Sweethearts: a chalk-like candy known for phrases such as BE MINE, KISS ME, or CUTIE PIE. These delectable pastel delights are associated with Valentine’s Day, a holiday controversial in today’s time. Illustration by Alyson Sutherland

As I walk through my favorite section of any CVS, Target, or Walgreens, the card section of course, I am plastered with messages of frilly love–red hearts and balloons, teddy bears, and chocolate. Messages of endless devotion wrapped up in a few sentences on a $3.99 Hallmark card. Valentine’s Day is one month away and America’s consumers are already in deep preparation to celebrate the day of love. 

What is Valentine’s Day really about? Some say love and connection. Others say celebrating the truest devotion to a romantic partner. The truth is, big businesses consider it to be a day of consumerism. Valentine’s Day is one of the most expensive holidays celebrated in America, along with Christmas and Mother’s and Father’s Days. The National Retail Federation reported that American consumers spent 23.1 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day in 2021, the second highest year on record (the first being in 2020, with Americans spending 27.4 billion dollars). In my opinion, the average spending of $175.41per person on Valentine’s Day is absurd. However, Americans love single-use plastics and shitty chocolate, so it makes perfect sense. 

Valentine’s Day is the best holiday when you’re a little kid. Bringing in empty tissue boxes to your classroom, cutting and pasting purple and pink construction paper hearts on your card box just to get a card from every classmate. Those were the days. No one was left out. Not to mention the treats. The PTA would bring in a whole assortment of goodies, and I bless those soccer moms. I got extraordinarily high on sugar. I was more or less a fiend for Wonka’s Blue Raspberry Fun Dip. 

Sailor Lombardi, a junior at Franklin, expressed his feelings about Valentine’s Day. “I think Valentine’s Day can be pretty fun. I mean, I’m not 40, so if I was single on Valentine’s it’s not the end of the world.” 

Though it’s not truly the end of the world to be single on Valentine’s day, some may find it to be disheartening if they do not find themselves with a bae on Feb. 14. Lombardi expressed that Valentine’s Day provides “a little mental reminder to… ya know, get a date.” 

This is why elementary school Valentine’s day was great: no talk of relationships and breakups, a celebration of friendship rather than romantic love. “I think it’s fun to tell anybody you love them, even friends,” said senior Madeline Dominguez, looking especially ravishing in her clay-stained apron as she takes a break from AP Art to join me in the hallway. 

Dominguez expressed the idea of a ‘relationship tier’ with “specifically romantic love at the top,” promoting the types of relationships society prioritizes, especially when talking about love. “We all just need to be more open about loving each other,” she said. 

But…when does society prioritize friendship over romantic relationships? NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation” created an episode titled “Galentine’s Day” for this very reason. Protagonist Leslie Knope is quoted saying, “Every February 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies.” 

That is great and all, but unfortunately prominent society is not dedicated enough to celebrate sitcom-created holidays. National Best Friend Day is June 8, and I had no idea. Where’s the aisles littered with Friendship Day products? Huh, CVS? There’s none. The appreciation of friendship, let alone non-romantic love between two men, is rarely discussed or portrayed in media, apart from the “bromance” phenomenon. Lombardi agrees, saying, “I think especially with guys, [friendship is] not celebrated enough in society.”

Ricardo F. Jaramillo wrote his essay, “Why Can’t Men say ‘I Love You’ to Each Other?” for The New York Times in which he describes the “linguistic gymnastics masculinity asks [men] to perform” within the construct of friendships. He says that society deems it acceptable for men to tell their friends ‘I love you,’ “if it is quickly followed by bro or man,” proving the “negotiations [men] make through language to keep within the acceptable bounds of manhood.” 

No, no, no. I say no to societal perception and influence on masculinity. If only it was that easy. 

However, Lombardi thinks that society “at least in my age group,” is going in the right direction when it comes to talking about love. He explains that “a lot of people are making new boxes to put themselves in…I think everyone becoming more individual is the way to go… that can make love a lot more interesting.” 

Love, and more so, the expression of love is an interesting thing to watch, especially on such a commercialized holiday like Valentine’s Day. As an avid people-watcher, I find this holiday to be invigorating, as both the young and the old make their feelings known to the public, sharing their admiration with the world. However, I draw the line at #gratefulforyou Instagram posts. I really am a supporter of love, truly, but I find that disgusting and will chuck my phone in the trash can if such a thing comes across my feed, I swear. 

So, whether you’re planning on going to Ikea and eating sushi off of your lover like Dominguez, having a nice dinner with a special someone like Lombardi, or planning on watching 10 Things I Hate About You, alone, like me on Valentine’s Day, I implore you to express your appreciation for friends through meaningful ways on this special day of love. Just please don’t be obnoxious about it on Instagram.

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