You might not like it, but you have to give it to Valentine’s Day. If nothing else, it forces you to answer the question: Who do you love?
In a 2017 survey by search engine Bing, when people searched for ““Valentine’s Day Gifts For …” the sentence ended with numerous options – 22 per cent looked for a gift for their husbands, 20 per cent for a friend and 19 per cent for their pets.
Another study by US’s National Retail Federation published earlier this month found that 90 per cent of those celebrating Valentine’s Day in the US would spend on a gift for their spouse or significant other. But a majority – 53 per cent – of Gulf News poll respondents on Twitter felt that Valentine’s Day actually did a disservice to the idea of love, trying to reduce it to just one day.
“Valentine’s Day, honestly, isn’t such a big deal for me. That one day doesn’t tell everything. I think it is more of an excuse to go and have a good time,” Malaysian national Aazmin Kantawala told Gulf News.
The Dubai resident has been happily married for 22 years and never waited for February 14 to express her love.
“Every day should be celebrated for whatever time you get to spend with your loved one. And it should not only be for spouses, it should also be for friends. It is just a representation of the love you feel for people,” she added.
However, she understood the appeal the day might hold for those in a new relationship.
“Maybe in the initial years when you are newly married I think it is more relevant. Over the years you tend to understand the person better so you really don’t need roses all the time. Every day could be Valentine’s Day. Every day I spend with my husband is Valentine’s Day for me, so love does not necessarily have to be expressed in words all the time. It could be things that you do for each other, the way you understand each other - that is a more mature perspective. A couple in a new relationship might want to say more, gift more. But when you are into a long term relationship you don’t always have to say it. I mean, it is nice to hear ‘I love you’ but it is not always necessarily said through words, it is through actions, it could even be a look,” she said.
But even Tanisha Gupta, an Indian senior copywriter in a Dubai-based advertising firm, who has been married for just three years, does not find the need to drop everything to express her love on Valentine’s Day.
“I personally think there are so many other moments that can and should be used, for the expression of love. In fact, even just the start of a weekend, when you get to spend some quality time with your loved one, becomes a chance to express your love.”
What the day does offer, according to her, is a way to make amends.
“It’s the perfect opportunity for people who usually forget special occasions, to make up for it.”
And this opportunity can come at quite a cost. A billion dollar industry has been built around Valentine’s Day.
The same study by US’s National Retail Federation also found that US residents will spend $18.2 billion (Dh66.85 billion) on Valentine’s Day this year. If that seems like a lot, you should know that this is less than what they spent last year. In 2016, Valentine’s Day related expenses reached an all-time high of $19.7 billion (Dh72.36 billion).
The pressure of a dozen long-stem red roses, teddy bears or heart-shaped balloons can get too much for even the most expressive personalities. Introverts, then, have a much harder time coping with it.
According to a study by US-based mental health social network PsychCentral, extroverts are charged by people, places and stimuli outside of them. But introverts get their energy from within.
Ashwin Fernandes, a social media executive based in Dubai, saw that his introverted friends preferred not to emerge on Valentine’s Day at all.
“The day puts a lot of pressure on extroverts, let alone introverts. So they prefer to express their affection on another day that’s free of all the expectations and hype. Having to arrange a restaurant reservation, get chocolates, teddy bears and so on – it makes it so much harder! Even on a regular basis, introverts wouldn’t be expressing themselves with things like this, so on Valentine’s Day, they don’t want to go out or get involved with the festivities at all.”
Also, for many residents in the UAE who come from various cultures, spending so much money and effort on the idea of love makes little sense.
Ksenya Prekovic, who has been married for 16 years, does not celebrate the day as it is not part of the culture in her home country of Croatia. However, she highlighted the need to express love in whichever way a person might be comfortable.
“I don’t believe in buying gifts to show love. Instead, it is about spending time doing what you both enjoy and sometimes it’s about striking a compromise to do something the other person would prefer, for example playing a game or sport you don’t normally enjoy. It is more about that and sharing moments together rather than buying an expensive gift just to show off. Other people have a different understanding of what love is and whatever you find to be the expression of love, you should do that and tell them why they are important to you,” she said.
Omar Abu Omar, a Jordanian national who works in digital marketing in Dubai, felt occasions such as these should be considered “just another day”.
He said: “Days like Valentine’s or Father’s Day, and so on, are really overrated. Of course, it’s nice to express your love for someone, but why only on this day? I think people place too much value on it.”