There are 150 million Valentine cards sent every year in the United States. During the week leading up to the big day, Americans spend $448 million on candy. This year, a flower delivery company spent over two million dollars on a Superbowl commercial. In the commercial, supermodel Adriana Lima seductively purred that men should have flowers delivered to their paramour for Valentine’s Day, because that was obviously the best way to get sex.

It’s pretty obvious that the vast majority of activities associated with Valentine’s Day are centered around money and the gratuitous spending of it in order to show your current mate that you have a fairly high tolerance of their presence.

I’ll admit that I have not spent all my formative years here in the U.S. , so when I started college here I had a very vague idea about the norms and social standards associated with Valentine’s Day. My last memories of it were embedded in my childhood.

These memories involved mass consumption of those heart-shaped candies that taste like chalk and crushed aspirations, and the innocent exchange of hearts made with safety scissors and construction paper. My teenage years were not spent in America, so I think I missed something fairly crucial when it comes to what’s expected on Valentine’s Day. Apparently there are usually two sides to this violently pink, rose-scented coin. The male is expected to pay tribute to the female in the form of an expensive gift, and possibly dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

If his service is satisfactory, he receives sexual favors, much like the long-tailed macaques of Indonesia. The other scenario that often occurs on Valentine’s Day is that the male sees the holiday as an obligation and gets an overpriced, cookie-cutter gift for his significant other so as to not be a victim of her hell-raising wrath.

These are the scenarios that I’ve heard of from quite a few heterosexual couples, but they are by no means the only way people commemorate a day that was once used to celebrate fertility in Ancient Rome. I’m sure many couples have an awesome Valentine’s Day, one that isn’t filled with insipid Hallmark messages. I just don’t tend to hear about them.

The essence of Valentine’s Day is that you utilize a whole 24 hours to show how appreciative you are of your significant other. Lately, it’s become pretty one-sided and more about mass consumerism than about showing adoration and affection. I’m not saying the two can’t intermingle.

However, you shouldn’t need to get your partner something that is exuberantly shiny on a specific day every year for them to realize that they own every chamber of your heart. Sometimes simple acts of affection say a lot more than a parade of gifts and fancy dinners. Cooking dinner for your partner, giving them a much needed massage after an arduous day of sitting in lecture halls, and playing board games or video games together are all activities that foster a stronger bond between partners without gnawing at a poor college student’s checking account.

This shouldn’t be reserved for just one day a year either. If you’re in a functional relationship, you probably already show your appreciation for your partner on a regular basis.

However, real life gets hectic and we often forget to make those little gestures that really reassure your significant other of your feelings.

The intention of Valentine’s Day is a sweet one, but it’s become warped and somewhat unrecognizable. I think it’s time we began to use it again as a day to take a step back from the constant barrage of work and responsibilities, so we can dedicate our time to those we deeply care for.

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