Ryan Chartrand

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and the battle is on.

I don’t mean the advertising campaigns bespattering all media forms from TV commercials to annoying animated web banners, plugging this necklace or that eau de toilette, this list-of-ten-ways-to-spend-your-V-Day or that free-shipping offer on select bouquets.

Nor do I mean the rush of the well-meaning though robotic consumer who falls prey to such promotion and conventional forms of romance.

I’m referring to a battle of another sort; one that has gone on for centuries; one that may pit friend against friend, professor against student, major against major.

This is the battle of the Romantics and the Cynics.

Let’s meet the contenders:

On this side of the arena, we have our starry-eyed idealists who must wear rose-tinted corrective lenses due to said vision condition. The Romantics breathe in hopeful sighs and think in dreamy cognitive states; their hearts beat in palpitations; their feet never touch the ground. Valentine’s Day seems to have been made for them, so they rejoice in the day devoted to the celebration and practice of that mysterious force called Love.

On the other side, we have our self-proclaimed realists who need no visual augmentation because they, of course, see everything clearly. The Cynics would argue only they know the truth: life doesn’t imitate art, and we shouldn’t pretend it does. Therefore, the only good excuse for something as commercially exploitative and ridiculously sentimental as Valentine’s Day is the opportunity to gorge oneself on chocolates.

OK. so that’s taking it a little far. As yet I haven’t seen a Romantic and a Cynic duke it out in passionate defense of their respective parties’ stances (though I imagine it would be one helluva boxing match).

Today, the safer choice of affiliation seems to be the cynical side. Just one barely-noticeable exhalation is enough to get you in a world of reproachful trouble with your cynical friends, if you happen to release your carbon dioxide whilst passing by the sizeable red-and-pink display at El Corral (if the display is in your line of sight, it’s probably best to hold your breath).

Contrary to what you may think, not everyone who is cynical about this holiday is necessarily single. There are lots of people in relationships who feel just as low about it, and there are lots of single people who either make the best of the shopping sales or could really care less.

Why the unbridled scorn toward Valentine’s Day?

Ours is a society (and age bracket) where skepticism and disbelief are the status quo. Many of us have (consciously or unconsciously) deemed ourselves disillusioned with ideals of romantic love, and we’re convinced that everyone’s just out for themselves.

That heart-shaped box of candy? That stuffed bear? That hand-picked bouquet of your favorite flowers? You think that’s to romance you? No – he/she must want something from you. Right?

The problem is that we have all become so jaded. We’ve all been spurned in love before; all experienced some form of romantically-induced heartache. An entire day dedicated to reminding us of our past (and perhaps present) emotional pains is not likely to elicit stomach butterflies.

I’d say romance deserves a little defense – and it’s the cynics who should be doing the defending!

Romantics and cynics alike can agree on one thing: Valentine’s Day isn’t about romance anymore; it has come to represent nothing but superficial displays of “love” in the form of money-spending.

Isn’t Valentine’s Day supposed to be about real, romantic love? The few true Romantics left today are struggling to be taken seriously in their expressions of love because the Cynics continue to doubt that these expressions can really be genuine.

How can we reconcile?

We all need to learn to look past all the kitschy, ostentatious displays. We need to remind ourselves that romance doesn’t have to be defined by convention or commercialism. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be the painful or hateful experience it has been in past years.

Try to rethink your outlook when the 14th rolls around next week. Go ahead and poke fun at the plethora of odd Valentine’s Day trinkets at the bookstore; have yourself a good chuckle at the cheesy “romantically suggestive” cards on the racks. Let it entertain you, if nothing else.

When you make your usual grocery store trip this weekend, perhaps you’ll see a little kid enthusiastically picking out his box of Valentines for his class. (You’ll chuckle when he proudly presents his choice – WWE Valentines – to his very unenthused mom.)

Perhaps you’ll see someone painstakingly choosing a nice bottle of wine for a surprise dinner rendezvous. (You’ll be entertained to see the beads of sweat forming on his brow as he nervously checks off his list – he’s never made dinner before.)

And perhaps you’ll pass a quiet old man browsing the greeting cards, trying to sneak a nice, simple one with a flower on it into the basket without his wife looking. (She comes around the aisle, looks at the card, chides him with a smile for his ineffective sneakiness, and asks if he wants chicken or steak tonight.)

And perhaps you’ll be reminded that there are still some who see Valentine’s Day a little differently.

When it comes to romance and love, having a little of both – a little romance, a little cynicism – might be a good thing.

Sarah Carbonel is an English and psychology junior and Mustang Daily dating columnist.

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