This year, I told my boyfriend that I don't care about getting a gift for Valentine's Day. ... But what I really meant was that I better get one hell of a gift for Valentine's Day.
I mean the works: candy, jewelry, roses and a sappy love card that rhymes, with some bug-eyed puppy in a cartoon heart on the cover. Maybe even have a nice dinner — just the two of us.
The truth is, I'm a victim of this deceitful "holiday" that's generated big money for businesses over the years. Valentine's Day is second only to Christmas for numbers of cards sent and it has created a billion-dollar gift chocolate industry in Tokyo.
Historians say Valentine's Day's origins are a little murky, as at least three early Christian saints were named Valentine and the reason for the romantic association is unknown. The one thing that apparently holds true in the stories of all three is that Valentine was a martyred saint. In one legend, Valentine was imprisoned and tortured for disobeying the Roman emperor's decree against allowing young men to marry (it was thought single men made better soldiers), which is a little darker than the fluffy stuffed bunnies on grocery store shelves.
So, somehow the death of a rebellious saint led us to create a holiday of gift-giving, love-making and childlike depictions of what hearts look like. Walk into any big-name grocery or convenience store between late January (sometimes as early as New Year's Day) and early February and you start to notice the conventional heart-shaped boxes filled with artificially flavored chocolates.
Stores' aisles overflow with never-ending temptations. Displays snag shoppers trying to sneak past the strawberry-frosted confetti cupcakes and one-pound Hershey kisses without making eye contact. (One look and you're doomed to spend Valentine's Day sitting on your cold kitchen floor, stuffing your face with sugary sweets and, all the while, promising you'll just run it all off at the gym tomorrow. And you'll only feel bad about being single and "unloved," not about eating two days' worth of calories in one sitting. And maybe those cupcakes look like they'd pair well with some wine, too).
Then, you reach the aisle with the pink, purple or bright red, glittery love cards: For Loved One, For Husband, For Her, For Him, Sexy Couple, Funny Couple, Old Couple, From Us ... each with a treacly greeting, something like, "My heart skips a beat when I see you" or "You make my heart sing." A correct response should be, "maybe you should visit your doctor." But, instead we see these kinds of gestures as sweet endearments.
We spend hour upon hour rummaging through these cards, panicking at the mismatched envelopes behind their designated spots (as if there exists a perfect card). Hearts, despite the Hallmark depictions of flat, cartoon-like objects (sometimes with silly faces or crazy colors or speech bubbles) are simply three-dimensional muscular organs, made up of fluids, tissue, arteries, veins, valves, fibers and cavities, which do one thing: pump blood. Hearts don't love, feel or sing along to Frank Sinatra ballads about falling in love.
I don't think roses smell nice, chocolate makes me break out and I've tossed out every card I ever received. Nevertheless, I expect all of these things on Valentine's Day, because it's become orthodox. It's become a holiday sprung out from dark roots that somehow convinces people that love is in the air.
Let's hope my boyfriend got a whiff of that breeze.
Lisa Gaudio, 20, of North Haven is a junior majoring in psychology at Central Connecticut State University.
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