The Problem with Valentine's Day

"Love, I’ve come to understand is more than three words mumbled before bedtime.”
—Nicholas Sparks



I really don’t like Valentine’s Day—there I said it. (I feel the same way about football, but that’s a topic for another day.) It seems to me to be yet another way we must prove our love for someone by showering them with gifts—overpriced flowers, impossible-to-get dinner reservations, etc.

When I was in high school, the student council sold carnations on Valentine’s Day. The whole thing was awful. There was an unspoken competition to see which popular girl would get the most carnations and be the winner of Valentine’s Day. The hallways would buzz as we shared the count of carnations much like the gold medal tally during the Olympics.

On the other end of the spectrum were the kids who got no carnations—not from their friends, not from a secret admirer, not even from a well-meaning parent. They seemed to slide down the hallways attempting to avoid eye contact with the carnation counters.

And then there was the middle where most of us fell. We received a few flowers from friends and maybe one from a romantic interest. But somehow our flowers paled in comparison to the gold medal winner of Valentine’s Day.

In some ways, as adults we continue to count carnations except now we have Facebook and Instagram to keep the tally.

I also don’t like the message Valentine’s Day sends to single people; you can’t possibly be happy without a partner; you don’t get to celebrate this holiday. You must slink down the hallway during the whole month of February to avoid feeling lonely. No carnations for you.

I don’t have a simple and easy answer for the problem that Valentine’s Day presents. Sometimes we really do want an a simple carnation or an overpriced bouquet of roses to let us know that we matter. But I encourage you to pause for a moment and think about the messages that you may have internalized about this holiday. Are they consistent with what you want in your life today?

  • What did Valentine’s Day mean to you when you were younger?
  • What messages did you receive about this holiday from your friends, family, larger society?
  • What parts of this message do you want to keep?
  • What parts do you want to discard?
  • What do you really want for Valentine’s Day this year?