Today is Valentine’s Day. It’s something like a holiday, dressed up in garish red and pink, slathered in chocolate sauce and the dust of those chalk-like candy hearts. It’s a day where people scramble at Walmart for day-old flowers for their loved ones or buy outrageously expensive jewelry or fight to find an open reservation at Texas de Brazil. Saturated by anxiety and forced romance, Valentine’s Day is the Hallmark holiday for meaningless gestures and overly sentimental hype.
Let’s take a step back.
Saint Valentine is the namesake of this particularly holiday. Most people have in mind a cherubim figure that loved Love and had hearts constantly winking around his eyes, roses magically appearing in the wake of his footsteps. For others who are more embedded in Christian tradition, Saint Valentine was a Christian martyr who died for his faith in the High Middle Ages. There’s much disagreement regarding his true origin and the mythology surrounding his martyrdom. All we know is that he died for the love of his faith, and the love for his God.
But, the holiday as we know it, while it has origins in Christianity, is well removed from that particular tradition. Instead, it has been adopted by capitalism and can be celebrated by anyone of any faith without the religious trappings. Instead, we have chocolate and champagne, roses and romantic getaways, our own homage to a saint long since forgotten.
As someone whose Facebook status remains “Complicated,” I’m not one for the more traditional message of Valentine’s Day, the one espousing eternal love with one partner which supersedes all other love. What I remember, despite my non-Christian leanings, is Saint Valentine, who died for love. He didn’t die for a wife or a husband or a lover. He didn’t die and was resurrected by true love’s kiss.
Romance is a modern retelling; love has always been a simpler story.
Love is your cat waking you up at five in the morning with a cold wet nose and obnoxious purring, settling somewhere along your collarbone to nuzzle against your cheekbone. Love is your mom calling you “just to check in” and you end up syncing up an episode of Supernatural to watch together, her laughter warm in your ear. Love is your sister refusing to let the nickname “Lolo” die a fiery death. Love is curling up with your best friend on her couch, drinking tea and discussing the ramifications of white privilege and how Donna Noble is still one of our favorite companions (second only to Rose Tyler). Love is soldiering through another thousand words of my first draft, watching my characters become solid and breathing within the text.
For me, Valentine’s Day is something of a cliché, a strange tradition that commemorates the death of a man whose name we remember and whose story is unknown. I shut off my TV during Kay Jewelers and Jared commercials, I have no interest in roses, and I’m not much for Hallmark cards and their pre-printed declarations of generic adoration.
Instead, I’ll buy myself a box of truffles, call my mom, and see if I can get her hooked into Teen Wolf.