Reflections on Valentine’s Day

I could go on at great length about the manifold dynamics of Valentine’s Day, but I’m going to stick to a few basic points.

1. Without a doubt, American Valentine’s Day marketing both drives and reflects sexist entitlement. Women are expected to expect – to expect material goods, expensive dinners, surprise getaways and pedestalizing deference. Like snotty kids on Christmas morning, they are told to compare their hauls against their girlfriends’, and if theirs does not measure up they are entitled to be angry and exasperated at their men.

If you think that’s bad, the images sent to and about men are breathtaking:

  • Men are not to expect any gifts or expressions of love; if a man does a good job putting on a show, his woman (can’t call this type of woman a lady) might consider reciprocating.
  • Men must express their love through the spending of money
  • Men are constitutionally defective and unable to “romantically communicate” to their women.
  • Men should feel lucky a woman has allowed him to spend time with her, and they should show it by lavishing supplication.
  • For those ads that suggest a woman deign to show her love through the act of sex, it’s communicated that strategically-utilized money will get a man good sex.

A hypothesis: Belief in an entitled, one-sided view of Valentine’s Day correlates with future Bridezilla tendencies; likewise a man’s gamey ability to assert himself against such a pervasive a one-sided caricature of romance correlates with his chance of having a rewarding long-term relationship.

2. Valentine’s Day should be unnecessary. If your relationship is reasonably romantic throughout the year, a day of expected “romance” should be superfluous. You can have a “Valentine’s Day” any day you want! And it will be even more meaningful because it wasn’t placed on the calendar by a stationery printer. Not to mention that it’s not realistic to expect to turn on the sexy moves one day a year after going ghost the other 364. Besides, every couple has an anniversary which provides a perfect opportunity to celebrate your togetherness.

3. There is nothing romantic about an obligatory, non-mutual “romantic” holiday. If your heart is warmed by expressions of “love” that are the result of social coercion, you’re not really accepting love – it’s more like a power trip where you derive satisfaction from being groveled at. (You might be the type to wear a tshirt like this.) A voluntary shower of thoughtful, romantic attention can be a sexy move because a high-status guy has other things to do with his day, and the minor sacrifice he makes to show you extra attention shows he judges you to be of high value. But obligated “romance” enjoins none of the thoughtfulness or sacrifice – it’s just the cost of doing business. (When’s the last time you heard an MBA say that sunk costs were romantic?) And a guy who experiences one-sided expectations, who puts in the effort and doesn’t get any appreciation for it but is told “you’re just SUPPOSED to do that ’cause you’re the man!” is with a woman who wants to kill her own libido since women don’t find chumps attractive.

I don’t want to belabor the point, but further killing the true romance factor is the fact that Valentine’s Day is a high holy day of female intrasexual competition and petty envy – from who woke up to a special breakfast, to who got something delivered at the office, to who went to what restaurant or picnic spot in the evening, to who got the hottest jewelry or lingerie. (I’d like to know if women compete the day after regarding whose husband gave her the most mind-blowing orgasm.)

4. The degree to which the media onslaught has brainwashed people is epidemic. I clicked on a link about Valentine’s Day that took me to a personal banking website – “What Women Really Want on Valentine’s Day.” Why a site that collates loan rates and writes how-tos on mortgage refinancing felt the need to post on romance I don’t know, but it was a harbinger of un-wisdom. It began with warnings about thoughtless and “gift-challenged” men (a big reason men kowtow to this stuff is they don’t want to be judged as brutes) and was the same predictable boilerplate about how men have to “make her feel special.” It’s not that the advice itself was all that bad, but notably absent (manosphere readers will know exactly what’s coming) was any discussion AT ALL of what women could do to show love for their men, or any implication that a man should expect any romantic gestures on her part.

Hoping I had simply missed a link to the post’s counterpart, I emailed the editor to ask if they had a balanced viewpoint:

Hello,

I was wondering where your story was on what women can get men for Valentine’s Day? It’s not linked from the “What Women Really Want on Valentine’s Day” post.

-The Badger
http://badgerhut.wordpress.com/

The editor was kind enough to reply, which I quite appreciated:
Hi there,
Maybe we’ve got a broken link somewhere. Where is the link that you’re trying to click on? Let me know as soon as you can so I can let the right people know what the problem is so it can get resolved.
Thanks for letting us know,
Clark Palmer
Editorial content
In the meantime, here’s the story: http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/advice/20060206a1.asp
As you can see he either misread my email, or it never occured to him that I might actually be looking for a post giving Valentine’s Day advice to women. I never heard back after this reply:
Clark,
Thanks for the reply. The link I’m looking for doesn’t appear to be on the site at all. The post on “what women really want on Valentine’s Day” has links below it to:
-“Valentine’s Day do’s and don’ts for guys,” a post by a man lecturing other men on how dumb they are
-“Readers reminisce: my romantic gift,” a compendium of eleven Valentine’s Day anecdotes – only one of which concerned a man receiving something from his lady
Surely you’ve posted at least one story about what women can do on Valentine’s Day for the men in their lives?
Thanks,

Fortunately, another money blog has a much sounder view. Valentine’s Day heads Erik Folgate’s “10 Dates to Remember That Will Save You Money.” Not only is it arguing for good financial sense, but save for a quick paeon to women’s Valentine’s Day dreams (which is good writing to play to the audience before challenging their worldview) there’s no implication that one side is doing all the spending, or loving.

February 14th: Skip it, and you’ll save a lot of money.  Ladies, before you take my head off, hear me out.  If you want to go out and celebrate love on Valentine’s Day, just do it a few days before or after the actual date.  On the actual day, Valentine’s Day has ridiculously overpriced flowers and restaurants love to pin you down to an all-inclusive 4 course meal for a flat price.  If you want to celebrate, there’s no need to do it on the 14th.

COLLABORATION AND RESISTANCE

As readers can tell, I have a decidedly negative view of the idea that one can be coerced and shamed into love and generosity. It’s not just that supplication is a bad relationship strategy. It’s that I feel as though I am collaborating with the Matrix by giving in to social pressures of obligation – buying into a deeply destructive cultural mythology, that men are dim and cold and lack the ability to express their emotions or communicate to women, that they are lucky to have a woman who wants to be with them and that they have to make recompense to their women on Valentine’s Day for putting up with them the rest of the year.

NOMANCE DAY

Leader of the resistance is the outspoken activist Marc Rudov, the self-styled “No Nonsense Man.” Rudov has garnered significant publicity for his “Nomance Day” boycott. His arguments for mutual, sponatenous, voluntary romance have spawned a predictable phalanx of unhinged haters saying he is an incorrigible sexist, a loser or just doesn’t want to spend any money. Rudov hasn’t gone so far as to advocate skittling (discussed for LTR here), but he’s still building his brand.

I would be curious to hear from stateside non-Americans (paging Athol Kay) about whether this exists elsewhere, and if not, how they have reacted to the idea of a hyper-commercialized mandatory romance day. Someone who didn’t grow up in the USA certainly has a lot more credibilty to say “what?? I’m not participating in this madness!”

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15 Comments

Filed under junk culture, original research

15 responses to “Reflections on Valentine’s Day

  1. ritmo rioplatense

    St. Valentine’s (the way Americans do things) is rather useful as a barometer of your relationship — you should be glad it’s there, because it brings to the surface things that are hidden at other times.

    Viz., if she’s happy lying around half-naked in post-coital delirium on 14/feb in addition to other days, and even making you dinner instead of going out, then your relationship is in good shape. If she throws a fit, it’s already over.

  2. Hawk

    Very well said. For years I have hated this hallmark holiday….and I’m so glad you put into words excatly my point! Thanks!

  3. Seeing as my girlfriend and I are both on a tight budget, we’ve agreed to exchange homemade Valentine’s cards and get a takeout Indian meal in the evening. That’s it.

    We have enough stuffed toys as it is. Teddybears, I mean. No more!

  4. Great post, and thanks for the link!

  5. Same V-Day crap in New Zealand Badger.

    Thanks for the link love, much appreciated.

  6. Pingback: St. Valentine’s Day Mascara (Audio) « The Solomon Group

  7. Ulysses

    For our first Valentine’s day I gave Penelope a copy of the Kama Sutra and a Barry White CD. Subsequent Valentine’s gifts escape me, but there have been some. Not every year though. Predictability is no-win.

  8. Anonymous

    You may enjoy this V-day article too. It’s about how long-lasting couples do gift giving.
    When Love Outgrows Gifts on Valentine’s Day
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/your-money/12money.html

  9. lifeinlonglegs

    Well said. I personally think we women have an opportunity to spend a little cash on our man at v-day, with more romantic impact – primarily because this is such a one-sided holiday in general.

  10. Pingback: What [not?] to get your Man for Valentine’s day « lifeinlonglegs

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  12. Thanks for all the love and links, I appreciate it.

    Anonymous: I’m shocked (shocked!) to learn that marriages that last don’t count their worth in holiday presents!

    longlegs, great stuff – I’ll be citing your stuff in a followup.

  13. Pingback: Valentine’s Day Follow-Up « The Badger Hut

  14. detinennui32

    I was dating my then GF now wife. We’ve been seriously daing about 3 months. First V-day. she makes me dinner and got me a card. I gave her a card.

    Silence. She lit a cigarette.

    Here come the mistakes.

    Mistake 1 “What’s wrong?”

    “Nothing” (lie)

    Mistake 2: pressing the issue. “I know something’s wrong.”

    Entitlement monkey: “I deserved more than a card!” (That’s a direct quote. She actually said this to me. Read that again. Did you get that? She said she DESERVED a gift.)

    Mistake 3: profuse apology and explanation. “I’m sorry. I’m just not into gifts that much, I guess.”

    Mistake 4: promising to make it up: “I’ll get you something tomorrow.”

    Mistake 5: staying the night, hanging around, hoping she’ll get into a better mood for the make up sex which never came, at least not that night.

    Mistake 6: Calling the next day at work to see if she is still mad at me.

    Here’s what I should have said, looking back: “You don’t DESERVE a gift. When I want to get you a gift, I will. I think I’d better go.” And then I should have simply left and waited a couple or three days to call.

  15. No it’s the same here in the UK. A lot of women having a competition over who got what from their boyfriends.

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