I Hate Valentine's Day

February 10, 2007
Zainub Razvi

Hallmark was one of several websites to mail me this week; 160 million cards are sent out on Valentine Day's in the U.S. alone. If you read the Wikipedia page for V-day, you'll see that the Greeting Card Association estimates that number at one billion valentines for the whole world, making it the second largest card-sending occasion behind Christmas. What a terrible waste of paper you have to think.

Traditionally, Valentine's Day has been a notable occasion only in the West, but in recent years, with the unprecedented media exposure we have through satellite TV and the Internet and as the subcontinent has come to blindly acquire every and anything the West does, the V-day theme has become the number one marketing idea on every advertisement agency's mind.

I got a mail from my local book store of all places this week and they were offering several ideas of books that could make 'the perfect gift'. I even heard from a website of local florists I had never been to before, but the real shocker came when I went out for a mini get together with some long time friends at one of the posh malls here yesterday. This one blood red poster almost warned me of the consequences of not paying due attention; my love life could be in danger they implied, unless I went out of the way to spend extravagantly on some meaningless gift for my partner, reminding him of my love.

No surprise that I don't even remember what product they were promoting, with such eccentric claims, they were lucky I read their poster at all. Needless to say, every shop, from Amir Adnan and Radio City to Sentiments and even Mark & Victoria's was decorated in as many red ribbons and hearts as they could fit in. And this was on 9th February, dare to go out on the 14th itself and there's a decent chance you might find McDonald's and Nike offering special V-day offers too!

The V-day extravaganza isn't just being exploited by these high-street designer labels and big names, but I'm told the average staunch Pathan balloon venders will double the prize of red balloons. If you delay your shopping too much, you might actually discover that you just cannot afford anything that is even vaguely heart-shaped or red.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who hate love altogether, in fact I'm quite the opposite. You ask my family and some of them might tell you they think I'm bit too romantic if anything. I have a very strong conviction that true love, the kind you see in films, the kind that is meant to last forever, exists, even outside films. Yet I find the idea of Valentine Day's meaningless. Why?

Well primarily because it has absolutely nothing to do with my culture and heritage but also because it's so hollow. How many of the millions that will be sending out cards to each other this year will be with each other this time next year? I'm not even going to point out how high the divorce rates are in the countries where this day is so fervently celebrated. Even keeping aside my moral reasons, to those people who might tell me celebrating love has got nothing to do with marriage, but really, you tell me, look around your self, is the manner in which Valentine's Day is celebrated these days look like its about love?

Isn't it really about running away, from true love and what it requires of us, day after day, so that we can take the more convenient way of celebrating it on a single day, and then just sit back and relax for the rest of the year? I may sound very cynical, but I'm afraid to say that is what I see when I look at the relationships of people who go out of their way to celebrate Valentine's Day here in the sub-continent and elsewhere too.

This might not necessarily be the case in other countries, but in Pakistan at least, the majority of those celebrating V-day will be the young, and most of these young that will be celebrating by going out on dates wearing all red will probably be doing so by misleading the first people in their lives that made them realize what love really is - their parents. They fact that the many young people can trick their parents into thinking they're just going out with some friends for an honest lunch, and actually be with a perfect stranger they've made friends with on the Internet, or something, and call their hypocrisy love is depressing more the anything.

These are the same people that will have the highest number of people they claim to love, their romantic partners changing faster then the seasons. Indeed if you kept up with the gossip at say, my college, or indeed, any educational institution just about any where in the world, you'll come across an array of insecure relationships between young girls and boys, very proud of their status of being each others' girl or boy friend, yet unprepared even in the slightest sense to compromise for the sake of their so called love of their lives.

I've been and am in love myself, and its wonderful feeling; but when you see it being equated with people's temporary infatuation for each other, it being sold in the markets like it was some fashionable entity, it's all really very disappointing.

There might have been a time down the line when I was younger and probably though it wouldn't do any harm to express your love to your spouse on V-day, a small gift, a card or something, but the overblown commercialization of the concept you see now, has convinced me I should protest against if anything - not by going out on the streets and taking out a rally against it like our religious party leaders, but at my own personal level. And that is by not falling into the commercial trap and letting those ad agency knows that I don't endorse their false portrayal of love and won't fall for it.

Zainub is an opinionated dreamer, intermittent blogger, massive sports fan and aspiring journalist recently liberated from studying boring dentistry. She blogs at Kaleidoscope, freelances for Spider and Sci-Tech World both part of the Dawn media group, and also writes at ezines Desicritics and Chowk. She is currently majoring in General History and minoring in International Relations and Mass Media Communications/Journalism at the University of Karachi.
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February 10, 2007
11:57 PM

The commercialism aside, sharing an affectionate feeling is the grease on the squeaky wheels of human relationships, so it's not too odd to see a formalized expression of this process in Valentine's Day - but to isolate the feeling to a single day is sad.

Great perspective into life in Pakistan, not very different from life in India, naturally:)

I hope the Russians love their children too...

February 11, 2007
12:12 AM


agree with the overt hype and crass commercialisation


it does jog our memories to do something more special for the special person in our life

hugs are hugs and kisses are kisses
but they acquire an added dimension
when given on a special occasion
by a special person for another


February 11, 2007
02:20 AM

sharing an affectionate feeling is the grease on the squeaky wheels of human relationships
Well, of course but you don't need a special day to tell the better half you love her / him, do you? That's what every day is for!
(In other words: sour grapes!)

February 11, 2007
02:58 AM

V Day: A symbol of money or true love?

Zainub, I agree with each and every point that you have mentioned here and as Aaman pointed out the scenario is almost the same in India, nothing much different. The new global face of Asia has shed off old inhibitions and embraced like never before the festivities of V Day. So this in my view is definitely an offshoot of globalization. One of the perceived symbols of growth in a globalized community is commercialization. So even love has been commercialized.

Adnan Siddiqi
February 12, 2007
02:48 AM

hey salam

Zainab, Good stuff and welcome back in the world of blogging

Ruvy in Jerusalem
February 13, 2007
02:32 AM

A few nights ago, I had to sit guard duty in the "bootka" at the village gate where I live. To keep myself awake, I turned on the radio. It was an all music station with an English speaking DJ. I heard about 55 songs (all of them about love or love gone wrong) over my shift, and of them, 50 were American or British, and the remainder were French, Spanish and one song that I couldn't positively identify.

It was only when they got to the commercials that I was able to figure out where this station originated from.

"Girls, hurry up and send in your valentine poems to www.ahlen.com and be eligible for fantastic prizes!" After talking about the obligatory electronic gadgets and jewelry, the commercial touted "JD 50 gift booklets and a night at the Kempinski Hotel, Amman, or the Kempinski Ishtar on the Dead Sea!! All entries must be in by February 6th!"

Wouldn't you know it? It was already 01:00 in Amman on 7 February when this aired... Just like in America.

At Jerusalem's Central Bus Station, there were several shops hustling red heart shaped objects. But the ventdors, very aware that talking about Valentine's (as in Saint Valentine) Day might get their booth turned over by Jews angry that a Christian saint was being honored in Jerusalem's Central Bus station, were careful to talk about "yom ahavá" - love day - in their promotional material.

There is just no escaping American culture. It is all over the place like a bad smell.

My sympathies to you, Zainub.

February 8, 2009
12:16 PM

This post deserves an automatic entry into our current contest - care to write an update, Zainub?

February 8, 2009
07:50 PM

Nice article, Zainub! Very well thought out and very well-written!

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