Picture this – I’m walking through Valletta in mid-January, hiking around the city in the vain quest of finding a copy of a fitness magazine which promised me it knew how to rid me of my Christmas flab; I walk into a stationer’s and what do I find if not a wall – a screaming red wall of cards.
Valentine’s cards. Red, all over. The effect was akin to that of someone taking a flock of cupids, putting them through a massive blender and dipping the whole display shelf in innocent blood. And that, unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool, cupid-hating Maoist, is not a pretty sight.
That whole cupid massacre incident is true, allegorically at least. Valentine’s Day, from its holy beginnings as a religious feast, turned into the second largest cash cow after Christmas for the card industry, and I bet telecommunication companies aren’t complaining either. Now I’m not clamouring for the rediscovery of the true Christian roots of the feast, as I’d do for Christmas or Easter. But when shops start selling the unlikely combo of cards, heart-shaped balloons, soft toys and sex toys a whole month before the actual date, you know Something’s Wrong.
What was once a day where you could declare your love to your crush by means of a sweet, handwritten card is now an excuse for card-sellers to sell cards; an ethos for soft toy factories; hotels can sell weekend breaks during what is most definitely not peak season; lingerie shops get to whip out their most uncomfortable outfits and florists get away with selling truckloads of roses at what must be a profit close to 1000 percent.
There is, however, another reason why I detest Valentine’s Day so much. I detest the commercialism. I detest the schmaltzy public displays of affection one has to endure on the day. But what I detest most of all is the fact that I detest it.
Because you see, dear reader, I was actually born on 14 February. That means that like people born on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and April Fool’s Day, I hate my birthday. People tend to blatantly forget why the day is so special in the first place, and instead of flooding your life with presents, cards and their own good selves, they just go ahead and purchase a humungous teddy bear which will then go on to gather dust next to their girlfriend’s bed. What’s worse, you’re actually expected to buy people presents for your birthday. Excuse me, but expectations are already harmful enough when you’re the one who has them; being expected to buy presents for your birthday is sheer torture.
So, how to celebrate My Birthday? Easy. Buy your girlfriend/boyfriend/BFF a card. Be nice to them. If you want to be really sweet, buy them a gift with some meaning, and present it on any other day for that special effect.
Alternatively, go on hiatus just a couple of days before. Then, with the money you save, buy me a present.
This article appeared in the February 2009 edition of The Insiter.