Enough with the hearts and flowers, already
Meet the edgy anti-Valentines
Oh, Valentine’s Day, how do we hate thee? Let us count the ways: In the Back Bay, the Gypsy Rose dance studio is planning a “Single & Bitter’’ pole dancing class. On Massachusetts Avenue, Bristol Recording and Voice Studios is hosting a Black Valentine’s Day open mike night. “No sappy duets,’’ the rules instruct. And in Cambridge, “Breakup banana splits’’ and “Bloody heart pizzas’’ will be on the Feb. 14 menu at Area Four.
“Booooo Valentine’s Day,’’ the casual eatery’s co-owner, Michael Krupp, cried. “Forget about what everyone else is doing, and do your own thing.’’
But in 2012, “what everyone else is doing’’ could be an anti-Valentine’s activity.
The National Retail Federation predicts the average American celebrating the holiday will spend $126.03 - the most in the survey’s 10-year history. Statistics on the counter-trend are hard to come by. But one thing’s certain: With 32 million Americans living alone, according to the most recent census data, the singles market is too sweet to ignore. Companies big and small have come wooing.
Even the giant card company American Greetings is playing the other side of the field. Six of the 24 Valentine’s Day cards available on its justWink e-card app carry decidedly nonloving holiday messages. “Blah blah love blah happy blah blah yuck,’’ reads one card. “It’s Valentine’s Day. [@#$%].’’
The Geek Squad, Best Buy’s tech support and repair service, and not a firm traditionally associated with love, or hate, for that matter, is also flirting with the lovelorn.
For Valentine’s Day, it issued a list of “technology tips for shake-ups and breakups.’’
“Even in the midst of a sad breakup,’’ the Geek Squad advises, “it’s important to make sure that your personal data is safe and secure, especially if you share a computer with your ex-love. If you haven’t backed up your data recently, it’s time to do so now.’’
Be still, my bitter, heaving bosom.
Negative Valentine’s Day sentiments have also invaded FarmVille, the popular online game with tens of millions of users.
Last year’s Valentine’s Day theme included a few anti-Valentine’s Day items - a black rose crop, a black swamp, and animals with broken hearts.
The darker side was so popular that the company has more than doubled the anti-Valentine’s offerings this year, said Nate Etter, Farmville’s general manager.
“A lot of players feel their farms are almost a representation of themselves, and they appreciated the chance to express their sentiments,’’ Etter said. “A woman wrote in to say that her husband is in Afghanistan, and Valentine’s Day is hard, but now I have some stuff on my farm that shows how I feel.’’
With Valentine’s Day looming, the hostility in some quarters is running so high it’s as if a jilted billionaire were funding an anti-Cupid super PAC.
But why do some folks get so whipped up about a marketing holiday?
“It’s the high school reunion you have every year,’’ said Lauren Beckham Falcone, the sidekick on WROR’s “Loren & Wally Show.’’ “You’re constantly faced with what you don’t have.’’
Valentine’s Day timing, she adds, couldn’t be worse. “It comes right after the holidays, when everyone’s always asking, ‘So, are you seeing anyone?’ It’s the pile-on effect.’’
Acting out against Valentine’s Day allows people to release stress, said Mark Schaefer, an adjunct professor of marketing at Rutgers University. “There’s a certain amount of anxiety that always runs through our society, and a certain amount of rebelliousness, and we’re in a period of time where there’s not a lot of villains, so we strike out at whatever seems unfair. This is something to strike out at when there’s nothing else to strike out.’’
Rebelling is almost a rite of passage for younger people, said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University. “Especially now,’’ she said, “anything that smacks of commercialism seems phony.’’
Never mind that the anti-Valentine’s Day has become, its own way, equally commercial, Yarrow said; it still manages to be ironic. “And irony is in.’’
Alas, celebrating anti-Valentine’s Day is not without its own problems.
“If you toot your own horn about how much you hate Valentine’s Day, people assume it’s because you’re lonely and unhappy,’’ said Kelsey Labrot, 21, a junior at Boston University. “I am alone, but I’m not going to brag about it. I want to have some self-respect.’’
But, she confessed, she couldn’t resist a little anti-Valentine’s Day spirit. “I pretty much spammed my [single] sorority sisters on Facebook with a [commiserative] anti-Valentine’s Day card.’’
The movement has already inspired a Nia Vardalos movie, “I Hate Valentine’s Day,’’ an “I Hate Valentine’s Day’’ song by Jewel, an antivday.com website, “The Anti-Valentine’s Day Handbook,’’ anti-Valentine’s Day T-shirts, and, in some non-New England locations, “Dump Your X’s Stuff’’ Goodwill donation drives.
A dating company has named tomorrow the “official’’ anti-Valentine’s Day.
But perhaps the ultimate sign of the anti-Valentine’s Day movement’s success is this: It’s spawned its own backlash.
As Theresa Woolverton, 55, of Chestnut Hill, shopped for a Valentine’s Day plant for an elderly friend, she pronounced herself disappointed in criticism of the day.
“Don’t you think it’s a positive holiday?’’ she asked. “Anything positive in our negative world is a good thing.’’