I’ve been with people who grew to hate me. But before that I also experienced the mushy, sentimental side of love—the hand-holding, the promises of never separating, the actual desire to never separate So I feel pretty objective about the dual reactions a person can have to Valentine’s Day. There are the romantics and the cynics of the city and their worldviews tend to collide particularly hard on this auspicious day. Whether you’re celebrating love or despising the very notion that two people could stay together forever, you’ll encounter each intense perspective in New York more than anywhere else.
It isn’t just the hostile and maudlin energy that can prove too much to bear, but also the frantic dash to live up to expectations that aren’t necessarily equitable between a couple. While one person may be perfectly content with pizza and beer out of a paper cup, the other might be envisioning more of an oysters and champagne type of situation. Either way, someone in the couple is going to be disappointed because no other location puts as much of a premium on the value of a “successful” Valentine’s Day.
And then there are the thousands upon thousands of dollars in industry that various businesses throughout the city can make. Not just restaurants, but every single store that sells a product—chiefly lingerie, chocolates and perfume or cologne. The gift-giving side of Valentine’s Day in New York may be more cutthroat than securing a seat on the subway in the morning. And the more you spend, the more you care.
In many ways, Valentine’s Day brings out a side of the city that most would like to ignore. It’s a side that gives in to a trend rather than setting one. New York isn’t supposed to care about trite holidays. It’s supposed to be an impenetrable force immune to the implications of a day that celebrates love. That sort of thing is for Paris or Rome, two of the most love-crazed cities in the world. New York is ambition-crazed, and love is a concept that would seem to negate this notion.
Then again, New York also has an incessant need to outdo itself, to prove that it is the best at everything. So perhaps, for this reason, Valentine’s Day is such a spectacle in a city rife with a population more concerned with survival than coupling. Though some may argue that receiving and giving love is essential to survival.
Either way, what makes New York a difficult place to be on February 14th is that just the way the gap between the rich and the destitute are never more palpably illustrated than in NYC, so it also goes for the jaded and naïve in love.