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Experiences

The Valentine’s Conundrum

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

If you use social media, it is nearly impossible to avoid the bombardment of “couples content,” that circulates online during the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. When love is in the air, it is most certainly on our feeds. Extravagant date night plans, romantic gestures, bouquets of roses, teddy bears, sweet couples’ photos, lovey captions – with all these reminders of others’ seemingly perfect relationships, it is easy to wallow in comparison, self-pity, or frustration. It is tempting to retreat into the stereotypical jaded, lonely, longing-for-love character role – the one whose existence is forever contained to only the first half of the rom-com, the one who represents a brief, “before,” in every love story.

Valentine’s Day marketing makes its conditions for participation clear: you must sign-up with a partner in order to access the exclusive offers of romantic indulgence. If you accept these terms of service, you accept your position as a dejected Valentine’s outsider; “maybe I’ll be allowed to celebrate next year.” Whether by quiet withdrawal or loud, whining protest, when you excuse yourself from Valentine’s Day, you uphold the idea of romantic love as a restricted commodity. You accept love as an elite resource to which you are forbidden access. It is only natural to wonder and assign blame as to why this may be. If you surrender Valentine’s Day to only the most doting couples, you remove yourself from romantic celebration as though it is a privilege that you do not deserve. Then, in questioning why, you risk internalizing this exclusion as your own failure. Ouch! Cupid’s arrow hurts, huh?

On the other hand, you can defy traditional Valentine’s Day messaging, as it is concisely condensed into “U R Mine” sugar hearts and pre-made love notes. You can bypass the eligibility criteria and request exemption from the couples’ condition clause by simply choosing to do so. You can indulge in romantic pleasure and participate in a celebration of love as your present self. Love occupies many forms, each one equally worthy of celebration on the coveted holiday of love, in all its artificial cinnamon-flavoured glory. However, even if you decide to deviate from the laws of Valentine’s Day and participate in your own way, undefined by your relationship status, you may risk embarrassment from patronizing others.

I am surely overcomplicating a non-issue, but when Valentine’s Day symbols are routinely thrust to the forefront of our consumer culture every February – the same heart-shaped, red, white, and pink conundrum always presents itself. To be (your own Valentine) or not to be (your own Valentine), that is the question.

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Erin Kirwin

Guelph '23

Erin is a third year Psychology student at the University of Guelph, with a minor in Sociology. She hopes to pursue a career in industrial-organizational or social psychology - anything that allows her to learn and understand people better. Erin loves to read, write and chat with others.
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