Valentine’s Day. The 14th of February, a day that conjures instinctive reactions from all of us, be them fight or flight. The responses are intrinsically linked to the emotional gooey-ness that either warms our cold hearts, or repulses us to the point where we denounce anything or anyone we ever loved.
This particular day of the year has a focus, very much geared towards a more feminine side of love: the color red, roses, chocolate, candles. It’s about the way your lover looks at you over a heart-shaped pizza. It’s about agreeing on a back story where the answer to “how did you guys meet?” isn’t “we swiped right.”
While we can all agree that Valentine’s is objectively cute, beneath the wrapping paper, there’s a much more ominous aspect to it. The social pressure, keeping up with the Jones’ and simply being seen as uncaring if you don’t give Valentine’s day your all. That pressure often falls on men.
As an aspiring man in 2022, I wanted to unpack the emotions men share towards Valentine’s Day. From the good, the bad, to the ugly–we wanted to get deep. So, we asked several men about their real opinions around the annual love-fest. Here are the conclusions we came to.
Why do you have to give in order to receive?
Sure, it’s cute to have one day to declare your love, but what about the other three hundred and sixty four days of the year? It feels now like an obligation, more so than ever, to make sure your IG stories are filled with appreciation towards your nearest and dearest, to make sure your restaurant date is at least a four and a half star on Trip Advisor, not to mention the gifts and the immediate comparison to your partners friends partners, rather than a selfless act of devotion and care.
Valentine’s Day? Don’t we have anniversaries for that?
Anniversaries are a lot more private, and much more personal. They apply to a specific date that you and your partner met or even married. Why do we give such stock to a day that bears no meaning to our relationships? It’s a Hallmark holiday after all, the first Valentine’s day cards being sold in 1916, and the rollercoaster hasn’t stopped since, and it doesn’t seem that it’s going to stop any time soon… maybe if we’re sick?
Most of us would rather love someone throughout the whole year rather than just on the 14th of February. I mean, we don’t celebrate our birthdays every day do we? And if we do, should we party like it is?
Valentine’s day is colonial
Globalisation is real, and let’s face it, we all know that’s true. There’s absolutely no way our grandparents would have sat around to discuss how to pose for their meal picture. We’re living in post-colonial times, but still somehow still adhering to the customs of our oppressors. Meanwhile in Egypt, November 4 was established in the 1950’s as ‘Eid El Hob El Masry’ by Al Ahram journalist Mostafa Amin. The day is intended for people to show love not just to their significant other, but to celebrate their love for parents, friends, siblings and life itself. This all seems great from the aspect of anti-colonial sentiment; until you realise that in Egypt, you will experience the same love induced anxiety and gift giving twice a year. In short, love is great. Colonialism sucks.
Materialism, materialism, materialism
With a tinfoil hat, placed firmly atop our heads: Marx clarified that economic value becomes manifested in an objectified way, only through the form of value established by the exchange of products. Basically, what we mean is that men are usually valued by their ability to provide, the kind of gift that you give, or by the car you may or may not drive. We give ourselves value by the things we provide or do. A specific day to test this theory in actuality might not be the best idea, since we’re usually expected to do that anyway. It’s beautiful, but perhaps useless. And as William Morris famously wrote, “nothing useless can truly be beautiful.”
It’s not all doom and gloom for men however. Receiving gifts and some attention is exactly what makes us feel good and appreciated, ‘the more you put in the more you get out’ type of mentality.
Perhaps it’s not so bad to splash out for one day, look good on the gram and make your partner feel special. It doesn’t have to be expensive, get creative, make a card, arrange your favorite couples photos into a video, or make a song confessing undying love for your partner or would be lover – it worked for Drake.
Yes, Valentine’s Day is the ultra-cheese (with a side order of mozzarella sticks), but much like molten cheese, it can be wholesome, delicious and perfect for sharing with that special person.