Go West this summer and get ahead.

Wait, what is ‘love’ again?

Here’s a scenario: you’re a woman dating a man, and your relationship happens to coincide with Valentine’s Day. What is expected of you? I can’t speak as a woman because I’m not one, but there is the cheesy seasonal quip — something about men expecting sex on Valentine’s Day and women feeling pressured to oblige.

Conversely, you’re a man dating a woman. What is expected of you? Our traditional culture tells you to take your significant other out on a date and that you should pay for it. For Valentine’s Day, our culture also tells you to be a gentleman and to hide any libido you may have by giving prominence to the romantic love that you and your special someone supposedly share.

In addition to reinforcing gender stereotypes, the social expectations of each gender make Valentine’s Day a chore. The problem is that romantic love is intensely personal between two people. How could such an intimate feeling emerge naturally when every media outlet spews expectations? You won’t here explicit commands to take your girlfriend out or to have sex with your boyfriend, but that doesn’t diminish the message. Its subtlety makes it pernicious.

URGE Abortion

Like any culture, messages are engineered for a variety of reasons. Curiously, most widely observed holidays in the United States are great for the economy. Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Independence Day — each of these has an associated commodity that you just have to buy to celebrate it right. Food (along with contraception) for Valentine’s Day, gifts for Christmas, and fireworks for Independence Day. Thanksgiving would seem to be the quintessential gratefulness and humility holiday. Too bad turkey isn’t free, and Black Friday isn’t so humble.
You might say, “Slow down there, Zach! If these holidays benefit our economy, why are their cultural messages so pernicious? Isn’t a flourishing economy good for everybody?”

Good catch. But consider what these cultural expectations rob us of besides our money. If Valentine’s Day had nothing about dates and restaurants and sex and gender roles, would romantic love be easier to experience? Would it isolate the single folks out there quite as much?

“Hey Zach, nobody’s forcing you to adhere to these guidelines. You aren’t robbed of anything that you give up voluntarily.”

Well, I could disobey my culture and treat Valentine’s Day like any other day. Anybody could. But if you’re a man who decides — with his special someone — to treat Valentine’s Day like any other day, how does your girlfriend feel when all of her friends are at a fancy restaurant, gobbling $25 entrees and slurping down the finest bottle of Merlot in the house? If you’re a woman, how does your boyfriend feel when his friends are spending +$100 on their girlfriends?

Sure, you don’t have to feel boring or guilty. You may be the most confident and secure couple on the block. But tell me that the media, Valentine’s Day sales and your social circle have no effect on your Valentine’s Day experience.

Robinson Test Prep Academy

Valentine’s Day should be a time to address something. What is the difference between romance and love? Good luck trying to answer that one in the dull roar of whatever restaurant you find yourself at. Thanks for my great economy, and don’t forget to tip.

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