February 11, 2009
For many romantic Australians, Valentine's Day is all hugs and kisses. But be warned.
The rosey day has an evil side too, according to those who say it's nothing but an excuse to sell cheesy cards, naff gifts and cheap chocolate.
The anti-Valentine's brigade says it is a day of obligation rather than celebration, and one that puts pressure on fledgling relationships while making the pain of the lovelorn even more acute.
Here are four reasons why Valentine's day sucks, according to the naysayers.
IT BRAINWASHES US INTO SPENDING MONEY
Marketing expert Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology, says marketing forces have "hard-wired" us into to being seduced by the Valentine's Day ritual.
He says the original meaning of the day was lost along to way to it turning into another retail opportunity.
"People will have difficulty answering why they are actually celebrating Valentine's Day," Danish-born Lindstrom says.
He says Valentine's Day exploits the need humans have to follow rituals, such as giving your lover a gift on February 14.
If don't, we are made to feel like a "loser".
"You are outside society, you don't follow the norms or the rules ... you are a loser," he says.
"If you don't send flowers, if you don't take your loved one out to a dinner ... if you don't buy a Tiffany ring ... then actually you are a loser.
"Retailers ... will do whatever they can to make it grow and make it even more overwhelming."
RESTAURANTS HATE IT
Valentine's day is anathema to many restaurateurs, like Australian chef and restaurant owner Christine Manfield.
She says cooing couples make for a dull vibe at restaurants, and don't spend as much as group bookings.
Manfield, who owns Sydney's Universal restaurant, says Valentine's day at the eatery is "boring".
"It's not a normal night because you've got tables for two and that can create the most boring atmosphere in the universe," she says.
"It's not fun and action packed ... there's no swapping going on.
"It just forces all restaurant operators to have to micro-manage bookings and do things we don't normally like to do.
"It's a well known fact that twos don't spend as much money."
In previous years, award-winning restaurant, Tetsuya's, encouraged people to share the love, seating couples with at least four strangers on February 14.
The eatery has dropped the concept this year.
Manfield says people tend to be "very monogamous", and hence, "they won't do it".
The author has tried in the past to "have fun" with the occasion, such as providing incentives for trios to come to her former Potts Point restaurant, Paramount, on Valentine's Day.
"If threesomes came in we gave the third person a free dinner just to make it a bit more fun but everyone's too Goddamn straight in their thinking," she says.
IT CAN BE BAD FOR YOUR LOVE LIFE
Psychologist and Relationships Australia vice-president, Anne Hollonds, says Valentine's day can be stressful for newly formed couples.
"It can create a little bit of anxiety because you're not sure what the other person's expectations are and whether they think it's a big deal," Hollonds says.
She says it is important to show love and affection to your partner throughout the year, not just on February 14.
"The way that you do that, you don't need to spend a lot of money, in fact you don't need to spend any money," she says.
The day of romance can also be rough for single people and those who have recently split.
"There is certainly a lot of focus on love and romance and people being happy because they've got love and romance," she says.
"If you've recently broken up or been unhappily single then that can be pretty tough.
CHOCOLATE ISN'T SO SWEET
Canadian author Carol Off alerted the world to the ethical quagmire of chocolate consumption in her book Bitter Chocolate.
In it, she lifted the lid on forced child labour in West African cocoa plantations.
"Traffickers see the vulnerability of these kids, there's nobody watching over them and they round them up and take them over the border into the Ivory Coast and make money from them," she said in a recent interview.
She explained it is difficult to help these children because much of the Ivory Coast, which produces a majority of the world's cocoa supply, is torn by civil war, and the government uses profits from the cocoa trade to fund the war.
Kelly Bent, the economic justice spokeswoman for Oxfam Australia, recommends opting for ethical free trade chocolate if you absolutely must give your lover chocolate on Valentine's Day
and...wait for it here's the Anti-Valentine Spectacular!!