By Audrey Olson
February 14th marks an important day in the lives of the residents of the United States of America. Specifically, this day marks a peak in the oh-so-evil U.S. capitalist agenda. In the weeks leading up to this “special day,” we are swept up by ideals of love and romance fed to us by advertising companies. And in response, we readily exercise our wrists by swiping credit cards, writing checks, and pulling cash from our pockets—all in preparation for the annual cultural ritual that is Valentine’s Day. In sum, greeting card companies and other associated businesses enjoy a heavy income stream while couples across the nation benefit from a rare opportunity to express their feelings. Right? WRONG.
This system does nothing more for its consumers than teach them a flawed definition of love and romance—one tied inexorably to a significant amount of stress. Chocolates. Flowers. Dinner reservations. One thing is for sure: if you have a significant other when Valentine’s Day rolls around and you are unprepared, you can expect your relationship to burn into flames and leave you with nothing but a cloud of smoke that you will continue to smell in your clothes over the next year. What this all means is that if you are a twenty-something law student already piled with more work, stress, and debt than you can handle, the “day of love” really just becomes a day where it’s better off to be single.
So, you may be asking (and I know you are), if Valentine’s Day doesn’t embody true romance, what does? The answer, my friends, is foreign affairs. Sure, a stable, healthy relationship in your native land may seem appealing, but trust me when I say that if you want to experience true romance, you need to go abroad.
As an example, let’s rewind back to May of 2011. I had just graduated from college and was taking a celebratory tour through Europe with my mother. We were in Paris, walking along the Champs-Elysees, when I decided to skip ahead to snap some pictures of the sunset before the sun disappeared behind the Arc de Triomphe. That’s when I saw him. He was tall, dark, handsome, and French… and he was walking directly towards the divider I was standing on in the middle of the street. The beautiful stranger eventually reached me, suddenly began expressing his love, and before I knew it, we were swept up in each other’s arms. (Was my mother literally a few feet away snapping pictures? Yes. Yes she was.) A French kiss with a French man…in PARIS. It was completely unexpected, completely unnecessary, and entirely inspired by nothing other than the heat of the moment (as opposed to an advertising company, ahem ahem…) And now I’m supposed to get excited over a bouquet of flowers wrapped and decorated by some kid getting paid minimum wage at Vons? Seriously?
Let’s fast forward now to August of 2013—specifically to the week that my best friend and I spent in the Caribbean. While I was there, I met a charming southern gentleman, and he and I were absolutely inseparable. But the key to our fun and exciting tropical relationship wasn’t the crystal blue water or the smell of fresh flowers around us—though those things definitely didn’t hurt. It was the absence of any psychological barriers. We knew we would never see each other again. So, we freely said anything on our minds and talked about things you probably wouldn’t bring up until the two-month mark. Was it then strange for us to automatically hold hands in public and pair off as a couple? No. Absolutely not. The fact that we had no future ultimately enabled us to develop in three days the feelings and closeness a regular couple would have taken three months to achieve. And that made for an incredibly fun and romantic foreign affair.
Fast forward again to about a month ago, to my recent trip to Peru. Did I find love once again? Absolutely. And while couples in the U.S. were doing “exciting” things like going skiing for the hundredth time in their lives, or cuddling by rad fireplaces, or perhaps even getting a head start on their “romantic” Valentine’s Day plans by pre-ordering an Edible Arrangement, my new Latin boyfriend and I were climbing the freaking Peruvian mountains and speaking Spanglish on top of Machu Picchu. While I do really love the U.S. with my whole heart and soul (I am a Republican after all…), we simply don’t have majestic cities and natural landscapes that really compare to the stuff you’ll find abroad. Viewing a truly breathtaking place for the first time is in itself an incredible experience. But, experiencing that majesty and wonder with a new foreign love interest is definitely romance unlike any other kind.
And quite notably, at the end of it all, the foreign affair, unlike other relationships, will never leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth. It will only leave you with an awesome story to tell your friends (or the law school newspaper), and memories that will never fail to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside…even after he goes back home and gets a girlfriend.
In conclusion, if you’re really looking for love and romance, boycott Valentine’s Day. It’s not about love, it’s about commercialism. So don’t stress over this holiday. Instead, channel your efforts towards living an adventure and finding love in a foreign city! You’ll discover that it’s possible to experience a love like the movies after all.