So, this Tuesday is Valentine’s Day, and to all you happy couples (or groups!) out there, I hope you have a wonderful celebration. To all you with romantic crushes, I wish you luck, and to those with platonic partners to spend the (commercial) holiday with, have fun! Everyone else, I hope the holiday is at least a sweet one, literally. Post-holiday chocolate sales are no joke.
In any case, I made a post last year about Valentine’s Day too, but a lot happens and a lot changes in a year. As such, I have had some experiences and a number of introspective moments that have led me to re-evaluate, really, what Valentine’s Day means to me. I mean, I kind of had to because, for the first time, I’m feeling really bitter about the holiday, and I couldn’t really figure out why. So, a head’s up, today’s post is more along the lines of introspection and me trying to understand myself more so than a particularly entertaining post. Sorry about that!
But yes, as I was saying, all my life, I have never once been bothered by Valentine’s Day being a romantic holiday, likely because I had friends who were equally disinterested in romance whom I could spend the day with. However, this year is different. All the people I genuinely care about are overseas and far away from me, while all the acquaintances around me are atwitter with valentinegrams and date plans. In fact, a lot of the Valentine’s Day plans that I hear around me seem pretty lackluster, and I think that’s agitating me more.
I wrote a post on my Tumblr articulating how I’m frustrated that so many displays of affection are romance-coded, how going the extra mile for someone is often perceived as a romantic overture. To add onto that, I think part of what’s getting to me this year is that I’m hearing all these supposed plans, and I can’t help but think, “I could plan a far more special day; I could do this so much better.”
Something I learned very recently is that despite my aromanticism, I’m a far more romantic person than any of my friends. Perhaps that sounds paradoxical, but it really isn’t. I’m just using the word in the sense of ‘idealizing’ in application to expressions of affection. If people are going to view that as romantic feelings, well, that’s frustrating for me, but all I can do is try and better explain what I am experiencing.
To start with, Valentine’s Day has primarily been a day to celebrate friendship for me. I think that view is encouraged, seeing as in childhood, students are often encouraged bring valentines for everyone in their class. Children give valentines to their parents. Although it is marketed primarily as a day for lovers, it clearly is not just a day for lovers. So, back when I was younger and more naive, a teenager in school, I had dreams for what I would do once I was a little more financially and structurally independent.
It has been my dream since high school to gift Valentine’s Day to a friend. I’ve thought for years now that once I entered college, I would somehow make it work, and I would have the opportunity to plan out an entire platonic date, tailored to a specific friend’s interests.
Maybe I would go the traditional route, since I’m an old-fashioned person. Maybe I show up with a bouquet of flowers, each flower personally chosen with the exact color and number indicating a specific symbolic meaning, either by Victorian standards or hanakotoba. Maybe I give it to my friend knowing they will be able to decipher the message. Maybe I give it to them knowing they won’t, and I am simply content in the knowledge that they think the flowers are lovely, know I designed the bouquet myself, and feel very, very special and loved.
Maybe I brought chocolates. I mean, if I’m going the traditional route, it has to be flowers-and-chocolates together, so maybe I designed an assortment to make sure every chocolate is to my friend’s tastes. Maybe this friend of mine enjoys surprises, so then maybe I’ve bought an assortment and thrown out the descriptions so that every bite is an adventurous delight. It was fun for me to prepare the gift because I could imagine what their reaction would be, and maybe it turns out I was way off, but I still have fun knowing that they are having fun.
Maybe Valentine’s Day doesn’t fall on a weekday, so I’ve planned an outing as well. Maybe I made reservations at a nice restaurant and made all the travel arrangements too. Maybe I reserved spots for a one-day chocolate-making course on Valentine’s Day prices so that we can have a fun, shared experience beyond just good food. Above everything, this isn’t just a mutual hangout, just friends out and having fun – this is a day that I have carefully tailored to this friend’s tastes in the hopes that I can gift them a pleasant and memorable day. That’s always been the goal, and it continues to be the goal. The only reason I want to be wealthy is so that I could pamper those closest to me in this way.
I only very recently learned that this level of traditional, troublesome date-planning, isn’t very common, even amongst alloromantics. It turns out that, for being aromantic, I’m a hopeless romantic. Go figure.
So, I’ve shared this idea with some people before, and they try to be supportive. They tell me that I sound like a sweet person, or that there’s nothing stopping me and I should just go for it. Unfortunately, there are a number of things stopping me, and two big ones are societal expectations and resulting social conditioning.
I’ve tried some of the above before – never all at once, but one at a time. Immediately, I had people pull me into privacy and ask, “Hey, do you like them?” and even though the answer is always, will always be no, I felt my skin crawl with implication that I had been making some romantic overture. Sometimes my denial isn’t enough, and people continue to insinuate that I might be harboring some kind of secret crush and I’m just unable to recognize it due to my upbringing. I find their attempts to tell me how I feel heavily disturbing and violating.
Sometimes I can bear with that. After all, if my friend and I are both secure in the idea that we both don’t have romantic feelings for each other, it doesn’t really matter to me if people keep insisting that I have a crush on them. The person whose opinion matters knows that I harbor no romantic feelings for them, and that’s honestly all I care about. The problem then, of course, comes from the fact that I am not friends with only aromantics, and once they start dating, my social right to dote on them slips out of my hands.
Perhaps it is just social conditioning, but I feel… pressured. I am highly aware that a lot of the ways I hope to express my care and fondness are romantically-coded, and so I have ingrained in me the idea that once a friend begins to date someone else, I need to stop. It isn’t my place anymore. I have to back off and leave those earnest gestures of affection to the romantic partner. After all, the friend probably wants to spend special days with their significant other, now, or the significant other might feel uncomfortable tolerating what might seem like highly romantic overtures from another person.
And even if the friend and the partner are okay with it, I myself could not be. Society would view my actions as odd, view me as an interloper or someone with a poor grasp on social norms and boundaries. In society’s eyes, every grand gesture I make will be placed in direct competition with the romantic partner, thus casting the shadows of romance onto me yet again, and I wouldn’t be able to tolerate that. And despite everything, I think that the romantic in me expects that the romantic partners of my friends go to the same lengths to shower my loved ones with care, so a lot of me feels the need to hold back so that they can have the chance to do that.
But this year, it’s making me irritable. I am in my third year of college, and I have the resources and capability to plan a wonderful day for a wonderful person, and Valentine’s Day is approaching. However, my friends are far away, and I am instead surrounded by acquaintances in romances who are complaining about partners who aren’t investing enough time and effort into their relationship. I am left irritated with the knowledge that I would have put far more effort into expressing my love for my friends, but none of my friends are within my reach.
This year, like I was at Christmas and like I was at New Years, I suppose I’m just lonely. Though I’m surrounded by people and people who consider me their friend, I suppose with every passing year, I just wish my friends were within a visiting reach, and I wish I had someone to dote on.
But it looks like the road will be difficult, since I’m a hopeless romantic of an aromantic.