losers,” even if they are not currently looking to be in a relationship or just got out of an unhealthy one. Conversely, people in relationships — particularly men in relationships with women — are declared “winners,” and the other person becomes their “prize” and something they must show off. Valentine’s Day is painful for those grieving a lost partner, and even people whose partner is alive but cannot currently be with them face a similar feeling of mourning. Since Valentine’s Day is a consumerist affair, it also can cause financial stress. You don’t have money, or you’re spending too much money, or maybe the other person, you feel, isn’t spending enough money. People in happy relationships aren’t immune to the pressures of the holiday, either. According to Lee, on Valentine’s Day, relationships are judged. “Valentine’s Day can bring scrutiny on and strain your relationship. Rather than a happy occasion, it can feel like a ‘Law and Order’ interrogation. Where is [this] relationship going? Do you love me? Why do we argue so much?” When relationships are put on a platform of judgment, it can seem like a competition, and that can lead to jealousy and fighting among people who are not in relationships with each other.
Facing all of these problems, what can you do to make yourself happy on Valentine’s Day? Well, the first step is to remove yourself from societal judgment. You can take the day to be with yourself, or you can go with a group of non-judgmental friends. If you have a partner and you decide to spend the day with them, have a conversation about what you both want out of Valentine’s Day beforehand so you can enjoy a romantic, pressure-free day.