Sex, Love and Videotape: Valentine’s Day in the Era of #RelationshipGoals

For better or worse, today is Valentine’s Day. Every February 14, we get a mixed bag of reactions to this holiday that happens rain or shine, whether you’re celebrating love or lamenting a loss. But how did we get here?

The history of Valentine’s Day is one with no real evidence to support it. Conflicting theories aside, its origin is far from romantic. Many know it was created to martyrize St. Valentine, who was executed on February 14 by Emperor Claudius II. But… plot twist: Ya boy Claude executed two men named Valentine years apart on February 14. We don’t know which one is now St. Valentine, neither do we know why Claudius II had such beef with men named Valentine.

According to NPR, it’s widely held the holiday was enacted by Pope Gelasius I to put an end to the Roman tradition of Lupercalia. Lupercalia, aka a BDSM nightmare, involved men flogging women with blood-soaked skins of sacrificial animals and later matching with women at random, possibly for life. Maybe this is why they keep releasing “Fifty Shades” movies for the holiday?

Over the centuries, gestures got more and more humane (I’m not kink-shaming the ancient Romans here) until the company that ultimately became Hallmark began circulating paraphernalia we currently associate with this day.

However, I didn’t actually come to provide you with a strange history lesson. I’m here to talk about today, February 14, 2018.

It seems we’re living in the modern Gilded Age of romance. That can be a bit daunting, if you find yourself with a partner who isn’t into publicly displaying your relationship, or if you find yourself without a partner at all.

#RelationshipGoals has pervaded pop culture. It’s inescapable. Photos of decadent floral bouquets, lavish proposals, Sephora shopping sprees, love affairs that started from a simple DM and couples who seem maybe-a-little-too comfortable posting their makeout videos on the internet are everywhere you click. (I mean really … who is this poor, mystery third-party who is recording this stuff?)

Every social media channel is filled with gushing examples of romance that looks so enticing that even the strongest of us sometimes wonder “Where the hell is my dream romance?!”

While it’s tempting to look at your video game-consumed partner or the empty half of your bed in disgust after this, there’s a meaningful lesson to learn:

A successful relationship does not have to be defined by public displays of affection and grand gestures.

In the era of pressure to have a cookie-cutter love that’s thinly-veiled in performative gestures, it’s important to remember to make love (lol … make love!) work for you and where you are in your journey.

I do enjoy seeing a happy couple on social media, putting their rose petal-adorned hotel bed on display for their followers to see. But it takes knowing myself and evaluating my own experience to know that I’d be mortified if I were to put my own affection out in the open. Love for me, and many others is intimate and deeply personal. This is so much the case that when asked how my partner and I are doing (when I’m actually dating someone) I only ever respond “We’re good.” On the surface, that’s all that matters. Underneath, however, lies a multitude of emotions that I can’t even begin to verbalize that describe how much I’m feeling my partner. Even the fact that I typed that last sentence for others to read makes me want to dry heave.

That’s simply not my love language. I’m not ashamed to say that it’s taken quite a bit of self-exploration and lessons in emotional intelligence to arrive at this conclusion. It’s OK to appreciate what others have and recognize it’s simply not a good fit for you.

I encourage you to internalize this if you find yourself not fitting into your News Feed/Timeline’s mold this Valentine’s Day. Happy loving!

About the author

Ashlee is a project manager and marketing maven. When she isn’t helping Community Solutions end homelessness in 125 communities, she’s musing about Black Girls for The Lighthouse. Cooking restaurant-quality cuisine at home and being a wine snob are her favorite kinds of self-care.

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