Valentine’s Day: stress in a heart-shaped box

Ever since Grade 2, Valentine’s Day has been an occasion of dread for me. That year, my class spent an hour hand-making our Valentine card holders; mine was basically an envelope with a few glued-on feathers. Then we were given the speech that we had to bring in Valentines for everyone, not just our friends. I looked at my best friend in horror. What if someone got the wrong idea and thought I actually liked one of these boys? Keep in mind we were seven — the height of cootie mania.

So, throughout my elementary school years, I would scour the shelves at Wal-Mart, searching for the most generic and non-romantic Valentine’s cards available (which wasn’t difficult in the Thomas the Tank Engine era). God forbid Liam Olson believe I would actually choo-choo-choose him (although I would have, if given the chance).

Thirteen years later, I feel very much the same.  When I’m single, I find it a tad depressing that my only gift comes in the form of a card from my grandmother, and when I’m not single, I feel obligated to find just the right gift — preferably one that won’t derail my budget — that is both thoughtful and appropriate to the length of the relationship. This presents a challenge for all those quasi-relationships, the “been dating a few weeks but he still hasn’t seen my ginormous sweatpants” or the “we drunkenly made out a few times and now it’s all ‘whatttt?’ ” scenarios, or any other confusing situation that not even a Facebook relationship status can clarify.

The hardest thing about Valentine’s Day is trying to make that judgment call of “What is enough?” versus “What is too much?” I know my friend was once given a gold necklace on Valentine’s Day by her boyfriend. She reciprocated with a collection of gag gifts, most of which were of the “I found this randomly in my closet” variety. Apparently a picture of a cat in a sombrero isn’t as funny when your boyfriend just shelled out a hundred-plus bucks on jewelry.

According to the Bank of Montreal, the average Canadian spent $126 on Valentine’s Day in 2012. That’s enough to buy 504 gumballs. Or two life-size cardboard cutouts of Darth Vader that can talk.  Why are we wasting our money on generic gifts when there are talking Darth Vaders to be had? We are spending a lot of money and brainpower on a day marked to celebrate our loved ones: something we should probably be doing regardless, but without the pressure.

Despite my ramblings, there are good things about Valentine’s Day. For one, I can buy large amounts of chocolate, and as long as it comes in some heart-shaped container, the grocery store staff won’t judge me. No, these boxes of overpriced but completely delicious Lindor chocolates are not all for me. Note the heart-shaped box.

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