ACCORDING TO LIZ - It’s candles and candy and collecting all those ‘be mine’ Valentine’s Day cards.
It’s pieces of colored paper inscribed with brief flowery verses, worth virtually nothing in their component parts, but for a day, for the week leading up to February 14th, coveted symbols of being desired, of self-worth.
It’s sexy lingerie and romantic movies, red roses and dreamy dinner dates. It’s unique marriage proposals, floral bouquets, pet names and fantasy worlds. And seductive gifts.
Are companies profiting off of people’s neediness – buy this to get your heart’s desire – or are they fulfilling a need, a demand by their customers?
And is it love or sex they are selling?
Or is it just another orgiastic period of commercialization – in 2020 the National Retail Federation valued US consumer spending for the holiday at over $27 billion – with millions of miles of Amazon carbon pollution, mountains of torn wrapping paper, discarded cards and piles of plastic, the gifts tossed in the garbage, excesses of all kinds…
Trips to the therapist…
But no, it’s the month when people in the northern hemisphere can sense the imminent arrival of spring and the renewal of the earth. When there will be flowers blooming in the garden as well as cooling their stems in the florist’s case.
It’s a time of glee and delirious happiness for those in love. And despair and shame for those without. It’s the sense of isolation and abandonment that never cuts so deeply than when people think those around them have it all.
It’s the messaging of sweet nothings by the hopeful, of terms of endearment by those already happily in love. It’s romantic waltzing in upscale restaurants and vertical sex on the postage-sized dance floors in bars.
It can be cloying, it can be refreshing, it can be exciting or depressing, but few in the Western world can ignore the emotional pull of St. Valentine’s Day.
The holiday has its origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held on February 15th with the Luperci priests striking women with pieces of skin of a sacrificed goat and dog to improve their fertility. Then a fifth century Pope replaced the pagan holiday with one to celebrate a Catholic martyr and a more idealized love.
Love is in the air you breathe. It’s a breath of fresh air, a harbinger of spring and, with it still, a symbol of fecundity. Of the earth’s rebirth.
To love, one must fear less and risk more. Come alive. Emerge from our cocoon of safe solitude.
Take some deep breaths to overcome the panic of potential loss, risk meeting expectations and expand beyond them. If not today, then tomorrow or the day after.
And for love to last beyond just one day, there must be true connection and caring.
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is an admonition easier in the saying than in the execution. With passion and hormones, so often it’s difficult not to project your own desires onto the object you crave.
But is it wrong to desire to be desirable, to be loved, to trust so implicitly, to achieve true intimacy? The intimacy expressed in millions of love letters, some published, more often handed down over generations showing the humanity we share with our forebears.
And will Artificial Intelligence ever be able to partake in human hope and pain?
Chat-bots may be able to write flowery phrases but will they ever be able to write from the heart?
The heart that beats strongly within each one of us.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)