From the Argives: Valentine’s Day Boycott

While some of us look forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day each year, others among us see February 14th as just another ordinary day. But, for some people, this romantic day is a holiday worth actively avoiding.

On Valentine’s Day in 1989, The Wesleyan Argus printed a column whose author had decided to boycott Valentine’s Day that year. The author, Adam “Sheep” Long, declared, “I am boycotting Valentine’s Day for reasons of my own.” When I read this, I was curious about these reasons. Was he frustrated by his own romantic difficulties? Angry about American consumerism? Convinced that romantic love is merely a social construct?

The author explained his reasoning like this:

     Every year I like to boycott at least one holiday (I never boycott Christmas). Recently, I have decided to start boycotting St. Patrick’s day (and I’m part Irish) and for a long time now I have boycotted Halloween. Halloween has never been a very good time for me: I generally associate it with things scary, gross, and violent. I can only remember one Halloween that I really enjoyed. When I was five, I went as Batman, which in retrospect doesn’t make a lot of sense, because I wasn’t old enough to read the comic book, and I was terrified of the TV show. I used to watch the cartoon part of the introduction and then leave the room. Only my immediate family knew about this strange behavior. With the kids at school, I just pretended I watched the whole show…

Okay, but why boycott Valentine’s Day? More after the jump:

As the author continues his Halloween story, his feelings toward Valentine’s day eventually make themselves known:

     The highlight of my kindergarten education was the day this one kid taught everyone the song “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells…” On the way home, I taught it to my two year old brother and we sang it about 900 times that afternoon. I still don’t know how my mother kept herself from killing us.
Anyway, on this one Halloween, this kid, Junior, who was about 12 and who lived up the street, took me around the neighborhood to make sure I didn’t get beat up. We got a bunch of really good candy and nobody threw anything at us: as Halloweens go, this one was unique. As I remember it, it was only a few weeks later that Junior and his family packed up and left in the middle of the night. We never found out why.
During Halloween day (or whatever it is you call October 31), I wore my costume to school, and it turned out that this other kid, Kurt, had also come as Batman, and everyone agreed that my costume was better than his was, so he punched me in the nose. Just to let you know what kind of kid Kurt was, one time during show and tell, he got in trouble for saying that he had found a bullet and that his father had put it in the fire (the teacher knew he was lying).
For several years after that, Halloween was, for me, a time of desperately trying to bob for apples (I only recently learned how) and reaching, always under protest, into a bag of wet spaghetti or peeled grapes, under the pretense of touching the parts of a dead body.
When I reached seventh grade, I decided I’d had enough. By this age, Halloween had turned into, at least by the accounts of my friends who participated more actively in the ritual than I did, an effort to stay out all night without getting beat up. They were not always successful.
Valentine’s Day was always better than Halloween…

Finally! The Valentine’s Day connection.

…because you knew what was expected of you. There were 32 kids in my class, and I simply gave them all Valentine’s cards. And that was all there was to it, except the little cards always came in packs of thirty, so you had to get two extra “real cards” and pick two people who wouldn’t mind getting them.
For a while, my family tried giving Valentine’s Day presents. Everyone would pick a name out of a lunch bag, and would get that person a present. It had to be under five dollars. That worked pretty well for a while, but it just sort of petered out.

So the author was sad about a lost Valentine’s Day tradition. But there’s more…

     When I was in sixth grade, I got this girl a heart-shaped box of candy. It cost about eight bucks, and her mom wouldn’t let her eat it. Apparently she didn’t believe in candy. The girl said that it was o.k., and that it was the thought that counted, but it was still kind of traumatic.
I’d really rather not talk about it.

And so, rather than relive his awkward preteen experience, the author decided to boycott Valentine’s day.

This Valentine’s Day boycott was not the only part of this Argus issue devoted to the holiday. This issue also included some Valentine’s personals, some ads from local businesses that mentioned the holiday, and a front-page article that highlighted Middletown businesses participating in Valentine’s Day.

Click on the photos in the gallery below to see more from the February 14, 1989 Argus issue:

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