Most men know how expensive Valentine's Day can get. Someone decided that spending money is somehow a translation to showing love, which is an interesting, misguided relationship philosophy. Valentine's Day is one of the most over-hyped holidays known to man, with advertising starting almost right after Christmas. Any man in a serious relationship is well-aware of the pending doom of his social life if he doesn't flex his wallet at least a little bit on that special day.
According to the National Federation's 2010 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, over $14 billion is spent on Valentine's Day-related purchases. This is roughly $103 for every single man, woman and child in America. Yes, the hype has real economic consequences.
What's even crazier is that 2010 doesn't even set a record. In 2008, $17 billion was spent on the holiday. (Perhaps all those 'Oprah Winfrey' shows about saving money kicked in and people started to show their love in ways that went beyond spending money.) These numbers make me wonder why I have to prove my love for others by busting my bank account on a holiday created by someone else.
The challenge of Valentine's Day can be especially daunting for African American men, who struggle with unemployment rates approaching 20 percent. Black family wealth is, according to recent estimates, as low as one-fiftieth that of white families, and millions of African Americans are facing bankruptcy, foreclosure and other forms of economic devastation. The struggle to find economic resources makes it difficult for men to become providers, and adds to the stress of black families that are already struggling to stay together. It also makes it difficult for single men to date or show affection to the woman in whom they may be interested, primarily because economic stability is highly correlated with the perception of an individual's manhood. Valentine's Day can only make the embarrassment that much worse for men who are trying to survive in an economy where they have the worst unemployment and educational levels in the nation.
My belief? African Americans may want to consider letting go of Valentine's Day, at least the over-commercialized part of it. For women, I suggest that you make a deal with your man: tell him that you don't want him to spend very much money on you -- but what he doesn't spend in money, he must overcompensate for with time and affection. Your man will appreciate you letting him off the hook and he will hopefully return the favor by giving you a level of loyalty he wouldn't be willing to give to anyone else. Being a true partner in love means helping your partner become stronger, not becoming yet another drain on their resources. By getting away from models of romantic interaction that become nothing more than economic exchanges, millions of members of the black community can find everlasting love.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.