With this new contact between strangers – facilitated in part by ‘swiping right’ on things like Tinder – it doesn’t seem far fetched to say we are in the age of love without labels. If you don’t agree with that then maybe test the waters yourself. Guys and girls send that special someone today the most romantic, gushing, you’re-the-apple-of-my-eye, text message you can compose and see what happens. Unless you are in a seriously, and I mean seriously, committed relationship with daily I love yous and what are we going to have for dinner tonights then odds are this love letter will creep that special someone of yours right into radio silence. And then possibly out of your life for good. Try it. It sucks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t like you, though. Most of the time they just don’t want to be tied down like that. At least not right now. Or if they do, they want to be tied down slowly, bit by bit, over time, in a way they can trust and appreciate. They DO NOT want to lassoed and strong-armed into submission. Today, it’s a delicate and increasingly more difficult process than ever before. After all, there’s always someone else to swipe right.
So then if we are living in the age of love without labels, today, Valentine’s Day is a hard day to negotiate because, at its essence (heart if you’re feeling puny(kill me now)), Valentine’s Day was created for the purpose of labeling your love. So how do we say I love you, with, you know, not saying it like that at all?
The thing is we all still want to be loved. We still want connection to other humans and we want to talk about our feelings, sometimes. Fear not, physical and mental stimulation is still craved by humanity. And to that, chivalry isn’t dead either. It’s just evolved into something much more nuanced, and at the same time not at all. Let me explain. Perhaps these two Valentine’s Day cards seem most emblematic of that evolution. The first has the outline of a heart, inside it: BE MINE (JK, be your own autonomous person). This is a packed statement. What it’s really saying, is: Listen I want to let you know that I care about you and people on Valentine’s Day sometimes say ‘be mine’ but I think that’s kind of outdated now and I don’t want to creep you out or jump into anything too serious and I think, or hope, you don’t want to either but I would not NOT be opposed to sleeping at your house tonight if you invited me (or vice versa). It’s a very masked statement indeed, but ultimately very expressive of the contemporary human condition. It says love while recognizing its flaws.
The second Valentine’s Day card reads as such: We both like getting drunk and touching each other. That is cool and fun. High Five! The same sort of thing is happening here as well, though less subversive. What it’s saying is: Listen remember when we did that thing that other night and we were sort of on the same level? I could potentially do that again because society is telling me that I’m supposed to do something like that today, so if you are feeling what I’m feeling today maybe we could get on that same level again, that one we were on the other night, only this time let’s do it tonight. But also, because I sent you this and you didn’t send me anything I want you to invite me, not the other way around because that would be too strong on my part I think.
So really what we are faced with now on Valentine’s Day is a series of masked statements that remind us why Valentine’s Day was created in the first place, but also how stupid it is at the same time. We all want to be loved but it’s just a pretty serious word to throw out there, a little too serious for right now at least, I think. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t want to love. I just don’t want to say it. So listen will you just take this spider ring I have for you because it means something more than what it seems at first and it’s just for you. It’s for you because you’re special. And you’re special because I can give you Halloween gifts on Valentine’s Day and you understand what I mean without me having to say the words out loud.