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The Trouble with Valentine's day

Or: Why I'm in two minds about 14th February ;-)

Happy Valentine’s, Gal-entine's and Pal-entine's weekend lovelies! As you may be able to tell, I adore heart-shaped tack. Cherry flavoured gestures and chintzy statuettes of cherubs are my vibe. This time of year, I will often be found perusing the Valentine’s section of every supermarket for miniature pink Prosecco bottles. But despite this, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get to the bottom of my feelings about this double-edged holiday.

I might love kitsch accessories but Valentine’s day is a festival that indubitably heroes heteronormative monogamy; “Mr & Mrs mugs” to the fore! As the founder of a pleasure based company, Valentine’s should be a fabulous opportunity for me to boost sales but this somewhat goes against my convictions. I didn’t get into this game to betray my political opinion; so, I find myself torn in how to approach it.

A little context:

Valentine’s day is the feast day of St Valentine (unsurprisingly) as well as being the patron saint of lovers he is also saint of beekeepers and epileptics. It has since been dropped by the holy Roman calendar. Valentine was a starry-eyed priest who defied Roman law to marry young couples and thus save newly-wed husbands from being sent off to war. Once imprisoned, awaiting decapitation at the hands of Emperor Claudius, he allegedly fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and cured her from blindness. He signed off letters to his death row darling “from your Valentine” which inspired some of the cards we see today. The occasion is also heavily inspired by Lupercalia, a pagan holiday, which was outlawed for being too heathen when Christianity took hold. The Luperci, were an elite of roman priests, they would retreat into a cave once a year to celebrate the she-wolf who raised Romulus and Remus. They were said to have sacrificed a dog and a goat and dipped the goat’s hide into the dog’s blood to purify it (?). After which, they would stroll around the city of Rome flagellating women and crops with their bloody floggers. This was meant to aid fertility in the coming season. Then the women would put their names into a large urn and the bachelors of the city would each pick a name to be their sweetheart for the duration of the year. These pairings would often result in matrimony.

I love the idea of this bizarre and grotesque pagan festival (very Wickerman) but it’s clear that it has heterosexual marriage at the heart of its concern. Nowadays, I think it’s counterproductive to idealise the union of a man and a woman as some kind of completion of our human purpose. The way that it’s currently packaged, Valentine’s glorifies the archaic idea that everyone must seek their “other half”. It implies that you on your own are not enough. Your success (particularly if you’re a woman) is measured by your ability to hold down a monogamous relationship. For those who are struggling both in and out of couplings this only rubs salt in the wound. Moreover, it just sucks that singletons don’t get to celebrate “Love Day” because they don’t have a “date for the dance”. Enter Gal-entine’s, Pal-entine’s (13th Feb) and Anti-valentine’s day (15th Feb). These informal holidays are all about showering your nearest and dearest with love regardless of whether they are in a relationship or not. Seems like a friendly step in the right direction but I think there’s space for an overarching festival which celebrates love in all its various forms including self-love too.

"A Rite of Romance" if you will!

Fine Bone grew out of a commitment to solo sex, a journey of self-love and exploration. This doesn’t mean to say that partnered play is not important but it does already get a lot of the airtime. If Valentine’s day could embrace self-care into its fold, then I’d have no qualms about celebrating it. Spontaneous acts of romance aside, having a special day devoted to all aspects of love is an excellent reminder to set our priorities straight. A day to tell loved ones how much we care and to take an extra-long bubble bath to make ourselves feel loved too.

In lieu of this. For me Valentine’s day 2021 be about will burying myself in a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Then, dressing up for dinner with my flatmate and celebrating “love for the sake of love” over a candle lit dinner for two (with rose petals of course!). Have a good one which ever way you'd like to spend it.

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