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Love in the time of mega mall

By Vikas Girdhar

Visit any local mall, pharmacy or even a gas station and you will know exactly what time of the year it is. The first week of February has had shoppers, shop owners, clerks-just about everyone-seeing red, pink and white.

Hearts, cards, flowers, roses, and chocolates dominate the marketplace right now. Valentine’s Day is around the corner and it brings along with it a myriad of issues and emotions. February 14 presents itself as a chance for people to make of it what they wish and will. Couples see it as a chance to express love for one another. Heartbroken individuals see it as a chance to vent about their exes and shattered emotions. Shops and marketers see it as a chance to capitalize on one of the most commercialized holidays.

Restaurant reservations and special orders for flowers skyrocket because most women like to be pampered on a day when everyone else is doing the same thing. Women often talk among themselves and compare all the extraordinary things their boyfriends or husbands did or bought for them for the V-Day. Most men, while assuredly have their hearts in the right place and don’t mind going out of their way to treat their ladies “right,” cannot help but feel the pressure from them to want to go above and beyond. And because there is an inherent expectation from women to men, men also expect that there will be something special done on behalf of their girlfriends’ or wives’ parts. Where did this expectation arise? Was it society that spurred the blurring of a holiday not meant to commemorate the overspending on overpriced goods?

There are many who feel that love should not be expressed as such on simply one day of the year. Why designate one day out of an entire year to show the one you love how much you love them? Should that not be the case everyday? Does how much one person spend on another person dictate how they feel about that person? Does one rose mean less than two dozen?

These are questions that cloud societal interpretations of the special holiday-and that’s not even in question. It’s the same reason why we see nearly every industry trying to exploit the true meaning of Valentine’s Day. Gone are the days when having a valentine simply meant acknowledging either your love, affection, crush or fling with some sweet expressed thoughts. The commercialization of Valentine’s Day blurred the distinction between “I love you and this is why” and “I love you and since this cost me a fortune, it should do a good job of showing you how much.”

There are certain industries that obviously bank on a major annual event to boom sales. For example, Staples and Office Max stay open later during the first week in September to take advantage of “back to school” week. Similarly, Valentine’s Day serves as a huge payoff for companies like Hallmark and 1-800-FLOWERS. This is all understandable, for these brands help satisfy the basic expectations that arise from Valentine’s Day. Somewhere along the line, however, nearly every industry started tapping into the mania. For example, cellphone companies are now more aggressively selling white phones and claiming that since “white is a color of love”-it should be bought for your loved one. This is how extreme it’s become. Car companies, jewelry stores, clothing shops-each one is trying as hard as the next to try and take advantage of this time of the year.

Pauline Wallin, Ph.D., writes in her “Valentine’s Day is Over-Rated” article for the Mental Health section of About.com, “Isn’t there enough pressure in relationships without having to live up to some romantic ideal on Valentine’s Day? TV and magazine ads depict models with perfect bodies and perfect teeth giving each other chocolates, jewelry and back rubs. The message is: ‘Your love is measured by what you buy’.”

The messages that Valentine’s Day has been giving off have completely lost sight of reality. “Modern relationships are difficult enough without having to stage a major performance on a designated day,” says Wallin. “Men agonize over the greeting card racks, hoping that they can choose a card that is not too funny, not too mushy. And the gift: ‘How will she interpret it?’ they ponder. ‘If I buy her chocolates will she think I want her to get fat? If I don’t buy her chocolates will she think I assume she is fat?’ ‘Is the gift too extravagant?’ ‘Is it too impersonal?’ ‘Are roses too predictable?'”

But how did it come to this point? Where did Valentine’s Day get its start and what are the purest ideals of the day-apart from any commercial influences or societal slants?

Legends

While there are many theories and stories regarding the emergence of Valentine’s Day, these are the most popular ones.

Legend has it that St. Valentine was a priest who served during third century Rome under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius II thought that single men made better soldiers than married men so he outlawed marriage for young men in hopes of building a stronger military base. However, St. Valentine decided this decree was unfair and chose to marry young couples secretly.

When Emperor Claudius II found out about Valentine’s actions he had him put to death. Another legend has it that Valentine was an imprisoned man who fell in love with his jailor’s daughter. Before he was put to death he sent the first ‘valentine’ himself when he wrote her a letter and signed it ‘Your Valentine’, words still used on cards today.

The true identity and story behind the man named St. Valentine maybe shrouded in mystery but this much is for sure: February has been the month to celebrate love for a long time, dating back to the Middle Ages.

In fact, Valentine’s Day ranks second only to Christmas in the number of greeting cards sent. A gentleman who appears everywhere during Valentine’s Day and

often referred to as the messenger of love is Cupid. The word Cupid is derived from the Latin word cupido meaning “desire”. In Roman mythology Cupid is the son

of Venus, goddess of love. His counterpart in Greek mythology is Eros, goddess of love. Cupid is often said to be a mischievous boy who goes around wounding both gods and humans with his arrows, causing them to fall in love.

Valentine’s Day in India

The Times of India is reporting that Valentine’s Day is spurring many females to enhance their looks by getting cosmetic packages to “put their best face forward.”

IANS writes ‘”A huge range of non-surgical beautification treatments like lip augmentation, eyebrow-lift, cheek augmentation, liposuction and nose job are being offered and girls go for them to look glamorous and sensual,” says Mumbai-based cosmetologist Jamuna Pai, adding that botox and juvederm are also on the list.

The growing trend of cosmetic packages, especially this Valentine’s Day, has seen more and more women open to improving their looks. This is most certainly a shift from traditional times, when either such tampering was frowned upon or not scientifically exposed.

Treatments and packages typically cost between Rs 15,000-60,000.

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