Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it: I hate Valentine’s Day. No, I am not a Hindu fundamentalist or even a handmaiden of the Sangh Parivar. I have no affiliation with the Ram Sena of Bangalore pub – as in "no woman should be seen in one" – fame. Nor am I a rabid ‘nationalist’ who is opposed to every ‘Western import’ on principle. On the contrary, I am quite content to live in blue jeans (or, at this point, black jeggings) and T-shirts and watch Mad Men on television while munching on pepperoni pizza and guzzling Diet Coke.
And yet, I hate Valentine’s Day. Hate as in abominate, abhor, detest, despise, oh well, I guess you get the drift. Now before you dismiss me out of hand as a certifiable lunatic who is working herself up into a lather for no good reason, allow me to explain just why Valentine’s Day makes me see red – and not in a good way.
Well, first of all, there is the sheer pressure of it all. The entire world appears to become part of a giant global conspiracy to turn 14 February into a day for celebrating romantic love. And you’re made to feel like the Grinch (the guy who stole Christmas, or something like that) if you refuse to become part of the madness. You don’t have any plans for Valentine’s Day? Oh dear! You must be a sad single. Or worse, someone who is too cheap or too uncaring to celebrate this special day with your special someone.
Then, there is the crass commercialisation of it all. You’ve got to buy her flowers, choose the most expensive chocolates for her and make sure you gift-wrap them prettily. Don’t forget to get her a ‘serious’ present to show how much you adore her. And, of course, the most ‘serious’ you can get is with diamonds, the bigger the better.
The greeting card industry rakes in billions as gullible lovers all over the world queue up to buy cheesy cards to send along with the flowers/chocolates/diamonds (or all three, depending on their budget). The restaurant business makes ridiculous profits while lovers make sheep’s eyes at one another over their overpriced champagne and such ‘aphrodisiacs’ as oysters and asparagus.
Needless to say, the laws of demand and supply kick in and the price of red roses sky-rockets around this time. Hotels and restaurants charge double and even triple their usual price for set menus for Valentine’s dinners, knowing that the punters will pay up without any protest (well, certainly not within ear-shot of their wives/girlfriends).
But it’s not just the businesses that show an appalling degree of avarice in this season. Women (and for some reason, it is always women) exhibit an appalling level of greediness as they drop hints about what would be an appropriate Valentine’s day present. Magazines are left open on an ad for Chanel handbags; the phrase ‘new Hermès perfume’ is dropped oh-so-carelessly into conversations; the song Diamonds are forever always seems to be playing in the background.
And to add to it all, there is the general competitiveness. My boyfriend took me to a more expensive restaurant than yours. Your husband didn’t even remember Valentine’s Day; mine took me on a mini-break to a resort spa. Oh you poor thing, all you got was that single red rose; I scored a solitaire!
But what is most dispiriting about this entire Valentine’s Day palaver is just how sexist the entire thing is. It’s always the men who have to find some way of making this a day to remember. It’s the men who have to come with the grand gesture or the fabulous present. It’s the men who have to stump up for expensive meals in up-market restaurants. All the women need to do is show up and look suitably appreciative as all that attention is showered upon them.
Why? We spend the entire year declaiming about how it’s all about equality. But on this one day, we are only too happy to have the men do all the running (and spending). How is this remotely fair? Shouldn’t women pull their weight when it comes to Valentine’s Day as well?
Of course, in an ideal world – well, okay, my ideal world – Valentine’s Day would not even exist on the calendar. February 14 would be a day like any other, and we would spend it doing all the things that we usually do. Reading the morning newspaper over a hurried cup of coffee and toast; attending endless, tedious meetings at office; working late; getting home in time for a late dinner and a movie on the DVD.
And it certainly would not be the one day in the year when you show your love for your significant other. Honestly, isn’t that something you should be doing all the year round? And not with red roses, greeting cards, chocolates, diamonds, slap-up meals or expensive holidays but with kindness, understanding, patience and a deep and abiding affection.
Because, when it comes right down to it, a heartfelt hug always trumps red roses. And there’s no better present than the loving presence of someone you love in your life.
Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami
- From HT Brunch, February 13
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