Roses are red, violets are blue, for those against heart-themed holidays, this one’s for you. Valentine’s Day is very much like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. While the couple-crowds will flock to restaurants for their holiday-demanded dates, many others simply want Cupid muzzled.
Next week, approximately 142 million Valentine’s Day cards will be exchanged, around 8 billion candy hearts will be produced and the total U.S. candy sales for 2014 are projected to be $1.057 billion, according to the National Confectioner’s Association.
But not all are buying into the heart-throbbing hype.
“On the 14th, I’ll be treating it just like any other day,” said John Martin, senior ad/PR major from Pflugerville.
Martin represents one sector of the Valentine’s crowd who will choose to either celebrate, protest or be apathetic to its happening altogether.
A growing number are asking Cupid to leave the arrows at home in lieu of an Anti-Valentine’s Day celebration. Commiserating the event, also known as Single Awareness Day, includes black and broken-hearted decorations and swapping ex-tales.
Anti-romance is running rampant, with an emerging market targeting those who refuse any roses.
Greeting card companies have launched lines to service the loveless, and websites, such as CafePress, feature over 10,500 customizable products aimed at anti-sweethearts.
Dr. David McAnulty, associate professor of psychology, explained the mentality behind this movement.
“I think the Anti-Valentine’s Day trend is most likely related to consumer cynicism,” he said. “People increasingly see the day as manufactured by business and not a genuine celebration of love. A fair amount of psychological research is taking place investigating social cynicism, political cynicism and consumer cynicism. In the past, personality research tended to see social cynicism as a particular personality trait.”
Now, research shows that there are several different routes to the consumer cynicism seen in today’s society, said McAnulty.
“People with very different personalities may all agree as far as being skeptical about holidays, like Valentine’s Day, which pretty transparently appear to be about marketing and consumerism, with the ideals of love and romance actually only being a thin veneer,” he said.
Dr. McAnulty credits our realism about relationships to be another factor contributing to the trend.
“Most people realize that relationships are hard work,” he said. “With many, and most, marriages and romances failing, there is a fine line between celebrating a relationship by doing nice things for one another to enhance the relationship, such as buying flowers, cards, chocolates and intimate clothing – all things people who love Valentine’s Day tend to do – and living in a fantasy world.”
Many students said they feel the anti-trend is especially popular among college students.
“Anti-Valentine’s Day is bigger because if people can’t have a significant other, they want to be a part of something,” Martin said. “And if they unite together, maybe they’ll find someone to smooch in their heart-hater club.”
“I think Anti-Valentine’s Day is being celebrated more as single people start to shrug off the pressure of dating, especially in an environment such as ACU,” said Jake Hall, senior English education major from Springtown. “Between all the early engagements, serious relationships, dating blog posts and ring-by-spring jokes that we see on a daily basis, I think people are becoming more and more disenfranchised to the idea of dating in college, or at all, ever.”
In a time when cultural myths are being deconstructed, McAnulty said he thinks people increasingly realize that a few gifts here and there hardly make a relationship.
“Still, the relationship we have to Valentine’s Day is an ambivalent one, sort of a love-hate relationship,” McAnulty said. “We can’t live without our cultural myths, but we are at the same time increasingly uneasy with them, because part of us sees through them.”
McAnulty likened our reasoning of Valentine’s Day to that in the Wizard of Oz. We know there’s a man behind the curtain, but part of us would like to pretend there really is a powerful wizard who will fix our problems.
“We’d like to think some chocolate and flowers will ensure, or at least symbolize, lasting love,” he said.
But all of the pessimism could be the push needed to revise Valentine’s reputation.
“Like all cynicism, if it moves us to more positive, genuine and meaningful action, then the outcome could be good,” McAnulty said. “If it just makes us cynical and leads to resignation and inactivity, then that would be sad. Maybe we can redeem the day with more personal and genuine gifts, a personal handwritten poem, an act of service, some hand picked flowers or an honest talk about the state of our relationship.”
The website stvalentinesday.org reported more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of those mystery chocolates are sold for Valentine’s Day each year, leaving many to question where the love is on this lovesick holiday.
For Hall, the love will be found at Sing Song, where he’ll “take the senior class act on a romantic, magical date to the Sing Song stage, directing them to a sweeping victory that Friday night.”
“Real talk,” he said, “I won’t actually be celebrating either Valentine’s Day or Anti-Valentine’s Day, as I will be far too busy with Sing Song to take a pretty girl to a nice dinner. Although, under different circumstances, I’d love to, and probably would.”
McAnulty recognizes the irony in the way a historical martyr is celebrated in today’s society.
“It is a bit ironic that a day originally associated with a kind of spiritual love, that would lead one to be willing to be martyred [Saint Valentine of Rome], would have devolved into a much cheaper, superficial celebration characterized by words someone else wrote on a card, and purchased gifts that someone else made that one might give to someone who is simply the girlfriend or boyfriend of the moment,” McAnulty said. “Yeah, you guessed it, I’m a Valentine’s Day cynic.”
But some are more hopeful romantics.
“To me, the holiday is about love,” said Stacy Acton, senior elementary education major from Boulder, “not commercialism and candy hearts. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate love?”
Acton said she will be having an unconventional Valentine’s Day date, celebrating with fellow single women.
“We love each other, and we’ll be spending lunchtime at Bonzai’s celebrating that,” she said. “We also love sushi, more than people should probably love any food item. But, hey, love is love.”
And while many feel Valentine’s Day is not worth the bother, not all have completely banned the be-mine celebration.
“If a pretty lady comes up to me and says, ‘Want to be my Valentine and stuff?’ I’m likely to roll with it,” said Martin. “Otherwise I’ll probably weep in a corner. “
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