Open your heart, not your wallet

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Illustration courtesy of Kallyn Song-Nichols

Another Valentine’s Day filled with affectionate couples celebrating the romantic, endearing holiday, and I’m sitting here, once again, merely rolling my eyes. Because when you really stop and think about it, this holiday is nothing more than a card and candy business-controlled capitalist holiday. If there is someone in your life you truly love and care for, you should express that every day, not just on Valentine’s Day. Love isn’t about how many bars of chocolate you give or how many dozens of roses you buy, it’s about the little words and actions that show your significant other how much you love them.

Valentine’s Day was inspired in the year 496 A.D. by the legend of St. Valentine, who fell in love with a jailer’s daughter while serving time on death row. He was imprisoned after the Roman Catholics discovered that he was conducting underground marriages during a time in which Roman emperor Claudius II had outlawed marriage. He was executed on Feb. 14, which we now call Valentine’s Day. The last thing he did before his death was to write a note for his love, which was signed “from your Valentine,” showing his true and undying devotion. The commitment St. Valentine showed wasn’t fabricated or forced, but it seems as if much of the love and affection shown today is. There’s a pervasive expectation that on Valentine’s Day, you have to shower your S.O. with an endless amount of chocolate and roses, go out to a romantic, candle-lit dinner and post a darling photo of the two of you on social media to prove your love.

With all this pressure to have the perfect Valentine’s Day, expenses are bound to add up. According to Forbes, in 2018, 55 percent of Americans planned on celebrating Valentine’s Day in some way. Of this percentage, the average expenditure was $143.56 per person (up from $136.57 in 2017), leading to a total planned spending of $19.6 billion (up from $18.2 billion in 2017) across the US. The top three items on which people spend money are jewelry, with an average of $4.7 billion spent, an evening out, with an average of $3.7 billion spent and flowers, with an average of $2 billion spent.

With statistics like these, it’s no wonder why so many feel the pressure to go all-out on Valentine’s Day. But so much external pressure can also lead us to exaggerate or even fabricate love and affection. When everyone around you is talking about the necklace they are buying for their girlfriend or the nice dinner reservations they have for the evening, it’s easy to get sucked in and feel like you have to do the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the beauty in a special day dedicated to showing love and admiration for your S.O. Valentine’s Day gives everyone a space to focus their thoughts and energy on appreciating someone they love, but this shouldn’t only happen on one out of 365 days each year. Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day, make a vow, both to yourself and your S.O., to prove your love for one another each and every day. These actions of love don’t have to be big or expensive. In fact, the smallest things can have the biggest impacts.

Some may think that spending money is the only way to proclaim their love, but there are so many other, more personal ways to show your S.O. how much you care. DIYs can be your best friend: instead of splurging on jewelry or a watch, make little gifts to give your S.O. throughout the year. Fill a mason jar with notes of love and encouragement for your S.O. to read when they’re having a stressful day or need some positivity. Take a page from St. Valentine’s book and write a handwritten note or letter — it shows that you put in time and effort to tell someone that you care about them, and a letter can express love in so many different ways. Forgo the bank-breaking, date-night dinner and make an effort to have more at-home dates throughout the year. Lounge around on the couch flipping through cookbooks and choose a few to try out together, then spend the evening in the kitchen getting your romantic dinner ready. None of these things take too long to plan or cost an arm and a leg, but they’re fun little ways to spend quality time with someone you love.

Celebrate love and show appreciation for the person you love, but don’t save it all for Valentine’s Day. Show them your feelings every single day. Skip the flowers, skip the chocolate, skip the cheesy cards and find more intimate, and find more personal ways to say ‘I love you.’

Aime Fukada is an undeclared sophomore. She can be reached at afukada@oxy.edu.