Dating back to Early Rome, Valentine’s Day was an international holiday celebrated throughout North America and Europe. You may imagine the holiday as colorful and romantic, if not garish, with pink lace, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and sappy social media posts. Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day can be a dark time of year for some teens. Teen Dating Violence (TDV) during Valentine’s can manifest as unhealthy pressures to get/stay in relationships, show affection in grandiose and over-the-top ways, be public in private relationships, and more. As teens, we (the Youth Interns) wanted to reflect on our experiences with Valentine’s Day during February (TDV Awareness Month) and share alternative ways the holiday can be spent in a fun and healthy way.
Before we get to that, we thought it would be a good idea to refresh ourselves on what Teen Dating Violence is. If you haven’t already, check out our previous blog post on TDV (https://monsoonvpp.weebly.com/blog/archives/12-2020)! It’s far more detailed but for our purposes today, TDV occurs when boundaries and consent are violated in teenage relationships, often resulting in sexual violence. This can be from physical violence, emotional/psychological violence, and digital violence. Digital violence includes posting offensive/humiliating content, cyberstalking, etc. Millions of teens around the world experience some form of TDV while trying to navigate relationships. This month is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, and we can all help spread awareness. We, Monsoon VPP, urge anybody who’s experiencing TDV to speak with a trusted adult and/or seek professional guidance. And before you enter a relationship, whether it be on Valentine’s Day or not, sit down with your partner and set clear boundaries of what you are and aren’t willing to do.
Q: What does Valentine’s Day mean to you?
Carter: Valentine’s Day for me has never meant anything of huge significance. My parent’s wedding anniversary is Valentine’s Day though, so normally they go out to dinner alone, but other than that it has always just been an excuse to eat too much chocolate. As I’ve grown up though, I have felt slightly left out as I never really dated anyone around the day and dating has never been a high priority or an important thing to me. I would just feel a little down seeing all the couples around school (even if they’re completely cheesy), but my friends for me have always made up for it. I would say it’s still an excuse to eat a bit too much chocolate with the added bonus of maybe getting a teddy bear or two from friends.
Jalyn: This sounds pessimistic, but I’ve never really liked Valentine’s Day because I find the hordes of couples in the hallways at school mildly annoying. However, I confess that I still get a little sad to see other people supposedly enjoying being in relationships when I’m alone, with no one to celebrate with me. In my opinion, modern Valentine’s Day has become a corporate scheme to sell “romantic” gifts and market cheesy slogans, but I think Valentine’s for me is a time of self love and reflection. I like buying myself some discounted chocolate and flowers (on Feb. 15th, nonetheless) to remind myself that I am always enough.
Q: As a teen, have you ever felt pressured to be in a relationship because of Valentine’s Day?
Madelin: As a teenager not in a relationship, watching friends and classmates develop romantic relationships can take a toll of your self-esteem. Especially on holidays such as Valentine’s Day, that seems to indicate self-worth is directly related to being in a romantic relationship, approach. For me Valentine’s Day was just another reminder that I wasn’t in a romantic relationship and that I needed to be in one. The way that Valentine’s Day is portrayed is a representation of society’s idea that your importance is based on how much your significant other cares about you, when in reality love from friends, family, and yourself are equally if not more important, especially as teens. Although Valentine’s Day can bring about a lot of negative emotions and pressure, I think that we should all remember that all types of relationships are important and should be celebrated.
Cindy: Honestly, throughout my childhood, having low self-esteem didn’t help when it came to romantic holidays. I’ve always played myself off to be apathetic and arrogant. But at the same time, middle school was a period when most kids try to fit-in and find themselves. Despite putting up an attitude and barrier when it came to boys and relationships, the most prominent feelings were to be wanted and liked. Every year when Valentine’s Day came, I tended to act nonchalantly, and unaware that it had even come. When truly, I still hoped to find a candy bar or maybe even a secret admirer note in my locker. Valentine’s Day I think… has been overly popularized for us, and as young as we were, being friends was probably going to be the healthiest relationship for us at that time.
Q: What’s the best memory you have from Valentine’s Day?
Carter: I’ve never really had a good romantic relationship during the holiday but, when I was younger my elementary school would always have a Valentine’s Day “party” where we would bring in treats and valentines for our classmates. My classmates were fairly competitive so we’d normally compete on who could bring the best treat and one year this kid from my class brought a whole cake that was topped with chocolate covered strawberries in the shape of hearts. It was a really good cake and we all shared valentines with each other passing out treats to one another. I would say that’s probably my favorite memory from Valentine’s Day.
Shreya: My favorite memories from Valentine’s day were definitely in elementary school. That day we would cut class short and have a little party for the rest of the day. Everybody would bring candy, and there would be games, and of course, Hyv-ee sponsored sugar cookies in heart shapes. I remember that one year, there was a competition for the most creatively decorated box, and I didn’t win, but it was hard to be upset because I lost to a person who had transformed their box into an evil minion from Despicable Me. That day, I passed around candy with my friends but I didn’t eat any, so I came home with a jackpot. Memories with family, friends, and food are always the best.
Cindy: I think all of us remember our elementary days as being the best at celebrating Valentine’s because truthfully we were all young and childish back then. Elementary school was a time when relationships were not the focus of our lives and having fun was. I think that is why I liked Valentine’s Day so much back then. As with Shreya and Carter, I always wanted to give my friends the best candy possible and receive as much candy as possible home. It was like Halloween indoors!
Lovely ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day