Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.
Countless couples and would-be couples are, as we speak, scrambling to find romantic ways to mark the occasion. It’s stressful and time-consuming and expensive and, for those without sweethearts, frustrating and pathetic and why does God hate me?!
We all know that in its modern-day incarnation, Valentine’s Day is a holiday propped up by candy companies and card companies and restaurants and Yankee Candle, and yet even those of us who reject the concept often end up making some kind of concession to it, if only so our significant others don’t feel left out when the sheep in the office get flowers and they don’t.
Even the least cynical among us can see through the heart-shaped nonsense to the heartless industry behind it. So why do we get our kids involved?
If you have a young kid, I’m willing to bet your house is littered with Valentine’s Day arts and crafts right now. I’m surrounded by papers and lace and stickers, all for helping my kid make cards for his classmates. Tomorrow, those supplies will be replaced by the bounty of cards he’ll get in exchange. Not to mention a collection of terrible-tasting heart-shaped candy, as if to symbolize that love makes us all cannibals. (Which: valid.)
I believe the children are our future. Teach them well, I say, and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside, and then muddy the waters by forcing them to participate in strange, commercialized rituals that require them to profess their romantic attraction to every single person in their classroom.
I’m not concerned about the way society has erased the celebration of accomplishment with awarding someone for merely participating. Well, I guess I’m a little concerned about it, but that’s not what I’m concerned about right now. (Valentine’s Day is actually one case in which I think everyone should be made to include everyone else, to avoid any awkward Ralph Wiggum situations.) Right now I’m more concerned with the way society ropes children into Valentine’s Day for no reason other than creating a legion of emotionally-brainwashed consumers.
What does this holiday accomplish besides training kids to have a Pavlovian, gift-based response to a meaningless day in the middle of February? Or worse, an association between love and gift-giving? Doesn’t Christmas already cover that, without the creepy romance angle? At least most people like Christmas. Nobody likes Valentine’s Day. So what exactly is the point of indoctrinating children into something that most adults wish weren’t even a thing?
I don’t see the need for toddlers and elementary school kids to participate in something that, at its purest, is about a kind of love they can’t even understand and don’t yet need to, and at its worst is about buying shit. Let them wait until they’re older to be ensnared by the sticky swamp of relationships. With all the hormoned-up GMOs we eat, it’s only a few years until early-onset puberty anyway!
In a culture that is constantly ranting about the hypersexualization of children and the dangers that come with growing up too fast, why is Valentine’s Day never mentioned? I don’t want to go off the rails here; I know kids aren’t giving each other candy hearts that say “I WANT YOU” or cards with their phone numbers on them… except maybe they are? After all, eleven-year-olds are supposedly having rainbow parties (I heard about it on Sex and the City!
Remind me: why did I decide to have children again?
I may be exaggerating a bit. I don’t really think celebrating Valentine’s Day is leading kids down the path to teen pregnancy – by the time they are old enough to worry about that, the holiday is no longer school-sanctioned – but I’m not sure it’s helping. And I do think it’s pushing children yet another step up the ladder towards becoming good consumers, and towards equating spending money with being romantic. Hell, even if it’s not, I certainly don’t need another day dedicated to giving children bags of candy.
Maybe I’m just a Grinch. (Is there a Valentine’s Day equivalent to the Grinch? The Smiths? Let’s go with The Smiths.) Maybe I’m just annoyed at having so much red and pink paper to throw away. And maybe I just hate those disgusting candy hearts everyone gets. They taste like chalk!