Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Interview

Marhaba LOVEanese! And happy Valentine's Day! This isn't going to be a long post because I already blogged about VDay last year with this comprehensive post. I'm also currently working on a post all about dating. So, I'll get that to you soon. There has been, however, tons of articles coming out related to love this week. Like this one talking about the science of love, and how it has a similar affect as cocaine on the brain. Another was discussing how technology is changing romance, this one argued that Valentine's Day is "under attack" in Pakistan, and this one about the economics of love.

But what I did want to post here was the full interview I had with Brooke Anderson at the Daily Star. She wrote an article about Valentine's Day, and included some of my quotes in them. She also wrote a heart-wrenching piece about Syrian refugees giving up on love.

So, without further adieu, I present the full interview: 

Brooke: "What do you think of Valentine's Day in general?" 

Me: "I really don't like it. In the LOVEanon post I sent you, I outline the "fors" and the "againsts." But really it doesn't actually celebrate love, romance, relationships, passion, or intimacy. It celebrates consumerism. VDay in Lebanon was imported, and honestly, its more for business than love. I'm not trying to be negative either. I think it's great to devote the day or evening to someone special. But its gotten out of hand. Just like Christmas, we've completely lost the meaning of Valentine's Day. I also don't like the idea of celebrating someone you love or the love or affection you have for someone just because marketing departments tell you to do so." 

Brooke: "Why do you think some people place so much importance on it?" 

Me: "Great question. I honestly don't know. My initial response is that they are told to value it. Even though romantic love isn't something socially conditioned in the Arab world to be highly desired. I really think it goes back to how its been marketed. You feel bad if you don't feel "special," especially as a girl. It's very rooted in gender roles and stereotypes. It really feeds off of people's insecurities.

I want to clarify one answer. I said in the first question "We've lost the meaning of  Valentine's Day." To be honest, it's always been a "Hallmark Holiday" anyway. So, I don't know if we've actually lost the meaning of it, or really just perpetuated it's true purpose altogether: spending money." 

Brooke: "What do you think is worse: being single on VDay, or being in a lukewarm relationship?" 

Me: "Well, I think being in a lukewarm relationship is worse in general. Often, these relationships are shallow and ultimately result in someone getting hurt or unnecessary drama. There is nothing wrong with being single, and its better to be alone than to be in an arbitrary relationship or to celebrate something when there is no real, sincere care or feeling involved. If you're down on VDay because you're single, you need to reevaluate your priorities. You don't NEED anyone [I'm referencing the Merton blog post]. YOU should rely on yourself for your own completion. If you're single on VDay, enjoy the day with other singles, and don't put yourself down." 

Brooke: "Do you think it's a holiday where people get hurt -- thinking everyone else is in happy relationships? If so, what do you think are some good ways of dealing with the pain?" 

Me: "Quite frankly, I'm a huge proponent of not comparing yourself to others, and instead, focusing on your own happiness. Yes, I think people do get hurt and down, and it really polarizes a lot of people who are "happy" and in relationships, against those who are "sad and lonely" because they are not. When in reality, this is incredibly problematic. SO many people are in unhappy relationships for one, and being with someone is NOT necessarily the panacea for happiness or fulfillment. And in Lebanon especially, people constantly compare themselves to each other for, what it seems, just to make themselves feel better. However, all of this sends the wrong message about what contributes to a healthy relationship. Its not about curing loneliness, its about sharing with someone and companionship." 

Brooke: "Having lived here and studied love, what are some things you've noticed about Valentine's Day (the way people celebrate, show affection, etc.) in Lebanon that's particular to this country or this part of the world?" 

Me: "People in Lebanon and the Arab world are indeed incredibly emotional (myself included). This is beautiful, but in Lebanon, I also notice a lot of empty affection. Yeah, restaurants may be overbooked on Feb 14, but people have difficulty marrying for love, have to conform to community and society standards, and cannot even get a civil marriage in Lebanon. In the end, I feel like much of this pomp and circumstance for love is just another fa├žade. Individuals I interviewed for my thesis indicated the same thing. You see it, but you don't feel it. I'm not saying everyone's lying, or no one loves each other. But the entire idea of what love is differs from culture to culture and from person to person. It's subjective, so it's also problematic to compare. I guess I just hope that more people both now and in the future celebrate Valentine's less because they need to display their love, and more because they are actually happy."

And that's it! What did you think? Agree? Disagree?? Let me know in the comments! I'll leave you with Sareen's latest Ink on the Side comic about Valentine's Day:

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Spread the love,
-Ogie, MA

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