There is no holiday more insufferable than Valentine’s Day. This has been my position since grade school, even before learning that as a mom, I’d be expected to rise early, craft a love-themed breakfast for my children, and ensure all their classmates received special treats and cheeky messages from “us” as well. Picture me, stone-faced.
My loathing of Valentine’s Day began back in the day, when I was a 10 year old tomboy with a mullet and zero interest from prospective crushes. I took one look at the love notes and chalky confectionery hearts and thought….yeah, I’m out. There is no way I’m giving a card soliciting affection to the same tool bags who never asked me to couple skate at the roller rink ever.
Eventually having a crush reciprocated didn’t put a dent in my stance either. My senior year in high school, I wore a black armband on Valentine’s Day, even though no one was dead, and I had a perfectly lovely boyfriend who wasn’t a defiant malcontent like me. However, on that day, I also accidentally wore a pink polo shirt under the armband, proving I’m a terrible girlfriend and an idiot. That slightly failed protest aside, my boycott continued.
College didn’t bring me around, either. One Valentine’s Day, I dissected a shark and gave my boyfriend the heart in a glass vile, filled to the brim with formalin solution. He kept it in his car until the embalming fluid inevitably spilled in the cup holder. I eventually became a marine biologist, and while my analytical brain comes in handy quite a lot, it struggles with things that are unrealistically dewy-eyed.
As an adult, the charade of Valentine’s Day makes even less sense to me. First, there’s the holiday’s place in the calendar year. There’s nothing remotely sexy about the month of February. It’s cold–I don’t want to take my clothes off. And I’m arguably at my least attractive then, too. Pale, hairy-legged, 70s-bushed and permanently clad in an oversized sweatshirt and leggings. The high pressure for intimacy on this one random day feels juvenile. Well, I guess we absolutely must fool around today because a god-baby in Pampers suggested it.
I also can’t get behind the aesthetic of Valentine’s Day with its cheesy regalia. A quick internet search will lead you through the holiday’s kinkier origins –a pagan fertility feast with match-making games. Basically, you put your name in an amphora and go home in someone else’s chariot, like an ancient version of a key party. Somehow that morphed into the saccharine, Victorian toothache version of romance we celebrate today. The red hearts and lacy valentines harken back to a time when you could scandalize someone with the glimpse of an ankle.
As a modern broad, I have no need of this silliness. But your chances of getting in my pants on Valentine’s Day will not be improved by a teddy bear and some dank drugstore chocolates. We need to switch it up, normalize alternative expressions of affection. This isn’t the fifth grade; you won’t impress me with sweets. What about, oh I don’t know, a kimchi grilled cheese and a vibrator? Was CVS out of those?
But the final nail in the Valentine’s Day coffin for me is the added layer of pressure and expectation put on mothers. Mid-February isn’t far off from Christmas when…we just did a bunch of stuff. I cannot be expected to light up my family’s life twice in 45 days. Which is ironic, because going above and beyond with stuff nobody asked me to do is my jam. I’m deep into my goal to raise a couple of brainwashed foodies, so elaborate meals happen often around here. Homemade bao buns with pork braised in fermented chili paste, pickled shallot with Sichuan peppercorn, julienned cucumber with a splash of rice vinegar and roasted crushed peanuts. Sure, whatever you desire, my precious offspring.
But heart-shaped pancakes? Ugh, that sounds exhausting. I also will not be fashioning 25 treat bags and love notes for every kid in their classes. I’ve never done it and never will. The cultural expectation that childhood be a constant stream of treats and special events is already sky high.
If a groundswell develops to start building Cupid traps, I will flip a table. It’s okay if our fierce love for our kids doesn’t include the “mandatory” mommy projects that society drops on us. Two-hour spaghetti Bolognese on any day other than February 14 is a valentine too.
Erin Burke is a marine biologist and horrendous baker. She lives with her husband and their daughter and son in New Bedford, Massachusetts. You can find her on Instagram @whalingcitycottage