Okay, so it’s not a choi choi choice exactly, but it seems to be where we’re headed. Today is Valentine’s Day. If we had the instruments to measure such things, I suspect we would find that ironic observances account for the majority celebration of same. As any single person will tell you, Valentine’s Day is fake. It is a construct designed to sell flowers and prix fixe dinners—as opposed to Christmas and May Day, which are totally real. Exactly who conspired to create Valentine’s Day and market it across multiple industries against the will of Earth’s people remains unclear. Probably, she is pretty and wants watermelon. Possibly she does not really exist.
Valentine’s Day is a great time to indulge the romantic fantasy that everyone else is less alienated than you. As a holiday, it is uniquely ripe for resentment. Where other days celebrating human mind states—Christmas (goodwill,) Thanksgiving (gratitude,) Halloween (drunk)—involve universal emotions, Valentine’s Day celebrates something many of us do not feel. It is the only holiday that absolutely requires a date. If you are a person who does not date often, it becomes an annual observance of that aspect of your identity—an oppositional observance, defined by your non-participation in an imagined mainstream.
It is in other words satisfyingly modern, in the same way as the forever alone meme. “Forever alone” is a fun thing to say when you unsuccessfully interact with strangers or otherwise experience reminders of your isolation.* Because it is comic, Forever Alone strikes a pose of existential defiance: you experience what makes you sad as funny, so fuck you, sad. Ironically, like all postures of defiance, Forever Alone presumes an audience. It only works when you have someone to say it to, so it’s immensely comforting to say to yourself. Existential defiance is most poignant when you do it for an audience you know is not there.
Most gestures of defiance in contemporary culture take for their audience the aforesaid Mainstream—the squares, the Fox-watchers, the people who evidently compose 98% of the population even though you don’t know any of them. As an indulgence of this conceit, Valentine’s Day is nonpareil. With the exception of certain breeding couples whose entire lives have become grim charades, even the people who love each other approach Valentine’s Day ironically. What they have is real, so it’s sweatpants and Downton Abbey on the 14th instead of some stupid tennis bracelet in a crowded restaurant.
On regular days, such behavior is vaguely troubling routine, but on Valentine’s Day it is romantic. The imagined monolithic falsehood validates the real experience. Just as Batman needed the Joker and punk rock needed Journey, alone needs Valentine’s Day. Otherwise it is just absence. Perhaps the most touching thing about V-Day is the way in which it unites us in this shared experience of loneliness. We all get together and agree that everyone out there is in love and happy, even though we personally are Forever Alone. The everyone and the out there are imaginary, of course, and we all know it. The fantasy sharpens our savor for the real. The great satisfaction of Valentine’s Day is that, in our outpouring of bitter Facebook statuses and spiteful ice cream consumption, we are alone together.