I don’t like Valentine’s Day. It was OK, I guess, whenever you put out your decorated bag in elementary school and your classmates would give you cards. The girls would have platonically pleasant, pink valentines, sometimes with a sticker, and the boys would send X-Men cards with Wolverine saying “You’re my favorite mutant!” or some other socially acceptable male-to-male greeting.
Now, as an adult and having been through years of Valentine’s Days, there’s nothing much fun about it. I say that coming from all directions, too. I was in a relationship for eight straight V-Days from 10th grade on, and then I’ve been single since then. I dislike the holiday equally, whether I was with a woman or not. It’s not the cliché reason lots of people give about “loving someone every day of the year” either, because that’s sort of bullshit. I appreciate someone’s alive every day of the year, too, but I still will bake them a birthday cake.
I don’t like Valentine’s Day because I don’t like being told what to do and when to do it.
I grew up going to church, and there are moments when the pastor leads everyone in prayer. “Repeat after me: oh Holy Father…” Every time this began, I refused to repeat it. Why did I have to echo this guy? You don’t give me a solid reason why I have to do it, I’m not going to do it. Period. I don’t know why. It’s just in my blood to fall silent when people try to get me to say things in a group. No prayers, no chants, no sing-a-longs – I have not said the Pledge of Allegiance since I was 13 (sorry, American flags everywhere).
Whatever it is, that element of me that runs deep in my blood, keeps me from liking Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is so specific. I say those words and you’re automatically picturing three colors: pink, red and white. You’re picturing hearts and not the kind that pump blood. You’re picturing flowers, teddy bears, those little edible hearts made of bone-meal and chalk — all of that. Basically, it’s no different to me than, “I pledge allegiance to the flag.” It’s a holiday that’s telling me what to do almost as specifically as a repetitious chant.
But hey, I could just have a fun anti-Valentine’s Day! I could throw the middle finger at all of that cliché stuff and do a cool version of my own creation. I’ve done that. I’ve even had some really good V-days, all things considered (mostly during this single-life period, unsurprisingly). Most of them, however, have been reactionary, and almost all of them have started with the qualifier, “I hate this holiday, but since it matters to you…” So even the good ones were tinged by me not wanting to follow the rules.
I wish it were something more chivalrous. I wish it were a deep-seated belief in the power of love and that the only reason I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day is because every day is Valentine’s Day in my heart. But it’s not. It’s a weird problem with authority that I don’t see going away anytime soon.
If the person I’m with cares about Valentine’s Day, of course I’ll do something for her sake. If she doesn’t, please make yourself known if you are that “she.” You and I can ignore mid-February together.
Bennett Rea is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles, CA. A survivalist with various primitive skills and a distrust of Snapchat, he’s just trying to be a human in an increasingly technological world. He also works at an art gallery on one of the country’s trendiest retail blocks and constantly battles the urge to flee for a cabin in the mountains filled with books and bourbon.