Written by: Preston Chapin Soriano
With the approach of February stores all around have started pulling out their pink and red decor, pushing once again the pressure of romance on begrudging men and women alike. Hearts and flowers cover red boxes of sweets, cards with generic sentiments line the aisle, balloons and stuffed animals watch you shop with beady, black eyes and ribbons. With V-Day around the corner, we are reminded that we in fact do not love our significant other unless we buy them X, Y, and Z. If you aren’t in a relationship? Well, this is the time to be shown just how lonely you really are (even if you aren’t) because look at all of these happy couples buying things for each other. Who will buy things for you? You have your own job, and your own money, but if you even think about picking up a box of chocolates for yourself you must be very pathetic.
When we measure our care for one another with monetary value we are insulting the very meaning of love. Love for someone is not about how much you can spend on them, or how much they spend on you; love is an involuntary response to the values and virtues of the person you love. You cannot buy it, you cannot sell it, and you cannot force it. Anyone who tells you that someone doesn’t love you if they do not spend money on “nice things” for you is only pushing consumerism and their own twisted version of affection. To measure your relationship based only on the financial value of your partner is cruel, and completely shallow. Generally, your need for a tactile material reward is–in an ironic way–showing just how much your love is worth, and how much you can be bought for. Raising your expectations every year is also informing your partner that if they do not keep increasing this reward, your love can be taken back making your affection no longer a feeling but a currency.
This applies for more than just Valentine’s Day. Any holiday that forces you to acknowledge a feeling with material things is shallow and should be recognized as such. This includes holidays such as Mother’s/Father’s Day, birthdays, and (gasp) Christmas. I personally do not celebrate these holidays for this very reason. I acknowledge and appreciate my parents every day of the year, I am thankful for my loved ones being in my life every day, and I know that my relationships with friends and family do not hinge on the gifts I want to give them at the end of the year. I am not saying that people should not get together on these days if they want to, but simply call it out for what it is and don’t hold any real value over the event.
To those of you who are rolling your eyes at this, and asking “What’s the big deal, it’s just gifts?” The big deal is the continued programming of the importance of these things. Your children won’t understand why Mom and Dad are fighting over a dinner reservation, or that you wanted a ring, NOT earrings. The focus of the holiday becomes the act of spending resources and not spending time. Children absorb behavior much more than you might realize. They can see where the conflicts are rising from, and will begin to put value into the material items that prevent these conflicts from happening. We tend to project the love our parents show us and each other onto our relationships. Consumerism is destroying the very foundation that love was meant to be built on.
The story that the holiday of Valentine’s Day is based on is about how one man refused to stop performing unions between young couples after it was outlawed by Roman Emperor Claudius II who decided that unmarried men fought in wars better. This decision ultimately led to Valentine’s murder, ordered by the Emperor who discovered his activities. Whether the lore is true or not, the holiday itself has become a bastard of its original conception after years of mutation and constant repeating of the mantra that money buys happiness. Raising children into the world of consumerism does not lead to happiness, but anger and depression of the things that one does not have. Instead of working hard and achieving goals for happiness, we want it given to us. We become leeches of good feelings, sucking on the people in our lives that can achieve happiness themselves, hoping to to get a glimpse of the other side.
We cannot keep relying on silly holidays and rewards to keep our lives together. It is hard to live your life to its potential, but a good life has never been easy for anyone. We have to work hard, and we have to strive to make intelligent decisions. We must dissect the things we care about, find out why we care about them, and with everything we absolutely have to break it down to its core and think about why it is important in our lives. What values does the thing bring, and is it worth the trouble? It sucks, and it hurts analyzing the supposed values that you grew up with, but man is it relieving once it’s done. I approach these holidays now with no stress, no worries, and it makes spending the family time much nicer than it was previously. Because I don’t have to do it. I choose to do it, if I want to, and you can too. All you have to do is stop and think about your values.
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