I dread Valentine’s Day Despite Being in a Relationship
What, how and why I dread Valentine’s
Valentine’s day has always been a weird one for me. The world, social media, and my friends all celebrate it with passion, gifts, cards, and flowers to their special someone — and if they have no one, then it’s a day to treat themselves.
It’s a very female orientated festival, commercialized by retailers and pins the expectations that celebration of love on their male counterparts — the origins of it being a Western Christian feast day for early saints named Valentinus completely obscure to the mostly secular populous.
I don’t know what it is about Valentine’s day that makes my stomach churn a little. Growing up, while other girls in my class celebrated it with notes from secret crushes, I would shirk away in the corner and wished the day would move a little faster. As I grew up and got myself a boyfriend, Valentines day was one of those days that made me feel somewhat hollow inside.
What are you going to do on Valentine’s day?
It was 2015. We were sitting on bean bags in the spare office room. Everyone had plans for Valentine’s day — dinners, outings, and gifts. Then the question came around to me.
“What are you going to do on Valentine’s day? Got anything planned?” my manager at the time asked.
“Maybe I’ll go buy some seeds,” I answered, nonchalant. The team looked at me with surprise and laughed.
“Aren’t you going anywhere?” my fellow colleague asked, perplexed.
“The other one works on Saturday. If I get seeds, maybe I can grow some flowers for myself.”
I ended getting basil and re-potted it in a new container on Valentine’s day and never felt happier. The male creature found it amusing when I showed him my handy work.
Oh, what is love?
Growing up, my parents never really displayed affection towards each other — not in the Western, touchy-feely, kisses and hugs kind of ways. Being Asian, they always held a certain physical distance from each other. There was that one time dad got a bit too close to mom and she freaked out because I was in the room.
Valentine’s day was just like any other day — except that one year dad bought home a witch’s head from the restaurant’s storage room and stuck it in the bed. Mom screamed and threw something at his head.
And that year dad bought a rose home from work, 3 days after Valentine’s day, and gave it to mom.
“They were going to throw it out,” he said to her. “Here you go.”
Another year, he bought a bag of party poppers and we just stood there pulling them in the kitchen. Mom wasn’t too thrilled with the mess afterward.
Year after year, Valentine’s day was not what it was supposed to be at home — but all the other days, dad made sure to always make something delicious for us to eat and mom would always make sure he had his work clothes ready.
Living the dream
Back in my University days, my then boyfriend played along to the commercialization of Valentine’s. I got chocolate and flowers. We had a little date in between my classes and held hands. It was all very picturesque but deep down, it felt terribly icky and not quite right.
After years of wanting to be like everyone else, deep down I wished for something else. The disassociation between what I experienced at home and what everyone tells me what love should look like messed with my head.
Relationships are a strange beast of our creation. We often use what we know as a reference to what we think our reality should be. Mine was split between two cultures and their definitions of love — the Western displays of passion and love, and the Asian doing is better than saying the word love.
The Western world had portrayals of Romeos as heroes in movies. The Asian world had that guy that worked hard, went to the office every day, never complained, somehow managed to beat traffic in order to suck up to her parents in order to be with the girl he loves.
It took me a while to figure out that I wanted both but can never have it because of the conflicting personas of the perfect male partner figure that was imprinted on me. You can’t be the rogue Romeo while diligently sitting behind a desk working. The Western portrayals of love conflicts with the Eastern one.
Catching up on the memo
The Eastern world has since caught up with the West when it comes to love — and they’ve put a good spin on it too. Flowers are more dramatic. Chocolates are more epics. Dinners dates are more Instagramable than ever. Whatever Westerners can do, the Eastern world can do it bigger, better and probably with a splash of fireworks.
But I’ve missed the boat in my isolation outside their world.
I dread Valentine’s day because it highlights the strange in between space I sit in. My parents can be classed as first generation immigrants — but what am I? I arrived in the country at age 6, went to school like everyone else, speak fluent English without an accent — but at home was a different story. At home was a different world. I am that one and a half in between native generation that grew up within the strangely opposing worlds of Western and Eastern values.
Or perhaps my perception of how others are celebrating Valentine’s day is simply skewed by my selective filtering of how everyone else spends their time on that particular day. Humans are primed to be curious. We are voyeuristic in nature and often compare ourselves to others to re-calibrate our compass and determine what is considered normal. When only the big and showy displays are communicated through the various medias, it can mess with what we think the majority is.
The loudest, proudest and often richest are the people that get seen. Most of us just wallow in the pool together like one big amoeba.
When the other one doesn’t play along
The male creature at home has always been a strange one. He’s the kind that will go against the grain because it’s in his nature to do so. Sometimes it can be an annoying trait — other times, it can be refreshing. He’s the kind of person that’s alright with doing the unpopular thing — so no SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and anything else you can think of that’s popular among our generation of connectedness.
For the past 4 years we’ve been together, he’s never once given me anything on Valentine’s day — or acknowledge the day at all.
Then on a whim, he got on one knee and gave me a packet of chocolate marshmallows and caramel chocolates at 11:45pm — a few moments just before we were going to go to bed. We had been packing and cleaning the house over the past few days in preparation for the house move. The items were supermarket bought — nothing fancy, completely ordinary and probably came to about $5 in total — but it was something. The baby was more interested in playing with the packet when he tried to get her to give it to me.
With all the attempts to feel loved and special on Valentine’s day in the past, that moment triumphs them.
Learning to expect nothing
I don’t expect the other one to pull off another supermarket chocolate stint. He’s the kind that likes to set low expectations when it comes to relationships. Over the past years, he’s trained me well to deflate and ignore the rest of the world and do my own thing.
It’s been a bit of a process and I’m slowly learning to be myself and not what I think is expected from me. It’s not easy — especially when your thoughts and opinions are ingrained in such a way.
That’s probably the thing that messes with me on Valentine’s day — that there is this expectation to receive a grand amount of love on this one special day. On all the other days (with the exception of your birthday, mother’s day and any other valid festival day) you just get discarded and ignored.
Love is a continuous act — not just on a singular or formerly religious affiliated day — and it is this we often forget or realize it too late. There’s no point doing grand gestures if you can’t show up every day.