A few Februaries ago my husband called me from the road one day to tell me what a fantastic wife I was, and how lucky he was to have me; I replied that although I wholly agreed with those statements, I was at a loss to understand what exactly had precipitated them in the middle of an afternoon when he wasn’t even nearby to observe my glory firsthand. He then explained that all his coworkers were talking about how they were going to catch hell from their wives for not being home on Valentine’s Day, and how their gifts were going to have to be that much more expensive to make up for it; this reminded him what a rational woman he had married, and he felt moved to express his gratitude.
Though Valentine’s Day is not one of the governmental or artificial holidays for which I have a strong aversion, it might as well be; as I explained last year it’s nearly as old as Christmas, and its origins are just as pagan and every bit as dark. But from the time of its repurposing as a celebration of romantic love in the late 14th century, it has become steadily more commercial; the first mass-produced greeting cards were valentines, and in the 1950s merchants began to market it as an occasion for giving flowers, chocolates, etc. Then in the 1980s, jewelers convinced American women that they “deserved” diamond jewelry on the day; at that rate it’s about time for another escalation, and I shudder to think what may be next (expensive “romantic” vacations, perhaps?) I’ve told every man in my life the same thing about the occasion: don’t buy into the hype. While I like getting thoughtful cards and might appreciate a small gift or being taken to dinner, I only want those if they’re heartfelt and freely given. An obligatory “gift” of a certain expected value which must be presented at a certain time in order to retain a woman’s sexual favors is not a love offering, but rather a whore’s fee. And while I obviously have absolutely nothing against that, I prefer for it to be an honest and consensual arrangement mutually agreed upon by two adults, rather than a coercive charade designed to mask the transactional nature of a sexual relationship.
(This essay previously appeared in The Honest Courtesan on February 14th, 2013; it has been slightly modified to fit the Cliterati format.