As far back as I can remember, I loathed greeting-card holidays. In elementary school, participation was quasi-mandatory. Sure, you could opt out, as long as you were willing to be the weirdo in class (a role I eventually found myself embracing). Most of the children I recall either gleefully swapped chalk-candy hearts and sappy cards or just muscled through all the awkwardness. The costs of being the withdrawn, sullen kid are high, even if the cause of this attitude is simply resistance to coercion. I never liked being told what to do without a plausible, convincing explanation. No one was ever able to give me a good reason for why I should have to wear green once a year or dress up in a silly costume a few weeks after my birthday.
But that's for kids. What about for (young) adults? I'm pushing 40, so if I elect to refrain from celebrating popular holidays, I bear next to no social cost. In between, there's a magical epoch in the arc of a human life where all these absurd holidays are perfectly euvoluntary. If you're in the dating market, celebrating Valentine's Day is one of the boilerplate terms in the standard contract. Even if everything else in the muddy waters of dating is obscure, at the very least, holidays like the 14th of February have a perfectly clear set of expectations, governed by rules no individual sets alone.
How great is that? It's a day where you can switch to autopilot. You get your (possibly potential) sweetheart some roses and a box of chocolates and blammo! Pre-packaged affection. Negotiation costs drop precipitously for one day out of the year. Sounds like a heck of a bargain to me.
But it's weird being a parent now. I'm faced with the choice of how to socialize my daughter to this institution. If I'm lucky, she'll end up enjoying it of her own volition and I won't have to slog through a lecture about relative prices and tradeoffs. We should all be so lucky, right?
A Very Euvoluntary Valentine's Day to all my readers, however you might elect to enjoy the day.