Valentine’s Day 2014: In Which I Bite the Hand that Feeds Me (strong language)

by Kohleun

Last week, in preparation for the upcoming international love day, a fellow floral designer and I familiarized ourselves with the shop’s updated website. We scrolled through the monochromatic images in pinkscale—images of recipe-designed roses, lilies, and you guessed it, more roses and lilies. We noticed quite a startling tag line under many of these order-online arrangements. With a little fire blaze, it read, “Send & Score.” Score what, exactly? we wondered. We explored the naïve possibilities first: true love? Lifelong bliss? Someone who really understands you and values you for you? It had to be. Nope. What does it mean in our cultural discourse to “score” in the world of dating and flower-plying? Why, land a shallow but hot lay, of course. That’s right, folks, for 59.95, you can send a lovely bouquet of red on pink and receive sexual favors in return. Or, at the very least, stay out of the dog house. Whatever that metaphor is supposed to imply. . .

But wait, there’s more. I don’t always listen to the radio, but when I do, it’s exactly when floods of adverts for jewelry companies try to convince me that if I—presumably a man trying to woo a woman—“want to show her how much I really love her,” I will buy her a highly discounted diamond, starting at only 299.99. Gulp. But I’ve gotta do it by February 14, or my love is void and I’m screwed (or not screwed, as the case may be). Double-gulp. Because love is a carbon sediment the wholesaler could discount only because they hired someone to risk their life to gorge it out of a mountain somewhere in Africa to fund wars between humans who also have people who love them. Don’t get me wrong, I like small sparkly things, but aren’t parts of the diamond biz a bit paradoxical? What kind of thought goes into buying “cheap” conflict diamonds for love? Flower buying can be problematic on its own level. The majority of customers I see or talk to ordering Valentine’s flowers express to me that they are giving this gift out of obligation, social expectation, or the fear that without this particular gesture they “won’t get some,” or more dramatically, their relationship is at a risk. And I say, fuck that noise.

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I’ve noticed people can get pretty defensive about Valentine’s Day and blame skepticism like mine on singleness or never receiving flowers or diamonds in the past. Nope. Don’t project on me. That’s not the only reason to be critical of plying (mostly women) significant others with expensive gifts as surrogates for love. In fact, positive experiences with relationships make me even more critical of Valentine’s Day fever. I figure, gifts given without obligation or contingencies, even if they are flowers, are wonderful expressions of affection and kindness. I love flowers. But when affectionate gestures become a means of getting something back, maintaining your stereotypical gender status, or to “score” in one way or another, you’re buying into the ancient practice of paying for sex, or whatever. Yay. And on top of that, you’re paying for sex and pretending it’s a gesture of love, which is dumb. Just call a spade a spade, folks. If we’re going to legalize prostitution in all 50 states, why limit it to a day that was once reserved for expressing affection? And we really ought to regulate that profession in that case, while we’re at it.

The hagiography of the historical Saint Valentine is a bit spotty; historians aren’t even 100% sure who the true Saint Valentine was. But basically, he illicitly joined Christian couples in marriage when being a Christian and helping Christians was outlawed under Claudius II ages ago. So, please, tell me, how on God’s green earth we got from working towards marriage equality (the third century edition) and creating sanctuary for a couple’s right to state a commitment, to spending millions of dollars on rings and chocolates and flowers and balloons and lingerie and hotel rooms and fancy dinners? And all for what? To save a relationship, as if a relationship that relies on a dozen red roses isn’t already doomed? To prove you’re a man? To prove you’re a woman? To prove our love?

Rather than turning Valentine’s Day into a flaming hoop of shit we have to jump through year after year, hows about we let it be a day, a day of being more aware of how we love people, even. Why don’t we mark the day by creating a safe space for people to express love just as they are, to whomever they love? Whatever happened to a hug? Or a phone call? Call me a romantic if you will, but why can’t the ways we express love every single day—whether to family, friends, or significant others—be good enough for Valentine’s Day? Or, maybe the problem is that we all need to step up our game. Maybe we all suck at love. Of course I’ve shot back a text like, “Oh, sorry you had a rough day, honey, but I’m really struggling with inserting this invisible zipper.” I know I’m not always as supportive or affectionate or present as I should be. But that’s probably why I have, like, a huge thing for people who show kindness, patience, and empathy. Because we all need to find a home in that, don’t we, especially on a day when much is expected of us.