Taking Valentine's Day Back From Dr. Freud

A Valentine's Day repost from 2007:

The content of this post has largely to do with where I work: A college campus, where romance and dating are, well, of significant interest.

You may recall from Psychology 101 Sigmund Freud’s stages of psychosocial development: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, and Genital. Well, in light of Dr. Freud's theory, I’d just like to point out a troublesome trend related to Valentine's Day. Specifically, I think Valentine’s Day has become over-genitalized. And I’d like your help in reversing the trend.

This post came to mind a few days ago when my wife brought home the class valentines for my sons to hand out to their respective Kindergarten and 3rd Grade classes. I love elementary school Valentine’s Day. Remember when everyone got a Valentine’s card? And it didn’t matter what gender you were? Boys gave valentines to boys and girls to girls. And so forth.

And then it dawned on me. My boys are in Freud's Latency Stage (ages 6 to puberty). They don’t worry about homoeroticism (or heteroeroticism for that matter) when they exchange valentines. Their classrooms are not sexually charged.

But puberty will eventually come. And with it we enter Freud’s Genital Stage. And all of the sudden we become sexual creatures. For the rest of our lives. And Valentine’s Day gets ruined.

Remember Valentine’s Day in High School? Compare it to Valentine’s Day in elementary school. In elementary school, Valentine’s Day was about friendship and inclusion. Love was about philia.

But in High School Valentine’s Day becomes about boyfriends and girlfriends, about romance and hinted at sexuality. Love reduces to eros. And, thus, Valentine's Day becomes not about the many, but the few. The few lucky ones who have that special someone. As a consequence many people hate Valentine’s Day. It has become a reminder not of what you have—a host of friends who love you—but what you might not have (a date on February 14) or about what you have lost.

So I declare: Dr. Freud, your Genital Stage has ruined Valentine’s Day!

I like the elementary school version better.

Valentines for all!

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3 thoughts on “Taking Valentine's Day Back From Dr. Freud”

  1. Richard,

    Your memories of elementary school Valentine's Day are different from mine. I recalled that (until about 5th or 6th grade) girls were "icky" and "had cooties." We gave them Valentine Cards because we had to. It was a racket thought up by the teachers and reinforced by our parents. The candy was the only redeeming element of the whole ritual.

    For an overview of a boy's developing view of girls, visit my blog and read about romance in Disney's "Up".

  2. My partner's son, who lives with us, is in a class where participation in the card side of their Valentine's Day party is completely optional, with the caveat that if you do participate, you give a card to everyone in the class, no exceptions. Last year he didn't want to give cards, so we didn't make him participate, but this year we talked him into it, mostly because he's almost 9, so puberty is right around the corner. Our attempts to hang on to his last vestiges of innocent childhood? Probably.

    Then his dad checked the cards and found a number of the ones to boys had hearts for an i or o in the names and made him redo those...said he'd explain why in a few years. It was sort of sweet that it would never occur to an almost 9 year old boy that giving another boy the same age a card with hearts on it was anything notable, but his dad felt all protective...more that he didn't want the other kids' parents to see those than that he felt the kids would notice or care.

    And yes, in the end it was really all about the candy loot.

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