Reader Voices: Don't let flashy ads deceive you about what Valentine's Day should be all about

By Penny Bowler

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 7 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

A large heart shaped chocolate box and dozens of other Valentine's items are on display February 2011 at Cummings Studio Chocolates.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Is Valentine’s Day for women only?

Many years ago, Valentine’s Day was approaching and I found myself eagerly anticipating its warm and fuzzy respite from the cold and dreary days of winter.

As a mother, my thoughts naturally turned to ideas for my children’s Valentine boxes for school or what kind of Valentines they would want to give to their friends or whether to make cupcakes or sugar cookies.

As a wife, I began excitedly wondering what my sweetheart would give to me or do for me, preferably both, to proclaim his undying love. We had been married for several years, but that year a thought that had probably passed through my mind several times walked up and struck me in a way that I could not ignore: Valentine’s Day is a day for sweethearts to celebrate their love for each other and not just a day provided to give my husband a chance to show how much he loves me.

That revealing thought motivated me to shift my focus to what I could do to show my love for my husband on that Valentine’s Day and it continues to remind me that Valentine’s Day is his day, too.

On the heels of my humbling and enlightening moment came the realization that the whole modern celebration of the day of love can easily be perceived as being lopsided.

At least when viewed from a marketing standpoint, the majority of loving sentiments for Valentine’s Day leans toward women. Newspaper, magazine and television ads consistently give reminders about Valentine’s Day in the form of diamond jewelry, roses, cute cuddly stuffed animals, fine chocolates, expensive perfume and romantic candlelit dinners at upscale restaurants. All of the ads seem to be pointing a finger directly at men when they ask in bold type and raised volume, "WHAT ARE YOU GIVING YOUR VALENTINE!?"

We do see a few gifts of love advertised for men in the form of tacky boxers covered with cartoon characters or giant stuffed apes proclaiming sassy sentiments, but both the quantity and quality of these “manly” gifts sadly pale in comparison with the gifts having a more feminine focus.

I realize that Valentine’s Day has always been a more feminine holiday in all of its sugary sweet pink and frilly glory, but if it is truly a day to celebrate love than shouldn’t women as well as men be enthusiastically encouraged to express their devotion to the one they love?

We as women have learned, with much gratitude to Dr. Laura, that men have basic, simple needs. They do not need to be dazzled with diamonds, fawned over with flowers or catered to with cuteness. They want to be loved — pure and simple.

Women want to be loved too but they like their loving to come in carefully presented packages and so it only stands to reason that advertizing tends to cater to women on "pretty" holidays. Thank goodness the obvious lopsidedness is the result of calculated demographics and not heartless partiality.

Money-making opportunities aside, I personally see nothing wrong with fancy packaging and I applaud both men and women who put forth extra effort to add special touches to expressing their love. However, I believe that it really is the thought that counts. Very often if we are not careful, the precious gift of a heartfelt thought gets lost in the material wrappings that are so warmly embraced by modern society as a whole.

Advertisers earn their livelihood by marketing material wrappings as not just nice but necessary and by convincing us that we not only need them but deserve them. That power of persuasion messes sadly with our hearts as well as our heads. If we buy into it we are left with inflated expectations that can lead to major disappointment or at least long periods of pouting.

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