Existential Dore: an alternate perspective on love during Valentine’s Day
The traditional notion of what love means on Valentine’s day may feel disheartening to those not in a relationship. However, we can still find a way to have a meaningful Valentine's Day by reimagining what love means.
February 14, 2021
I am usually very bad at remembering holidays aside from Christmas. So when Feb. 14 eventually comes, I’m always surprised to see a feed flooded with a barrage of people’s couple photos on Instagram.
When it comes to Valentine’s Day, I cannot help but get caught up in its traditional meaning—one dedicated to the romanticization of human relationships. Specifically when we look from a historical perspective, it’s easy to understand why our perspective is shaped by the idealized portrayal of the holiday in the media and popular culture.
Originally started as a Christian holiday, Valentines Day became more commercialized in the 19th century as businesses started selling greeting cards while advertisers promoted images synonymous with the holiday like Cupid and the heart shape. As a result, the evolution of Valentine’s Day has created an idealized standard, which we associate with the concept of romantic love. Specifically, it is that traditional image of the romantic dinner date with a significant other that most of us imagine and define as love.
As a result, I sometimes feel pressured to find this standard of love which I can’t live up to every Valentine’s Day. It is hard to find meaning in the love celebrated through intimate relationships, especially with the contemporary dating scene. According to a study by the American Psychiatric Association, 60-80 percent of college students will hookup, though 63 percent of college men and 83 percent of college women said they would prefer a traditional relationship.
Likewise, the rise in dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have also become popular with 60 percent of adults (ages 18-29). So, if you have or are currently not in a romantic relationship, you may feel confused by the complexity of finding the type of love we celebrate on Valentine’s Day. While finding a romantic relationship is not impossible, per se, the outcome of having one may be more complicated than the process preceding it.
As a result, how can we find meaning outside the traditional Valentine’s Day experience? To start this process, we must reimagine our conception of what love means for us. While it is totally fine to adhere to the traditional idea of love, having an alternative version can be useful for readers who don’t have someone special to spend today.
One way to reinterpret love is to spend time with friends in a way that isn’t necessarily a date. Regardless of your relationship to a person, try and get together by having a meal or studying together on Valentine’s Day. Just because it is Feb. 14 does not mean that we should feel pressured to reserve our connections for romantic reasons. If you feel that an attempt to spend time with someone may be misinterpreted as a date, proper communication beforehand is useful. Understand that there are others who exist in the same situation as you.
Another idea is to ask how you can learn to love yourself. As cheesy as the self-care mantra is these days, knowing how to love oneself is not only more important but also a prerequisite knowing how to love another. In fact, Finding the time and space for activities and moments that bring you joy are critical. As mentioned in my previous article, finding meaning in moments that create intrinsic satisfaction will vastly outweigh the stereotypical ones we initially think of. Falling in love with yourself will replace the need or pressure to find love on Valentine’s Day.
So at the end of the day, if you are a college student without an enriched dating life, know that you are not alone. Just because you don’t have the traditional romantic relationship should not mean that you don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. By reframing our meaning of what love entails, we can all find a way to appreciate this romantic holiday, both traditionally and non-traditionally.