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Valentine’s Day makes fools of women

You’re being taken for a ride, ladies.

I last wrote about Valentine’s Day back in 2004. Every year since, I have resisted the temptation to rant again about this imbecilic celebration. This year, I’m unable to stop myself.

You’re being taken for a ride, ladies.

First, a reminder of why I was agitated three years ago. The loser, I wrote then, is love itself: “If I believed that Valentine’s Day is merely a spontaneous expression of young and fervent love, I would be all for it. But it is not. It is one of the most vivid examples of spending created not by a genuine human emotion, but by extremely powerful brainwashing. Who does this indoctrination? There is no conspiracy afoot, no committee of marketing master brains who sit down and plot the whole thing. No, the Valentine global marketing machine is made up of disparate little components, manufacturers, retailers, and advertisers all united in a common purpose: to part the fool from his money.”

Not much has changed since then; if anything, things have only gotten worse. Fools and money are being separated with remarkable ease. Estimates suggest that America spent US$ 17 billion on celebrating ‘Valentine love’ earlier this week. That’s somewhat more than our total annual GDP in this country. In addition, we’re told that the average spend per American consumer was in the region of US$ 120 – or a cool 8,400 bob to you and me. Looking through the papers on February 14, it was apparent that the Valentine sales machine is in overdrive here in Kenya, too.

Everyone, it seems, is in on the act: restaurants (overpriced dinners a deux); booze shops (to ease the journey to home base); hotels (stay the night to practice true love); florists and chocolate-sellers (for that short-lived gift); jewellers (for something that lasts a little longer); lingerie shops (to package your payback); mobile-phone companies (send your inane messages at a discount); card-sellers (why think, when a manufactured message is available); radio stations (engage in asinine phone-ins); even newspapers (put your love in print).

But I have to ask: where are the rest of our Kenyan companies? Why are you not partaking in the bonanza? Banks: why not provide a special loan for our cash-strapped males – give your love-squeeze a super day, pay in easy instalments over 12 months? Insurance companies: offer a great product (‘jilt protection cover’) for those who invest in presents but fail to score. Hospitals: why not a unique package that gives discounted treatment for sexually transmitted diseases every March? The sky’s the limit, Business Kenya. And best of all, it’s not about the money at all – it’s all in the name of love.

Perhaps the most honest advert for Valentine’s Day was found in the form of a full-page colour advert in the press on 14 February. It was for…condoms. Now we’re getting to the point about which kind of love is being celebrated.

What leaves me amazed every year is how our womenfolk get so easily led, by male admirers and male marketers. The female of our species is generally known to be more discerning, more prudent and more sensible than the male. But throw some fancy flowers and expensive wine at her and it appears she’s willing to throw good sense to the four winds.

Why are you letting Adam off the love hook so easily, Eve? You allow him to prove his love for just ONE DAY, and think you’re getting a great deal? Baubles and bombast on February 14, and after that the man is allowed to relax and do the indifference thing for the rest of the year. Who thought up this remarkable scheme in the first place? Um, that would be a man, ladies. No woman could have devised this. But most have fallen for it.

It seems all you want is a card with an inscription that he didn’t write; a fancy meal that he didn’t cook; a gift that he didn’t pick; and a rose that he didn’t grow. And you want all of this irrelevance in public, on show, on your desk and in full view of the envious glances of all the other women who want the same thing. If that’s all you want, then that’s certainly all you’ll get. Long may the economy boom every February 14, and long may womankind accept its lot with trickery and trinketry.

I repeat what I wrote in 2004: the Valentine phenomenon is love commodified. It is love traded in tawdry bazaars. It is love abridged. It is ‘me-too’ love. It is a non-event in the unfolding journey that is real love. Real love is a quiet kindness stretched out over a lifetime. It is a habit, not an event.

I hate repeating myself. But you’re being taken for a ride, ladies.

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