How Freud Ruined Valentine's Day

A 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 Freud’s stages of psychosocial development: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, and Genital. Well, as today is February 14 I’d just like to point out that I find Valentine’s Day 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 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 the 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 then puberty hits. And 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 was about eros. And, thus, it became not about the many, but the few. The few lucky ones who had that special someone. Consequently, most 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.

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