Is Anyone Bitter?


February 1st marks the two-week countdown to the “heart holiday” where couples have one more excuse to go out to dinner and buy each other gifts. Almost any news publication has a gift list or date ideas for that special day, but where is the negativity surrounding this overly bubbly day? Where are the opinion editorials about broken hearts and tampered promises? Am I the only one who’s bitter and cold?

Apparently so. I’ve been bitter about Valentine’s Day for years and still don’t see why one day should be dedicated to love. Valentine’s gift guides and party ideas are all the rage, but does anyone else hate this holiday? 

But this feeling isn’t original to me. According to Live Science, over half of all Americans think Valentine’s Day is “overrated” regardless of if they’re in a relationship or not. Part of this has to do with commercialization and the candy hearts thrown in every direction as the middle of the month gets closer. Cards, candy, dinner, and *other* gifts are expected to bring in over $20 billion every year. Not only this but The National Retail Federation found that in 2021 Americans averaged $165 per person on gifts for Valentine’s day. That’s over 10% of what the average American spends over the holiday season—rounding up to about $1,000. 

But numbers aside, if we’re spending so much money on our Valentines, are we spending our energy on them in the same way? Paul Zak Ph.D. reports that when oxytocin levels in the brain are imbalanced, not only are we grouchy and apathetic, but disconnected from pleasure as a whole. Oxytocin is the happy hormone in the brain that’s created when immense joy takes place. Sure, sex is part of this, but it can also involve any pleasurable experience especially surrounding human connection. Depression and other mental health issues can lead to these oxytocin imbalances and make it hard for many to experience happiness. Sometimes it’s especially hard when the idea of a relationship seems to be the only thing the friends and family talk about. A study from Northwestern University found that couples who post excessively on social media are entirely less likable. 

Valentine’s Day originated with the Roman Catholic St. Valentine in 200 AD. Valentine was what many would call the first romantic as he helped young couples get married during a time when being married in general was looked down upon—and at one point illegal. As for being alive, Valentine is also known as the beekeeper saint and known for caring for those with epilepsy in his afterlife. But Valentine didn’t make the holiday what it is today. Poet Geoffery Chaucer wrote that February 14 was the day when birds—and humans naturally—would come together to mate and find love. The rest is modern history; as humans would continue to come together to give each other gifts and celebrate the meaning of love. 

Personally, I’m looking forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day’s happily single relative GALentine’s Day. Brunch, coffee, and hopefully a pastry will find me on what is expected to be the most romantic Monday of the year. I’ve never liked the day. However, I’ve found ways to celebrate despite the literal romanticism of yet another holiday. So if you’re looking forward to spending time with your significant other or just as bitter as I am, practice the love and care that YOU need. That’s something that you won’t regret next year.