A Lone Wolf on Valentine's Day
The arrival of Valentine's Day sends a chill down the spine and makes the bowels start to turn. It is a worthless "holiday" that benefits merchants and no one else. There is nothing like this particular day when ideas of love and romance are packaged and processed into consumerist product. This repackaging has created a shallow, superficial vision of deep affection in league with the usual garbage we get on television and movies. Cupid is nothing but a huckster trying to hustle you out of your well-earned dollars.
The little bastard should be the focus of an IRS investigation, not the glassy eyed praise of those couples who obstruct my view every time I take a walk down the Santa Monica Pier. Valentine's Day means big business for corporations and merchants making a killing off mushiness.
Last year the Fiscal Times reported that Americans spent about $18.6 billion on Valentine's Day expenses with an estimate of $130.97 per person. Walk into any given department or grocery store and the entrances are more red than a Communist Party office. They are stacked with candies and stuffed animals to make you feel guilty if that "special someone" doesn't receive an item on the 14th.
The origin of this holiday, by the way, has little connection to romance. In fact it is traced back to the execution of an early Christian saint, Saint Valentine, whose skull is on display, adorned with flowers, in Rome. How about that for a Valentine's Day card?
If Rosa Luxemburg's prediction that capitalism would implode after consuming the entire world is true, then Valentine's Day is the first trumpet call of the apocalypse.
"It's a way for business to make a lot of money, like the Super Bowl," said Santa Monica College student Benjie Bassciri. "It's important for people who want to make it important," he added.
People are dumping bags of money on Valentine's Day even in the middle of a world economic crisis. One possibility is that the candy and toys serve the same function as fancy shoes and iPhones. If you don't have an iPhone you're not "in," somehow you don't belong to the modern, up to date hyena pack. In this sense if you don't give or receive on Valentine's Day somehow you're bitter and lonely. Just the other day a Corsair staff member made a sad face when I casually mentioned that I usually go to the movies alone.
The general atmosphere and perceptions created by this invented holiday become obvious when speaking with students.
"It's a sad day for single people," said SMC student Amber Bautista. "If you don't have a loved one or significant other it kind of sucks and you're left hanging."
While lamenting the fate of those lucky enough to be single and not required to swipe their credit card, Bautista was also honest about the allure of wanting someone to do something for you on Valentine's Day.
"Of course I would like someone to do something for me," she said. "It proves a lot, it shows a lot. Actions speak louder than words."
But what is lost in all this discussion about the merits of gifts on Valentine's Day is the true essence of caring for another human being. It can be more painful, and beneficial, than the lyrics of any corny, recycled love song.
"Leaning into the afternoons I cast my sad nets towards your oceanic eyes," the poet Pablo Neruda wrote.
None of us are immune to attraction and longing. I recently had the experience of suddenly falling for a colleague. It was something out of my control. She has eyes that are warm and full of intelligence, a smile with a sun-kissed radiance and even dynamic hair in curls worthy of Rembrandt. But her greatest quality is her personality that glows with a wonderful mixture of fun and maturity. She is not afraid to indulge in the freedom of being funny but is capable of deep, reflective conversation.
After giving it some serious thought, I decided to engage in that ancient rite that can produce a lack of sleep and other unhealthy side effects: Asking someone out.
I was ready to be a believer again until I received an answer: Nothing. Rejection through silence. I admit I asked her out in one of those unorthodox ways where she could answer through silence, but the message was loud and clear.
As defined by popular perception I should now spend Valentine's Day a bitter mess because I don't have anyone to spend $49 on flowers for. What a joke.
But here is where I learned why in Latin America Valentine's Day is celebrated as the more logical "El dia del amor y la amistad" (The Day of Love And Friendship). I had to respect her wishes but my general impression of her had not changed at all. One key reason I began to like her was because she's great company, she's a great person and such friends are rare in this gilded age.
St. Augustine once wrote that "In this world two things are essential: life and friendship." I very much enjoy talking and working with my friend, and if I were to give her a gift there is no ulterior motive behind it, I do it because I want to and it can be any day, no ridiculous holidays are needed. Let the sheep of mush convince themselves that candies and teddy bears will save their doomed "relationships." "It's just another day, nothing special," said Bassciri. "The media is taking something else and finding a way to make money. Even if I had a girlfriend I wouldn't think much of it. Regardless of the day you should be doing something for her anyway, I don't need a day to show her my love."
Forget about Valentine's Day, live in the real world and be a true friend to someone. If you don't get anything who cares? On campus life is too dominated by grades and exams anyway. On the 14th don't be afraid to be a lone wolf, send Cupid to hell with a smile.