Should We Just Ditch Valentine’s Day?
Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite novels. Yes, yes, I can feel you sighing and rolling your eyes; big shock coming from the English student, I know. But we have a lot to thank it for. Not only did it bring Colin Firth’s career and sideburns, get yours truly the grades for university AND inspire Bridget Jones’ Diary, arguably the best rom-com ever produced; but back in the Austen days, when marriage was more of a business contract than a celebration of love, it defined that boring, old patriarchal expectation of wedlock being the only acceptable option for women as minorities in society. Elizabeth Bennet is famously a character who’d rather be head over heels in love than simply comfortable and settled, and I for one tip my bonnet to her.
Elizabeth Bennet is brave. Before she meets Darcy whom she eventually falls for, she’s rather content on remaining a ‘spinster’. It’s funny when you compare the definition of a ‘spinster’ to that of a ‘bachelor’. ‘Sad spinster’ vs. ‘eligible bachelor’. You see what I’m getting at here? The connotations are – astonishingly still to this day – very different. One is seen as a pitiful failure, the other as something to be admired; or envious of. Society is still guilt-tripping women into feeling as though they should be with a partner, or else be doomed to a life of grooming cats and knitting alone (both of which don’t actually sound all that bad – Taylor Swift seems to be loving it on her Instagram). But something that has become very apparent to me is that being alone is something very different to being lonely.
I first learned this in the third year of primary school when I ran on to the yard one morning and made the executive decision that the class clown was my so-called ‘boyfriend’. He, on the other hand, had no say whatsoever in the matter and was completely and utterly oblivious and unaware of this development. I’m sure you will be shocked and devastated to learn that the relationship didn’t last very long. It’s okay, I got over it. I realised a week later that I’d forgotten about it myself. The point is, at six years old, I gave this concept of ‘boyfriend’ a try and soon realised that, in that particular case, it didn’t feel quite right. In all honesty, we were just different people; I couldn’t get on board with his uncontrollable nose-picking addiction, for example. I wouldn’t make him my ‘boyfriend’ just for the sake of it, I would wait until I found someone that made me feel like I had gained, rather than sacrificed (I was, evidently, a rather philosophical child). This idea of ‘sad spinster’ hadn’t yet been introduced to me in life; it was non-existent. So I was free to conclude that, for the time being, I was much more content on my own.
Three years later, I received my first Valentine card. There it was on my desk, the hot-pink envelope, and a tiny teddy wearing a t-shirt saying ‘I love you’ accompanying it. I remember recognising the handwriting of the boy who sat opposite me and grinning quietly to myself. I also remember feeling a little nauseous. I was still in the phase of “I acknowledge that boys exist, but if you think I’m happy to hold their cootie-riddled hand in P.E. without wiping the germs away on my top afterwards, you’ve got another thing coming, pal” – but we’ll dismiss that for now. There were only five girls in my class, and he would change the recipient of his Valentine card every year so that each of us got one. So, it’s safe to say that it was far from a personal, dramatic declaration of courtly love and undying passion. It was, however, innocent. In return, I mouthed ‘thank you’ to him and that was it. It was a gesture; a nice, thoughtful, friendly gesture of love that I still appreciate today, over a decade later. I very much doubt at nine years old that he was actually IN love with me, but he had thought of me. Children are taught and encouraged to love fiercely in all of its forms, so at what point in life does love become most prominently about romance and nothing else?
Flash forward to Saturday, the 21st of January, 2017. This was a big one. A wonderful, historical and faith-restoring day. This was a day of love as I like to think of it. As part of the ‘Women’s March’, millions of people of all genders, races, religions, sexualities and backgrounds took to the streets of cities which included Washington D.C., New York, Paris, London, Toronto, Chicago and of course, Liverpool to name just a few. They did so to make one very clear message known: ‘Love Trumps Hate’. Was this ‘love’ that they spoke of specifically the ‘love’ where you jump in a horse and carriage and disappear forever into the sunset? Of course not; it was love as a whole; its togetherness. Whilst I’m not in any way dismissing the significance of the romantic love that Valentines Day is so renowned for (I’ve watched practically everything directed by Richard Curtis so many times it’s slightly worrying), what I do ask is: why stop at it? How about we ditch the idea that it’s the only kind of love worth celebrating and that those without it are sad, worthless, grotesque nothings? Can’t we just be left to channel our inner pre- Darcy Elizabeth Bennets, Taylor Swifts and Leonardo DiCaprios instead?
So, by all means, keep Valentines Day. Indulge in all its promotion and commercialism. But please don’t neglect the fact that love exists in many forms and should be celebrated as such for everyone; the singletons and the ‘takens’. It’s familial, romantic, platonic… sardonic… (maybe not that last one, but good rhyming, eh?). All of which I will be acknowledging and celebrating on the 14th of February this year, and every year hereafter, regardless of my relationship status. Why don’t you join me?