198. Every Day Should Be Valentine’s Day

There are 3 kinds of people in this world: those who religiously observe Valentine’s Day, those who don’t care about it, those who hate it, and those who can neither count nor understand the meaning of coherence.

When I was in secondary school, a popular saying went that “Valentine’s Day is stupid. If you really loved him/her, every day should be Valentine’s Day.”

Hold it up: You want someone to get beheaded every day? Because that’s how we got the day – a priest named Valentine who, against the law, married couples in love was beheaded on February 14.

(I once met a guy who introduced himself as “Valentine”. I blinked a couple of times before shaking his hand and introducing myself, not because I was shocked, but because I was waiting for him to tell me that he was just kidding. He wasn’t)

On top of being a cliche, the notion that “every day should be valentine’s day” is absurd. It’s one of those things that sound nice at first, but upon closer inspection, is really a whole lot of turd.

In economics class, we learn about this thing called “marginal utility”. I know, it sounds like something that you can get from a hardware store, but it just means “the satisfaction you get from something when you have one of it”.

You see why they went with “marginal utility”.

Most of the time, marginal utility – your satisfaction upon getting something – decreases as you get more and more of the item, regardless of inherent utility value (that is, usefulness). Watching a meteor shower isn’t going to make you healthier, smarter, or richer – but it brings satisfaction unlike any other. Water is quite literally the elixir of life preservation, but most of us hardly give it a second thought as we drink it.

It’s related to this other thing we learn in economics called “scarcity”, or “how rare things are”. Water is everywhere. Observing a meteor shower is something you get to do once every year, if you happen to be in the right places. The idea is that if something is increasingly hard to get, the more valuable we’ll perceive it to be.

This is why girls want bad boys, and nice guys finish last. You better be writing down notes.

So now. Let’s say that Valentine’s Day is a cake. It’s a really nice cake, and you automatically become the object of envy among your friends when you get this cake. You only get it once a year – on your birthday.

In the days leading up to your birthday, you think about the cake. In the hours before seeing the cake, you salivate by just thinking about it. When eating the cake, you relish every precious moment, enjoying the perfect union of the cake’s ingredient and your tastebuds. After your birthday, you wish that you could have that cake every day.

Then something happens: a passing genie overhears your wish, and poof! You get that cake every day.

Before the year ends, you would have enough uneaten cakes to last through a famine.

What makes something special is that it’s unlike anything else – it’s rare. You cannot just get it anywhere. This is why every year, you only get one birthday. One Christmas. One New Year. Because with each celebration, the feeling of special-ness dissipates a little. Marginal utility goes down. You don’t appreciate it as much.

It is entirely possible, by the way, to have negative marginal utility – your satisfaction begins to decrease with more of that something after a certain point.

If every day was Valentine’s Day, the occasion fades away to become a non-occasion. When every day is Valentine’s Day, then Valentine’s Day is just another day in the year. There would be more cause to celebrate Mondays than Valentine’s Day, because Monday only shows up 52 (sometimes 53) times in a year, compared to 356 Valentine’s Days.

(if every day was Valentine’s Day/Father’s Day/Mother’s Day/Christmas, the biggest celebrations the world has left are Fridays)

So stop the ridiculousness. Slap the next person who says that “every day should be Valentine’s Day”. Better yet, link them over here. And while you’re at it – single or attached, lover or hater – enjoy the day that only comes once a year.

Because that’s exactly what makes it so special.


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