Happy Valentine’s Day Allby Nick Schonberger
Valentine’s Day! One of those days I dismiss as a “load of bollocks,” and lump in the catagory of other corporate holidays like Mother’s Day. Men are tricked by corporations and resturaunts and women (what’s new?) to dole out loads of money on thoughtless products all in the name of amore. This year we can buy the usual Nike, a few Reeboks, and even his and hers G-Shocks. How fantastic! Sharing streetwear with a loved one! Despite the minimal irony of gifting a lady a G-Shock, the attempts to capitalize and force consumer spending are more obvious and unrefined each time round.
In elementary school, things were easy. Buy cards for everyone. Memory serving me poorly, this may have ment both boys and girls, but I am hoping it was just the sex of ones choice. I would write 20-30 Peanuts cards, droping each in a large envelop affixed to the given recipients chair. Low and behold, I would return to my desk to find roughly the same amount of cards addressed to me. How wonderful! The class was full of good cheer, hopped up on sugar from the teacher, and the notion that Valentine’s Day was complete shame far from the grasp of our one track minds.
Highschool came and my notion of the day changed ever so slightly — it is by far the loneliest day on the calender. The school had the grand tradition of senior kisses, where by you, or your friends, could purchase a peck on the cheek from some wanted upper classman. My freshman year I recieved a kiss from a hottie named Pleasance. Promptly after I rubbed one out in the science center lavatory. I also got a kiss from a large bussomed girl named Betsy. She was a junior, and being a sad young thing I suddenly imagined she liked me. Wrong. Betsy was just being nice. Subsequent years followed with more pity kisses and increasingly lowered esteem. My senior year was the final straw, not a single young lady bought a kiss from me.
What kind of Saint would wish such a thing?
Well, none really. There were, according newadvent.org, three St. Valentines, all martyrs and all had their feats on February 14. And thus we have a name and a date for the occasion, but are still lost as to where buying women gifts and celebrating love on the day comes from.
A little further research (wikipedia and newadvent) and we find that thanks to Chaucer, the feast of Valentine became associated with romance. Why? Damned if I know, my brother is the families Lit. scholar, not I. I do know that the Italian Renaissance was full of putti (fat cheribic creatures figuring in loads and loads of paintings), so that winged marksman of love adorning so many Hallmark’s has, at the very least, minor connections to the one of the Saint Valentines. As in, both spent some time (real or fictional) in Rome. This may also account for the belief many feckless men have that Italian dinners are incredibly romantic. Fictionalizing some account of the Saint, as Chaucer did, seems to have galvinized loads of people throughout time to woo women on February 14. And, while many people have also thought about going on a violent rampage on this day, a few people did in 1929.
Violence never once threatened my Valentine’s. Bodily harm, however, has been endured (thank you alcohol). In my college years, Valentines Day went much like any other. Wake up, consume bloody mary, attend class, resume drinking. Later I usually ask myself this question: I wonder if anyone is lonely enough to sleep with me? Answer: NO.
Much to my disbelief, bars on Valentine’s Day were not swarming with women who were gasping for it. Just people equal to my levels of social awkwardness. Even when lubricated, a room full of shy and nervous people does not make a party. Life went on, the day past, all of us went home and woke to a common bedfellow, a hangover.
Post-college life was more fruitful. I celebrated proper Valentine’s days with gifts and meals. Partially for my own amusement and under the guise of archiving interesting objects of material culture I bought special edition air force ones and limited edition pendents, forcing them on my then partner. She accepted, and feigned interest, and we were, if for a fleeting moment, happy ever after. In the throws of love I didn’t once consider that my purchases, not being technically mine, would be a useless attempt at collecting as I would not have the items in perpetuity.
The conflation of romantic gifts and the concept of “forever” came from the marketing genius of De Beers in partnership with the advertising firm N.W. Ayer. Sometime in the 19th century diamond engagement rings had become de rigur, but like all fashions there remained the possibility that the trend would slow or fall completely. De Beers wanted to ensure that interest in diamonds as symbols of love would remain, and as such N.W. Ayer worked to change and mold social attitudes about diamonds. Engagement rings were shown more clearly in film, celebrities employed and the notion of bigger and clearer diamonds equally bigger and better love was born. The slogan “A Diamond is Forever,” came into play in 1948 and with it the cultural construction of the stones meaning was further solidified. Today, diamonds are not just for engagement (obviously), and every tick tack jeweler in the nation flogs diamond heart pendants, earings and bracelets for Valentine’s. Love, romance and the stone. Brilliant marketing from bottom to top really.
Diamonds are the best example of power of advertisers to push consumer perception and desire (in the Valentine’s day context). Our current hype market follows the belief that special editions are a way into consumers hearts. When the editions mark a special occasion, they must be doubly “special” right? They must perfectly articulate the love of an interest and the joy of sharing it. After all, how can you love someone who doesn’t at least understand your passions? It also must be special when the mecca of our hype market, MAGIC, falls around the same time as Valentine’s? A grand ode our infatuation with products and spending and looking good when looking for love. Undoubtedly, its just coincidence.
In fact, last year I was at MAGIC for Valentine’s. I went to PURE. A hooker told me I looked lonely. I was. She said she would do anything to make me happy. Like Betsy before, she was just being nice. I didn’t have enough to cover love’s tariff…