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Friday, 8 February 2013

Things which bother me: Hating Valentine's Day

February 14th, commonly known as Valentine's Day, is almost here and as it approaches, the two classic extremes of sentiment accompany it: love and bitterness. On a day commonly held to be a celebration of love, or possibly the love of buying Hallmark cards, Valentine's Day, like a snow day, brings a chill to the hearts of many.

I have problems with the extreme bitterness surrounding this day and I would like to share my thoughts. Now, before we get too far, rest assured that I know the true meaning of Valentine's Day, its origins, traditions, and reasons for being. I also am more than aware of the vast consumerism which takes place year after year in the name of love, and the pressure which comes with it.

However, I still have problems with people's bitterness over it. For many, the problem they have with February 14th is either that they hate the capitalistic associations (as in the apparent need to go out and buy things for people) and/or the pressure put on people do take part in said tradition.

The attitude of consumerism which comes with Valentine's Day is unfortunate and is one which really causes people to forget and hate holidays like Christmas, Easter, and probably many other days of celebration or worship from other backgrounds/cultures. The idea that we have to go out and do anything is an incredibly frustrating one. So, on a day which traditionally only has meaning to one specific group, those who are celebrating the sainthood of a few men named Valentine, it is difficult to be excited or even neutral about it when we are constantly bombarded with songs, store-front displays, pressure and paraphernalia.

The second half of this pressure is that people are either bitter about being single on this day, or that people are bitter that they are "forced" to take part in it if they are, in fact, in a relationship. I think all of these complaints are silly, but I am one of the special few.

First, let's deal with consumerism and societal pressure. I don't know what it is about me, but I really have a hard time being told what to do. Perhaps it was caused by my upbringing; being raised by strong, independent parents who told me to question things and only do that which made sense and was good.

Perhaps, it was due to my many years of watching Star Trek, wherein I've been trained by Captain Kirk to not bow to authority, and by Spock to consider the logic of all situations. Maybe, it's because I like being difficult. Whatever it is, I have a hard time being told to do something, but instead of venting frustration toward those "telling" me to act, I just ignore it.

Societal pressure barely affects me. I don't have body issues, I don't feel I need to do, think, or be a certain way in order to be a point. I also understand societal expectations and try not to clash too much. Like, you wear business attire to a business function. But, since it makes sense, I don't have as much of a problem with it.

So, if/when I am in a relationship during Valentine's Day, I don't feel compelled to do anything unless I actually want to. I wouldn't be one of those rushing out to buy flowers or a card just because society said I should. Now, let's look at the possible pressure from a partner.

Anyone who knows me knows that I try to be honest, and upfront. I have made my views on things very clear from the earliest possible points of my relationships. That being said, I would hope and look for the same thing in a partner. So, my partner would know that I am not going to buy her flowers, cards, or chocolates simply because it's the 14th of February. I might do it because I want to, but not because I felt obligated. And if my partner tried to pressure me into doing so, she might find that our relationship is not made to last, because of my problem with being told what to do.

Now, any married people out there might thing, oh Dallas, you're in for a world of trouble. But, the thing is, while you have to work at relationships, you shouldn't have to work for love. Any pressure from a partner to do so would indicate one of two things: either a lack of confidence/esteem in the strength of the relationship and/or a lack of proper indication on either side as to said strength of feeling. No girlfriend of mine, past or future, would ever have cause for concern as to a lack of attention. I don't smother those I care about, or at least I try not to, but I am upfront so if I like you, you'll know it. I have learned over the years how to explore my feelings a bit more and might be a little less reckless with my heart than before, but still, if I'm with you, you'll know how I feel. So, unless you really had doubts, because of your own problems, you would not feel the need to pressure me into showing my love in an obligatory manner. Of course, if you had those doubts, it might be the cause of a larger issue, in which case I would do everything I could to help, but I would have a hard time being asked to do anything I really didn't feel it was genuine.

So, no societal pressure, and no pressure within the relationship. Let's look at the "being single" aspect. I guess that some people find it hard to be okay about being single while the whole world seems to be going crazy for love. Okay, that's a fair point. It is hard to be different, especially when you feel you're alone. For those who feel this, I'm sorry. Just know that you're not alone. You may physically not have another person there with you, but there are always those who care about you.

For those who grow jealous of those with dates/relationships, try not to be. I am currently one of the few of my close friends who is single. Do I feel jealousy toward them? Absolutely not! I love that they are happy, and I am very glad that they have someone in their lives everyday of the year, not just the near ides of February. Being single can be very rewarding as well, but if you're too bitter to think about that, at least don't be mad at those who aren't bitter, if you can help it.

One quick piece of advice for people in relationships: whether you submit to the pressures you may or may not be faced with, keep an eye out for deals. I may object to doing something purely because of the calendar date, but I'd be foolish to not take advantage of movie or dinner deals. If it was something my partner and I wanted to do anyway, why not save some money?

Finally, I want to stress the important point that many bitter people may have: love is not subject to being celebrated only one day of the year. If you're with someone, you should figure out how you feel and make sure that they know. Not only is communication healthy, it saves a lot of trouble later. And most of us like receiving things so if you get the chance, make sure you shower that special someone with attention every once in a while. Not because you have to, but because maybe you want to but are just lazy sometimes.

It's easy for me to be cheery. I'm a romantic. I like to think of myself as an extremely pragmatic person with a colourful streak of passion. In my first year of undergrad, I bought Valentine's Day cards to give to my friends. My favourite one was a Transformers Optimus Prime inspired one which almost seems like it was advocating being single.
Still, I like doing nice things for people. I mail letters to my friends, and not just in February. For all those out there, in a relationship or not, have a fantastic day and make sure you let people know how you feel about them. (If you happen to not like them, make sure that you do and present the case gently, if possible.)

I will probably spend the day either with friends, or alone curled up in front of the fire. Either way, it'll be a day to remember, like each and everyday should be.

Things which bother me: Complaining about the weather

I used to read Archie comics as a kid, and by far my favourite character was Jughead Jones. The Snoopy of Riverdale, Jughead was always cool, always nonchalant and he comes to mind as Toronto celebrates/scorns another "Snowmageddon".

On the cover of one of the comic books, Jughead offers this advice: "Don't be angry with the weather; it has started many a conversation." These come as calming words when faced with Facebook feeds and Twitter posts about the inconvenience the weather has caused.

Over the past couple of days, Toronto has been buried under a constant snowfall. Currently, the weather report claims that over 20 cm has fallen upon this city, and as usual, there is much talk of this city's capacity or incapacity to deal with the situation. As Toronto seems to be slowing to a standstill, other Canadian cities are mocking us for our concern.

We're Canadian! Snow, winter, it's all part of our national and international identity. I've listened to a lot of different ideas on what it means to be Canadian, and while I won't go into presenting a clear-cut definition, it would be hard to argue that experience with snow would fail to enter into that definition, somewhere.

Don't get me wrong, heavy snowfall can be inconvenient. Cold temperatures, dangerous driving conditions, slippery sidewalks, slower traffic/public transit standstills, and all the inconvenience of having to clear cars and driveways of all that snow, of course winter can be inconvenient.

But, we're tougher than this. Our ancestors were either those who helped clear this land, or those who traveled here from afar. We're a country full of hard-working, extremely stubborn, innovators. We carry a persona second only to stereotypical Russia in how tough and crazy we can be for dealing with extreme climates. And yet, when winter does decide to come around to Toronto, and probably other cities, do we brave the weather as our forebears did? Nope. We complain.

Now, there are several reasons why complaining about the weather is a foreign concept to me, and some of them don't exactly point out the fault in complaint.

The first is that I am young. When I go home, I do not have to be asked to shovel the drive-way, I do it because I am young, energetic, and because it needs to be done. Thankfully, our neighbour has a plow so my sister and I only end up doing about half of the usual job.

The second reason, closely related to the first, is because I was raised to be hard-working. Descended from farmers, I laugh off the effort required for most tasks. I enjoy the productivity and satisfaction of a hard day's work. So, yeah, for those two reasons alone, I find any inconvenience simply to be a challenge worth taking.

The third reason is that I do not have a car. I do not have to suffer the usual inconveniences of transit. I don't have to clear my car of snow, I currently don't even have to clear a drive way. And because of taking mostly subway cars, I don't (usually) have to deal with traffic standstills. Even when I do, things are a lot easier to deal with when you don't have to pay attention. I can be free to read or fall asleep and thus the trip feels a lot faster.

A main reason is one which changes the tone of this rant from a derisive condemnation of a city's complaint to something a little more inspirational. I have too much of a spirit of adventure within me. I read fantasy, I play Dungeons and Dragons, I've seen The Lord of the Rings, and I wear a cape!

When I'm not preoccupied, I walk the streets of Toronto with my head held high, and with a gait of confidence. When I'm not wearing a cape, I move as if I am. I walk with the swagger of someone who treats all life as an adventure worth having. I weave in and out of crowds, keep a sharp eye on my surroundings, and relish the opportunity to be awesome.

I've read too many books like The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Moby Dick, and The Count of Monte Cristo to consider any journey too long, or too arduous. With or without my headphones on, my mind and body march along to inspirational classical music and soundtracks, especially this song is the journey looks to be a long one. When others complain about such trivial matters, I laugh it off, and try to show them that with the right attitude, anything is possible.

My final reason is that I am prepared. I am heading up to Richmond Hill tonight. I will have to take a subway and a Viva bus in order to get there. I will be taking my normal winter clothes (coat, toque, gloves, scarf) as well as my cape, and work boots. With that, and a few other choice items like 100 feet of 300 lb. strength parachute rope, some food and water, (things I just keep in my backpack because I'm silly AND prepared), I will leave early, knowing that it might take awhile, but I will get there, warm, dry, and smiling.

Most would rather a warm, sunny day right about now, but it's not what you've been dealt, so play your hand with confidence and guile, and I hope you find the strength to get through your day!