Recently, I watched one of those maddeningly addictive rom-coms in which a goofy, handsome guy surprises the girl of his dreams on Valentine’s Day.
She’s a 20-something, too-busy-for-love surgeon who hates flowers, handholding and all the ooey-gooey delights of romance, so her beau gets creative and gives her a bouquet of carrots. She, in turn, hands over a card depicting a medically accurate heart and the words “you make my heart have premature ventricular contractions.” (For those less familiar with Gray’s/Grey’s Anatomy, that translates to “skip a beat.”)
The whole thing kind of made my stomach contract, but it also had me considering whether the movie duo’s somewhat derisive take on Valentine’s Day was a mere plot device or something more real than I’d like to admit among those of my generation.
Valentine’s Day used to be simple
It seems like Valentine’s Day used to be so simple. For my grandparents, who married in the 1960s, it meant a piece of jewellery or a box of truffles for my grandma. She cooked, cleaned and looked after the kids, and Valentine’s Day was an acknowledgement of her efforts.
Today, after three waves of feminism, gender roles have changed so much it seems unlikely Valentine’s Day could stand for the same things. Girls my age can be a little uncomfortable with being spoiled; frankly, getting showered with gifts feels more awkward than indulgent.
Relationships aren’t much easier either
Romance has gotten trickier, too, in the age of social media. We’re more connected than ever, and this instant gratification extends to relationships. We converse all day through texts, sweet gestures are shared on Instagram and constant contact has made the phrase “I love you” more frequent, but less potent.
Essentially, we’re connecting with a lot of people with very little time investment, says psychologist Leona Doig.
“A person could have several potentially budding relationships going on at one time, which was not possible to this extent in the past,” says Doig. “People are taking longer to become independent than they have in previous generations. They may be more likely to date casually while they work toward their own goals, rather than have a goal of establishing a relationship.”
We’re still in love with love
A product of my generation, I turned to Twitter to get the word on Valentine’s Day.
I was skeptical I would get much in the way of a positive response. We’re a group dealing with student loans and divorced parents. We’re staying single for longer and our priorities have shifted from family to career. The odds aren’t in our favour when it comes to embracing time-worn romantic tropes.
I need not have worried. “Yes!” cried the Twitter masses. “We love Valentine’s Day!”
For couples, Valentine’s Day is a chance to appreciate each other – not with stereotypical tchotchkes, mind you, but with non-consumerist, non-outlandish gestures. And the singles were equally enthusiastic, claiming Valentine’s Day to get dolled up and go out or have some serious “me time.”
The carrot bouquet isn’t a fist-shake at tradition; it’s our iteration of an ageless celebration. Single or taken, male or female, we all want that little extra effort that says, “You’re special. And I like you.”
Not so different from our grandparents, after all.