Annotations: Valentine's Day

A Season for Spending

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day of love for some, bitterness for others, and little note to the folks holed up in their labs. Yet, no matter the emotion, the central message of the holiday cannot be forgotten: spend money, lots of it.

In 2008, Americans spent $17 billion expressing their love on Valentine’s Day; averaging $123 per consumer, this makes Valentine’s Day the third largest “spending season” of the year. Following the dismally low spending last holiday season, in which sales of luxury goods and electronics fell more than 25 percent, it’s time to start buying again—the flowers, chocolates, and scandalous undergarments you purchase will create jobs for hardworking Americans and get the economy back on track.

Even increased Valentine’s Day spending might not do the job, however, and Easter, the next largest spending day, doesn’t come until April 12. We need a new, Hallmark-based occasion to fiscally demonstrate our love for significant others and bump up consumer spending in March. There are many options to choose from: Johnny Appleseed Day, Single Parent’s Day, National Goof-Off Day, Chocolate Covered Raisin Day, or even National Something-On-A-Stick Day. Best of all is Make Up Your Own Holiday Day on March 26. (I could not make this up.)

Here is our chance to make things right. Forget the bailouts; this Valentine’s Day. Show that special someone you care enough to abandon fiscal responsibility for civic duty. Then get ready to get creative—March 26 is only 40 days away.

Shai D. Bronshtein ’09, a Crimson editorial writer, is a social studies concentrator in Lowell House.

A Day Like Any Other

In the days leading up to Feb. 14, many people ask each other tentative questions like, “Do you have special plans for Valentine’s Day?” What they really mean is, “Do you have better plans than me?”

Unfortunately, the holiday is one based on pressure. We feel pressure to show our loved one how much we care; we feel pressure to devise an elaborate and (we hope) somewhat original plan to showcase the depth of our feelings. Many of us, however, are single—and we feel our own kind of pressure, pressure to pair off beforehand, or at least find a date. Outwardly, the holiday appears happy, red, and dazzling, with diamonds to apologize and cards to quantify feelings. Scratch the surface, however, and it can be depressing and excluding.

I have been on either end of the spectrum. I’ve taken girlfriends to Broadway shows and dinners, frittering away hours planning the “perfect gift.” Last year, in contrast, I felt more like a divorcee paying alimony when I was induced to send flowers to an ex-girlfriend just so she wouldn’t be lonely that day. I now recognize the beast beneath the glitter and have come to a realization. If you take the day just as any other, with lower expectations, you’ll have no reason to stress, whether you’re single or hooked.

Alexander R. Konrad ’11, a Crimson editorial writer, is a history concentrator in Quincy House.

Managing the Icy Date

A 1903 encyclopedia of superstition and folklore notes that, if you look down a well on Valentine’s Day, you may see the face of your sweetheart. In Cambridge, where wells are hard to come by, the vision is likelier to appear in a frigid puddle of slush. There you might catch a glimpse of the distressed face of your date as he or she contemplates the next block’s worth of sidewalk acrobatics.

A bit of perverse historical chance dropped the holiday of elegant evening dates down on the part of the calendar worst suited for it. Erratic mountains of ice and curbsides which drop off into unfriendly black abysses make walking anywhere in February a chore. Add in impractical shoes, uncomfortable clothes, and high expectations, and the chore can become catastrophe.

So, if you have nothing else to do on Saturday evening, tear open a bag of Sweethearts, wander around Mt. Auburn Street, and look. You will see girls with bare legs submerged in snow piles, whipped into apoplectic frenzies. You will see bumbling boys unhelpful, frustrated, cold. But, just as often, you will see a good-natured, tough couple laughing in the face of winter—a cheerful reminder that we ought to gauge our days not by the temperature of the freezing rain or the number of bricks missing in the sidewalk, but by the insurrectionary joy with which we confront them.

Garrett G.D. Nelson ’09, a Crimson editorial writer, is a social studies and visual and environmental studies concentrator in Cabot House.