February 14, 2016
By James Anderson
For three years in a row now I have contributed a Valentine’s Day, love-themed column to the Graduate Assistants United website.
In my 2014 piece on unrequited love, I referenced Noam Chomsky, Kendrick Lamar, Phil Ochs, Marina Sitrin, Spanish anarcho-syndicalists circa 1936, the ideological embodiment of capitalist cooptation (Steve Jobs) and political scientist James C. Scott, among others. In my 2015 piece I opened by quoting Eduardo Galeano before embarking on a wild and steamy tangent about the history of love and revolution in France, authoring what was in retrospect likely my semi-conscious and probably inappropriate attempt at a poorly-coded love letter.
Needless to say, the theme of unrequited love remains a recurring one in my life. Heretofore, few are lining up to “Dance Me to the End of Love,” to borrow the title of the Leonard Cohen track, and this love drought is despite – or perhaps because of – the multiple off-rhythm renditions of the song I insist each time on performing for my would-be beloved.
This Valentine’s Day thus offers the opportunity for further introspection, self-reflection, self-loathing and conscious use of self-deprecating humor. The latter, I should add, has proven woefully inadequate when it comes to cultivating intimate interpersonal relations but immensely helpful in keeping me sane on days like Valentine’s Day when I otherwise wind up alone diluting my bottle of cheap scotch with a mix of ice and heartache-filled tears.
Modern Valentine’s Day might have become popular, as Tom Chivers noted, in mid-18th century England with the “passing of love notes,” the “precursor to the St Valentine’s Day card as we know it,” followed by Esther Howland of Worcester, Mass., mass producing cards using cheaper lace in the United States in 1847, leading to the present-day commercialized holiday. Yes, the holiday now sees some couples enjoying fine wine and orgasmic Michael Recchiuti chocolates while others keep themselves warm with tear-scotch, but that is no justification for ignoring it.
Painful and problematic as the day is, it also offers us a chance to draw important parallels and broach taboo topics. That sounds sexy anyway. So let’s roll with it.