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Valentine's Catharsis

I've never been particularly strongly affected by Valentine's Day. I spent more years than I care to think about single, but I never felt the intense sense of rejection and exclusion that many single people report (perhaps because I was so hopelessly single that the possibility that I could be celebrating the holiday didn't seem realistic). I've been lucky enough to spend the past four Valentines' Days with partners who were progressive enough not to demand that we act out the standard Valentines' Day script (flowers and heart-shaped chocolates and whatnot).

But while Valentine's Day is overtly a day for couples, and I don't doubt the sincerity of many single people's complaints, I think the day also serves an important function for many single people. Many single people understandably feel that there's something missing from their lives. This is both a personal lack -- wanting the kind of affection that you can only get from a romantic partner -- and a social lack -- our society is in many respects set up to accommodate couples. Valentines' Day serves as a focus for all that bitterness. By being overtly couple-centric, it brings single people's lack to a head. This allows them to wallow. They can justify, to themselves and others, pouring out their anger and bitterness. They can go on the offensive against people in relationships, accusing them of being oppressors and of having been duped by Hallmark. And they can participate in perhaps the most important Valentine's Day tradition, the bitter single people party. By "heightening the contradictions" of romantic inequality, Valentine's Day provides a catharsis and rallying point for the single.


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