Why Valentine’s Day is This Goth’s Favorite Holiday
Chanukah-Shmanukah. Our cynical columnist shares why she’s head over heels for the fakest day of the year.
My friend RG sent me a hat that simply says “BLACK RAINBOWS OF DEATH.” It was perfect. My circle knows me so well: a lover of goth style, dark-wave music and that colorless color that has led my mom to label me “The Sicilian Widow.” But my friends also know one thing that may surprise most people: I love Valentine’s Day.
I know, it makes no sense! It’s a Hallmark holiday con queso manufactured to pimp Cupid and market love to the masses. It makes normally sane people drop serious shekels on bullshit prix-fixe dinners and flowers priced up 300 percent. Or devour chocolates our mouths want but asses might not. Or, worst of all, the Saturday Night Live-spoofed and dreaded Teddy Bear Holding a Heart. Made in China for eleven cents, this 7-11 point–of-purchase furry friend says, “I totally fucking forgot it was Valentine’s Day.”
Since the first day of the year, my Instagram has been inundated with jewelry ads servicing women of a certain age, revealing that it’s obviously a big holiday for bling. But even though I knew that already, I had zero clue that according to the National Retail Association, Valentine’s Day in the United States is an $18.2 BILLION industry (#jawonfloor). Candy, cards and an evening out top the list of how 54 million will actively celebrate this year.
But that’s not why I dig the fake holiday. I don’t go to an overpriced dinner, or even receive a card from my husband, Harry. In a world filled with rage and hate, I do like the concept of relishing love for a day. Yes, it’s commercial. Yes, consumers are gouged. And yes, I despised it when I was single. But I am, and always have been, in love with love.
"I dig the fake holiday. I don’t go to an overpriced dinner, or even receive a card from my husband Harry. But in a world filled with rage and hate, I do like the concept of relishing love for a day."
When I got married, my friends threw me a bridal shower. I unwrapped the boring toaster-and-blender shit like 1950s brides do, and then I got an envelope handed to me by a cool younger friend who lived in the East Village at the time. Inside was a gift certificate: dinner for two cooked at home. As a shitty cook, it was the present I appreciated most, and I wrote her a gushing thank-you note and tucked the gift certificate in a drawer.
One year later, great with child in a new apartment, I was cleaning up and discovered it. It was early February 2003, and I didn’t see an expiration date. So, I called the caterer explaining I was scatterbrained after a move and my placenta seemed to be eating my memory. “So is there any chance I could still use the gift certificate?” I asked. She kindly said, “Yes,” and then I pushed her sweetness and sheepishly asked if we could schedule the dinner for Valentine’s Day. Shockingly, she said, "No problem." I didn’t want to go out because I was exhausted. Also, we were living in a fourth-floor walk-up at the time and could barely make rent, so I certainly didn’t want to be taken advantage of at a restaurant serving a set five-course dinner when I only wanted two of them. Plus, Harry was psyched to be off the hook.
As the chef cooked in our tiny, sometimes roach-visited kitchen, I set placemats and then, for the very first time, cracked out our wedding china. I’d read an article about this woman who always saved her best lingerie and never used her fine china and then randomly died, never having used the good stuff. I felt very inspired. Not to wear fine lingerie (hard nope) but to use special things I cherished and not have them gather dust. We enjoyed the most delicious meal and that night vowed to be home for every Valentine’s Day.
The following year we had some other friends over with their baby, and through the years, the gathering grew, until finally, it became a 100-person cocktail party complete with red balloons, acapella singers performing love songs and heart-shaped food. Everyone was grateful to have plans. Our kids dressed up and helped pass out chocolates and cookies. We celebrated not just romantic love but filial love and gratitude for friends — and eventually, it burgeoned into a clusterfuck.
So please don’t be offended if you haven’t received your invite yet; we’re scaling way back. So far back that this year, we are going to the theater and seeing the play “Network,” because if Harry wasn’t my Valentine, Bryan Cranston would be. Just kidding. In 2020, we’ll go back to filling our home with friends, who will definitely joke that it’s the one day they see me in red. By February 15, I'm back in black blaring AC/DC.
Jill Kargman is a New York-based writer, actress and television producer. Follow her on Instagram @jillkargman.