I don’t like Valentine’s Day. Frankly I never have.
Whether it was the weird socio-political status games played by children in grade-school to the modern day celebration of romantic love through commercial excess, whether I was single or in a relationship, Valentine’s Day has been one of my least favorite holidays. In fact, more often than not, Valentine’s Day represented a day of resentment and misery.
My irritation with Valentine’s Day comes from a long-built up resentment of the cultural cachet given to what is, ultimately, a made up commercial holiday. It is a day where we are expected to prove our affection for somebody through material goods and – by extension – to remind single people that they are ultimately worth less because they don’t have a special monogamous, heteronormative relationship and they should drown their sorrows in whiskey like the dogs they are.
Still, much like being an atheist at Christmas, it’s become such an intrinsic part of the culture – utterly divorced from the saint that it’s supposedly dedicated to – that it’s virtually inescapable; even the most well-meaning of couples will feel the obligation to acknowledge Valentine’s Day in some form or another. So if you feel the need to celebrate your relationship on an utterly arbitrary day, then I want to teach you how to have the perfect Valentine’s Day.
By ignoring it.
Holy Day of Lover’s Obligation
Here is my problem with Valentine’s Day: it’s not about love, it’s about trying to conflating emotion with materialism and “proving” one’s devotion via crass commercialism.
The idea that Valentine’s Day is the celebration of a Catholic saint’s martyrdom for secretly marrying Christians in the Roman empire is a myth created out of whole cloth – an invention of a 5th century work called Passio Marii et Marthae that sexed up the martyrdom of one of several Saint Valentine’s by attributing the tortures that other saints and martyrs suffered. There are no official records of St. Valentine of Rome, nor was his feast day in February. The celebration of Valentine’s Day is another example of the Catholic Church trying to spur conversions by coopting local pagan festivals – in this case, a fertility rite that involved werewolves, fucking, flogging virgins and coating everything with goat’s blood.
Valentine’s Day as we currently know it is the creation of the 19th century, the commodification of the interest and fashionability of romantic love spurred on by printers and lace makers and it has spiraled further and further out of control since as people started to equate purchasing power and grand gestures with expressions of love. It has become an intrinsic part of the culture that we are supposed to buy things for our valentines… and if you don’t, then clearly he (and it’s mostly aimed at men – a remnant of when 20-40 year old men were considered the dominant economic demographic and the ones with the most disposable income) doesn’t love you enough.
It has, in effect, become a culturally accepted way to keep score in Who’s Winning The Relationship sweepstakes merged with the idea that we can buy our way into somebody’s pants with cheap chocolate and half-dead shrubbery.
The more commercial the holiday has become, the more the stakes have been raised. It’s not enough to buy a printed card, you have to buy a flower. You can’t just buy a flower, you have to buy a dozen roses – bonus points if you buy an especially uncommon breed. In the late 80s, the diamond industry – which already artificially inflates the value of gemstones – started a campaign to instil the belief that jewelry is the proper gift for Valentine’s day.
And of course, everything is priced with a significant mark-up to go with the constant exhortations that the more you spend, the more you love your partner.
Traditions that started with the French (who almost literally invented The Friend Zone with the concept of courtly love) have eventually morphed into trying to exchange chocolate and flowers for sex – and then added levels of social obligation on top of it. The Japanese – who have no Christian tradition to blame it on – have distilled Valentine’s day into it’s purest essence: women buying (or occasionally making) chocolate for guys in exchange for even more expensive reciprocal gifts a month later (known as White Day). It even comes complete with a social ranking system – there’s the expensive chocolates for the people you actually love and the cheap stuff – called giri-choko (“obligatory chocolate”) to be given to classmates and co-workers. Because nothing makes a person feel better than a system that codefies “I’m only doing this because the social contract insists that I do so” into an actual material display of your contempt.
But to quote the wise sage, it’s a curious game and the only way to win is not to play…
So the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to skip it entirely.
Celebrate Your Love… By Staying Home.
Now, this doesn’t mean not doing anything; after all, it’s a day that’s kind of hard to avoid culturally even if you despise it and all that it’s come to represent.
What I mean by skipping Valentine’s Day is that you don’t take part in the day itself. Don’t buy presents, skip the restaurants or the cutesy “dream date” prix fixe events. Take the day off… from everything. The day is supposed to be about celebrating your love for you and your partner, not about expensive dinners or gifts. So take the day to just celebrate each other. Preferably naked and involving baby-oil.
Part of the joy of love is the way that the world reduces to just the two of you… so rejoice in that. Hide yourselves away from everybody and have a mini-vacation away from the world.
First: lay in supplies early. The last thing you want to deal with is the insane mark-up that’s going to hit everything with even a hint of romance to it – and it’s only going to get more expensive the closer you get to V-Day. So make your plans accordingly and buy as far in advance as you can.
Ideally you don’t want to leave the house or even opening the door for anything short of the neighbors telling you to keep the noise down. And possibly not even then. So make sure that you have enough of everything on hand to handle ever possible contingency. This means you want to make sure you have: lube, condoms, clean underwear, food, bottles of wine, chocolates, DVDs (or a Netflix subscription), snacks, candles, matches, oil, clean towels, chargers, batteries… everything you need to set yourselves up in your own little world for the rest of the night… and possibly the next day as well if you can get the time off.
Important: FUCK FIRST
I’m going to steal a line1 from the official DNL Celebrity Spirit-Animal Dan Savage: Before you make any other plans, whether you’re staying home or going out… fuck first. As soon as the two of you get home, head straight to the bedroom… or the couch… or the nearest flat surface that can actually support your combined body weight and just go at it like a couple of animals. One of the most common – and most easily avoided – complaints that couples have about Valentine’s Day is that they never got around to making love before the night was over. Instead they’d had too much wine, too much rich food and too much activity to stay awake. So while the spirit may have been willing, the flesh was determined to get it’s eight hours in because it was fucking wrecked. As a result, they tend to think that the evening was ruined because not having sex on the Holy Boning Day is apparently a sign that you don’t love each other enough.
So bang first and ask questions later.
Having sex shouldn’t be restricted to the end of an evening, nor should penetrative orgasms mark the end of the festivities. Just because one or the both of you got off once shouldn’t mean that it’s time to close your eyes and pass out – in fact, by breaking the association between sex and the end of an evening, you can help rekindle the spark of a long-term relationship. Having a good roll in the hay and knowing you have more ahead of you can actually be surprisingly arousing – you may very well find yourselves looking forward to another go-round… perhaps more intense and passionate, perhaps slower and more intimiate.
An alternate take would be to make the entire evening one long, grand teasing foreplay. Break out every single dirty trick you know that drives your partner absolutely wild and get them just to the edge of being unable to control themselves… then back off. Continue to flirt, tease and taunt one another all night long until the two of you can’t take it any longer and just explode into an insane bout of passion.
Just. Y’know. Make sure you turn the stove off first. Because some things are a little awkward to explain to the fire marshall afterwards.
Play With Your Food (Just Not In It)
Part of the point of the evening is that it’s a celebration of the two of you, so this both of you should be putting everything together, especially if you tend to divvy up the chores. This is especially true regarding making dinner: you should be working at cooking together. Making a meal to feed a loved one is remarkably intimate and a way of bonding together… provided, of course, that you’re keeping a playful, flirty atmosphere instead of screaming at each other like a meth’d out Gordon Ramsay.
Plan a meal that’s simple, forgoes utensils and encourages eating (and feeding each other) with your fingers. Pizza is an obvious choice, but don’t forget the possibilities of sushi, satays, samosas or kebabs or even just fruit and cheese trays. Forgo the kitchen table and sprawl out on the floor. Bonus points if you have a fire place.
Despite my disdain for the pressure to buy marked up candy, I do recommend getting chocolates for dessert, especially dark chocolate. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine which stimulates oxytocin production in the brain… the same hormone that’s released during sexual activity. The oxytocin bonds with receptors in the brain, just as it does when we’re in love with someone; it mimics the brain chemistry of romantic love an spurs on emotional bonding and intimacy.
Plus, it tastes great with a Cabernet or a Shiraz.
Responsibility Is For Tomorrow
After the food is taken care of… put the dishes in the sink and forget about them. Your night is for decadence and indulgence. Responsibilities are for the next day. Any nods towards cleaning should be limited to yelling “YES LANA, THAT’S HOW YOU GET ANTS,”
Instead: retire to the bathroom and have a long, insanely hot soak or shower together. Just let the heat and the water drain the tension and stress from the two of you and just savor the feeling of skin on skin. Trade massages or just let the bathroom steam up as you relax together and just enjoy the moment. The world can take care of itself without the two of you for a little while longer.
Afterwards… well, it’s up to you. Make love again like weasels in heat. Sack out on the couch with a couple joints (marijuana also stimulates oxytocin production… just sayin’) and some Supernatural reruns. Bask in the afterglow. Pass out tangled in the sheets.
And then the next day, you get your Valentine’s bonus.
You get to celebrate National Half-Priced Chocolate Day.
- Like that’s a first… [↩]