My expectations for Valentine’s Day have shifted as my life has progressed. In elementary school, I looked forward to swapping my Catholic school uniform for the red, white and pink outfit I wore while we swapped Fun Dip and store-bought cards that read “You OTTER be my Valentine!” When week-long relationships started happening in middle school, the holiday became less about the candy exchange—though the sweets were still appreciated—and more about who would be kissing who on the cheek.
But now, Valentine’s Day comes with competing traditions: couples celebrate and singles simp. My annual invitation to an “I’m Single, and I Hate You” anti-Valentine’s party leads me to believe this will remain the same until death do me part.
But Feb. 14 means a little more than all that. Though grounded in romance, Valentine’s Day has grown to take on different definitions. Why can’t mine be more feminist?
V-Day leverages the day to spread awareness about and demand an end to violence against women and girls worldwide, and other charities and non-profits use the holiday as an opportunity for heart-riddled fundraising campaigns. Some people opt instead to debut their pink sweaters one day early on Galentine’s Day, celebrating female friendship and solidarity instead of state-sanctioned romantic relationships. Each of these celebrations redirect our attentions away from the stereotypically romantic and towards other important, potentially neglected forms of showing love.
Reclaiming Valentine’s Day can take many forms. This year, I hope to transform Cupid’s arrow into a sword. I want to fight.
I want to fight capitalism. Overpriced roses and fancy chocolates and jewelry almost too nice to wear. The idea that the more money you spend on someone, the more you care about them. Evaluating my self-worth with the balance in my bank account or the figures of my salary. I must fight to remember that we matter not because of our productivity, not because of our contribution to or participation in the economy, but because of our inherent humanity.
I want to fight heartbreak—the urge to cringe or cry when walking by lovestruck couples dining on outdoor patios; sour reminders of years spent in flawed or lost or incredibly painful relationships. I must fight to believe that love is still possible, no matter how long it may take or different it may look or feel, and that all forms of it, not just the traditional romantic couplings in picture books and movie screens, are valid.
I want to fight myself—my internal monologue that makes looking in the mirror a chore or an annoyance, my struggle to show myself the same unconditional love I share with my friends and family and the pressure to conform to binaries or labels that might oversimplify who I am. Despite how cheesy or cliché it may be to preach self-love, finding ways to practice it does matter, and women are all too often the last to be given permission to do so.
On Valentine’s Day, I want to fight for love—and reclaim the holiday as an opportunity to celebrate individual, interpersonal and international relationships of every strip.
Fun Dip and pink hearts optional, but preferred.