By Jackie Velez
St. Valentine’s Day is an extremely polarizing holiday.
To some, this is the most romantic day of the year. For them, it’s a day that they get to swoon over their sweetie unabashedly, and no one gets to tell them they are being sappy or over the top. But many others hate seeing the pink and red everywhere, the mass-produced heart-shaped gifts, and especially the insinuation that romance is everywhere.
I’m not going to argue that any of those things are actually accurate. I’m not going to refute any of the arguments against the holiday; there’s plenty to critique. Valentine’s Day has been undeniably framed as a glorification of monogamous romantic love above all other kinds.
But what if we could reframe this holiday into a pure distillate of the sentiment behind it, untarnished by marketing and branding? What if we, as a community, rejected the heart-shaped Hallmark holiday ideas and instead reclaimed St. Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love in all of its forms?
We all have love in our hearts, no matter who or what it is directed toward. I love my partner, but I also love my dog, my community and my world. And I bet that if you thought about it for a moment, you would realize that there is a lot in this world that you feel love for, too. Some of us are lucky enough to have external loves in our lives — friends or family that we cherish, or a partner or partners who support us. And perhaps most important, we all have an intrinsic self-relationship that when cultivated correctly can create new love within ourselves.
St. Valentine was honored with a holiday representing love because he performed marriages that were forbidden by the state. Love was an act of rebellion at the time. Still today, as a society, we are not taught to put a high priority on our platonic loves. We are told that romance means that you are “more than” friends, and that being single means we are still searching for our “other half.”
We are not encouraged to love ourselves as complete, whole beings independent of our relationships. We are made to categorize love as a hierarchy, with romantic love valued above all else.
But I disagree. I believe that all love is powerful and transformational, not only romantic love between monogamous partners. And I think that to truly honor the spirit of St. Valentine, we should do so by honoring the love that is discredited by society’s idea of Valentine’s Day. Whether you are in a romantic relationship or not, you are a vessel of love. Your love for your friends, your world and yourself, is just as important to celebrate as any other form of love.
I’m not telling you to run out and buy a big bag of conversation hearts and organic local roses — unless you want to! Even if Valentine’s Day is a difficult day for you, I encourage you to spend a few moments on the 14th reconnecting with the love that you have inside of you.
We all give and receive love in our day-to-day life — indeed, that exchange of love is what makes life worth living. It is very easy to go about life without really paying homage to the love that you circulate. So just for one day, make a conscious effort to be aware of and grateful for the love you receive, and to amplify that love within yourself before turning it back out into the rest of the world. And remember that even on your own, you still have access to the power of love. In a society that prioritizes romantic love, focusing on self-love is a rebellious act. That, more than anything else, is in the spirit of Valentine’s Day.
We would love to see more people embracing self-love! If you want some pointers on cultivating your physical and mental self-love on Feb. 14, join us at As You Like It: The Pleasure Shop from 6-8 pm for a workshop titled Radical Self Loving for Beginners. This event is free.
Jackie Velez has been working at As You Like It since 2018 and is a strong believer in sex-positive education, eating ice cream in the winter and self-love.