Valentine’s Day: excuse for consumerism?

As a married senior in college, my current non-academic life can be summated with the expression “love + money.”  I have love.  I am trying to get money.  As simple as that may seem, this is the time of year when winged cherubs and Tiffany catalogues begin floating in and adding unwelcome variables to the equation.  While meandering the aisles of Hallmark, I found myself contemplating a new solution.  Could it be that “love + money” doesn’t just represent two large portions of my day-to-day?  Could it also be that “love + money” equals consumerism?  Is Valentine’s Day merely an excuse to validate this behavior?

My thoughts then went to my dear parents who may have it just about right.  When they enter Hallmark they are armed with intentions that stray slightly from that of the general populous.  Yes, they do still search high and low for the perfect sentiment.  The difference is seen after the tedious selection process is completed.   You see, once they have each selected a winner, they exchange, share that precious “Awww” moment, return the greetings to their respective places, and depart hand-in-hand.  A simple, no-cost tradition that is somehow lost in the midst of Tacori ads and
Victoria’s Secret bags.

This led me to wonder, “Has our society really lost its ability to love the simple things?”  Maybe it is just me, but the “lost” bit seems to stick these days.  The phrase, “national disarray” comes to mind, and I have come to the realization that spelling it out with chocolate letters from Godiva isn’t going to sweeten that reality.

I am sounding like a complete killjoy, no? Let me briefly take this opportunity to openly admit that I am not a hater of all things mainstream.  In fact, I happen to adore Sweetest Day.  Why?  Because Sweetest Day was founded on the idea of loving gestures towards the misfortunate and forgotten, and the truth is that the history of St. Valentine isn’t quite as warm and fuzzy (hint: in basically all versions, he’s killed).  Did the two holidays just get confused over the years?

Doubtful.  It is more than likely that the latter has been intentionally manipulated into the multi-billion dollar industry it has become.  Don’t believe me?  I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.  According to “National Geographic,” in 2009 it was a $14.7 billion business.  In the same article it was stated that in 2010,  the average U.S. consumer was expected to spend $103 on Valentine’s Day-related expenses.

Before you tell me to get off my soap box and choke on my Valentine’s Day bottle of Moscato D’Asti, I would like the record to show that I do plan to celebrate the holiday this year.  However, I certainly do not need to spend $103 to do so.  Instead, my husband and I will be writing letters to each other that we plan to open on our fifth wedding anniversary.  Total cost?  About 23 cents for the paper and ink.  That $102.77 in savings sure will put a spring in my step and perhaps even reinforce the idea that love and money can coexist.  The trick is to ensure that one variable is not dependent on the other.

Is Valentine’s Day an excuse for consumerism?  It’s a free country and you can come to your own conclusion; regardless of your thoughts, I’ve got 14.7 billion reasons to say that it is.