I don’t mean to sound like a sullen Charlie Brown, but has Valentine’s Day become commercialized? Department stores are no sooner “stuffing the trees up” than they are decking the halls with hearts and a love-struck cupid. While grocery store bakers shake a few more red sprinkles over a tray of sugar cookies, obligated (perhaps procrastinating) men wait in line at the candy shop to pay for a box of chocolates. Let’s not forget about the expensively expensive bouquet of long stem roses or the Victoria’s Secret Angel (on billboard) alluring one more man into the store, in hopes of getting lucky.
I’m thinking (rather politically) that the Valentine trend reflects American capitalism more than it does a genuine aim to promote love. Don’t get me wrong. I fully appreciate the miniature sweetheart boxes of hearts we all grew up with, chuck full of messages like Be Mine or I Love You. The school-crafted Valentine folders that spilled over with cards (taped up with red lollipops from the big spenders) are also dear to my heart.
Still. Like a Charlie Brown with a new voice (Generation X-ers and Baby Boomers can discern the unoriginal voice of the new character) the day seems to have lost its charm. Love ought to be splashed with romance, flowers, and sweet gestures all year long, not squeezed into one day?
Apparently I’m not the only one sensing Cupid’s pressure.
“It’s hyped,” agreed Paulina and Gianna, a cheery pair of friends, also students of Worcester Technical School. “Appreciation should be an everyday thing for couples, not a pressure. Seeing all of the Valentine’s stuff right in your face pushes people to say, ‘I have to do it. I have to make a purchase.’”
Along with the pressure to purchase, these sophomore girls alluded to an added one, at least for their particular age group. Apparently a popular social media site for teenagers, known as Snapchat, offers a clever avenue for young girls to remind their boyfriends to start shopping via posts such as the (not so subtle) message “You better spoil me.”
Is today’s on-the-go couple starving for intimacy and, therefore, guilty of insisting on a vigorous Valentine’s Day or are they at peace to downplay the red-heart hassle? Does gender impact one’s answer? Are men, the traditional wallet dippers, more likely than women to grumble over Valentine’s Day or do women feel that equal rights means equal purchases made? Do couples celebrate without spending any money at all? I investigated some more.
“It’s not a real holiday,” said a middle-aged mother of an Auburn High senior, who admitted that she and her husband have a mutual agreement to not acknowledge Valentine’s Day. “I don’t believe in the box of chocolate thing,” her son added. “It is commercialized.”
Andrew Senoska, who first laid eyes on his valentine in the kitchen of Saint Vincent Hospital, where she prepared a salad, confessed that married life changes the way a man views the day. “When we first started dating I used to make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day with big teddies and hearts. I was old school then. It’s different now that we’ve been married almost eight years. She’s gotten me gifts spontaneously. We’re more low key now.”
Andrew’s sweetheart, Brenda, in agreement, shared fond memories of Valentine’s Days celebrated fantastically in her home country of Puerto Rico where, she explained, high schools “go all out” with tremendous fanfare and traditions that encourage young men who may otherwise be shy to “get over it” and express their love. “Valentine’s Day is the day when men need to impress the girls. If you can’t find him, chances are he’s at a hotel,” Brenda said. These lovebirds, about to celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary on February 19, have agreed to skip Valentine’s Day on the 14th. However, this smart girl from Puerto Rico does have her heart set on something, perhaps, even sweeter.
“A cruise would be nice. To me the perfect Valentine’s Day would be a nice vacation.”
Sofia Elworthy, a Sutton High graduate and Quinsigamond College student, has no plans to pressure her boyfriend, Sam Eilert, on Valentine’s Day. “It’s the thought that should count. They should want to make us feel special. Sam is good to me all year long. He puts a smile on my face every time I walk in the room.”
Xavier Robles, a Millbury High School student, when asked whether or not he plans to celebrate Valentine’s Day with his “unofficial’ girlfriend Ariana Minney commented easily, “Of course.” His sweetheart, nevertheless, plans to take the day in stride. “I’m not going to pressure and make him feel obligated. It’s just something you do if you want to.”
Jonathan Dubois of Uxbridge, according to his newlywed sweetheart, Samantha, continuously wants to make Valentine’s Day special. “He’s super romantic, way more than I am,” she shared.
“She’s never getting a box of chocolates, the creative Valentiner confessed. “The month before I rack my brain for something unique. I feel like a big bouquet of roses is probably the most disgusting form of abuse and she wouldn’t want them. The outrageous cost is frankly disgusting.”
During the last few years the couple has enjoyed dining on raviolis from Venda, a Providence restaurant that had them “doing take-out” a few years back due to a snowstorm. The Italian cuisine, now a prominent slice of their dating history, has become a treasured tradition, along with mascarpone cake from Pastiche, Providence.
Despite Jonathan’s obvious creative heart, Samantha remained practical and grateful about the subject. “As long as he acknowledges the day I’m fine,” Samantha said.
Whether local couples celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, one thing is for certain. Love is in the air, regardless of how it’s wrapped.