Valentine's Day is the ultimate Hallmark holiday. There seems to be little escape from clichéd sentiments, paper cupids, overpriced roses and infantilizing teddy bears holding heart-shaped chocolates. Even if you try to avoid the explosion of all things bubblegum pink in the comfort of your own home, television provides a stream of made-for-TV movies promoting the same cotton candy version of romance. It's pretty, fluffy and rots our teeth if we overindulge. If an alien visited earth on Valentine's Day, it might get the impression we're starved for romantic love or obsessed with it, and that our standards aren't terribly high for what we'll accept in its place. The version of love promoted by commercial culture is low fat. It's love lite.
As much as we may try to pretend low fat love is enough, it's no substitute for the read deal. Just like with food, love diets are bound to fail. Yeah, a rice cake is fine as a snack. But it's not a meal.
You may be thinking that candy hearts and made-for-television movies can be fun. Sure, the frivolous can be fun, but only when we remember it is in fact frivolous. Of course we shouldn't take love lite seriously. How can we in its glittery, melodramatic splendor? The problem is, it can seep in and some of us may take it more seriously than we like to admit. We've all had a friend we've just wanted to shake because she is caught up in the romance myth. Or, we have experienced the anticipation or dread of V-Day ourselves, consumed by candy hearts dancing in our heads. I sure have. As a sociologist, I have also spent over a decade interviewing women about their relationships and identities. It is on this basis that I have noticed some of the ways that women may over-internalize the Hallmark holidays' hot pink version of love.
Here are the top five signs you may be taking the Valentine's Day version of romantic love too seriously.
1. You're expecting candy in a heart-shaped box, flowers or jewelry, and your response to not receiving them might range from sadness to rage. As a variation on this, you send yourself standard Valentine's Day gifts so that others will think you have someone special in your life. It's always nice to treat yourself to a gift, but not for external validation of your life, and certainly not to validate this superficial romance narrative.
2. You expect your partner to take you to an overpriced prix fixe dinner in a place that looks like pink and red exploded everywhere and you'll be dreadfully disappointed if this doesn't happen. You don't care what it costs, or even if it's fun; you just want to see some streamers as you enjoy dinner for two.
3. The card your special someone gives you will be taken as a barometer of your relationship.
4. You don't have a significant other so you stay home and watch a marathon of romantic comedies, bawling on your couch. Sure, watching movies can be a way to experience some of the love we may be missing, but if you need a box of tissues to get through a rom-com, you may be taking the messages too seriously.
5. Valentine's Day is a black hole of depression. It's not that you don't celebrate this day, good for you if you don't. It's that you are so bummed out by it that you actively fixate on it, as your failed way of ignoring it.
Patricia Leavy's best-selling novel Low-Fat Love: Expanded Anniversary Edition is available at www.sensepublishers.com with automatic free shipping and 15% off if you use promo code 24601 during check-out. Great for Valentine's for you or a loved one in search of the real-deal.