Today love takes many forms (Forum)

Nausheen Shaikh

Thursday Column

What makes you happier – chivalry or something shiny? I know my answer, so I will not join the masses in criticizing the commercialization of Valentine’s Day.Speculations that the holiday developed in a Hallmark factory, however, are justified. After all, the National Retail Federation predicts that the average consumer will spend $122.98 on their Valentine today.The essence of Valentine’s Day hasn’t disappeared despite increased consumerism. Different legends will forever leave the origins of the holiday unclear. But the most popular tale is that of Valentine, a priest in the Roman Empire during the reign of Claudius II. Claudius had passed a law that prohibited young men from getting married because he believed that having a wife compromised their dedication as soldiers. Practicing love over law, Valentine risked his life to secretly perform marriages. He was eventually caught, jailed and executed. Do our celebrations reflect his courage and fight for love?Using a parent’s credit card to pay for an elaborate dinner takes a brave man. So does asking the Victoria’s Secret representative to gift wrap furry lingerie for your girlfriend. But most of us don’t find ourselves needing to heroically fight for love on Valentine’s Day.Perhaps the people who practice the holiday with its truest meaning are in the least likely place – Saudi Arabia.Associating the holiday with Americanization and its symbols with premarital relations, the Saudi Arabian police recently banned the selling of red roses and all else scarlet in anticipation of Valentine’s Day.Roses are allegedly bought on the black market and delivered by florists at obscure hours to avoid detection. Some couples even travel to neighboring countries in order to engage in festivities. Like Saint Valentine, these individuals undergo great risks in order to defy the law and express their love.Valentine’s Day is not only about forbidden romance. It’s about simple love and caring for others.I once served as an elementary school teacher’s assistant in a special education classroom. The students I remember most were Tiffany, a petite girl with a stutter and glasses too big for her face, and a first grader named Christian who struggled to walk and communicate. One day I arrived to see Tiffany pushing another student, screaming, “Leave him alone!” Christian sat teary-eyed with his crutches on the floor. “He called me retarded,” he said. “You’re not retarded,” Tiffany said as she handed him his crutches. She went on to explain that the student had taken away his crutches, laughed and called Christian names.Whether standing up for a friend, like Tiffany, or launching a petition to advocate human rights, I challenge everyone to really celebrate Valentine’s Day. Each year, direct your love toward fighting a battle that you may be tempted to ignore other days.As far as flowers and jewelry go, I’ll still take them!

Communicaction junior Nausheen Shaikh can be reached at [email protected]