Monday, February 18, 2013

Valentine's Day Soapbox

My poor students.  They didn't know the bees nest they were getting ready to step on last week when they asked something along the lines of what my husband and I were doing for Valentine's Day and something about gifts and Valentine's Day.  I think my eye twitched a bit.  I asked them whether they really wanted to know.  They assured me that they did.

I paused, got out my imaginary soapbox, dusted it off, and stepped up on it, took a deep breath and gave them all I had.  This might be my only chance to impart on them something that they that I think is more important than the quadratic formula (which is all they think that I think about) and could change their lives.

"Valentine's Day is a holiday where people spend billions of dollars to make you unhappy."  I think all of the single kids agreed at this point and there might have even been some "Woot, woots!", but that was not where I was going. "They are not making you unhappy for reasons that you may believe now.  No, they are making you unhappy so that they can pick pocket your money.  You are most vulnerable to pickpocketers when you are unhappy, not just on dark deserted streets."

"For those of you who are single, they try to make you feel awful and unloved.  Then you might go to eharmony or some other advertised site and hook up with someone.  When you go on a date they will control your mind and you will do some things that they want you to do that I will discuss later.  Let's say instead of that, you do another thing that they want you to do.  You think you are bucking the trend, but it is all a part of their evil scheme to take your money."

"You will go and 'treat yourself' to a spa day, special food, special drinks, flowers, special jewelry, etc., etc., etc.  All things that you wouldn't have paid money for if they hadn't spent millions of dollars to make you feel like a piece of poo for being single on this one day a year.  They try to steal money from you by making you feel sad and alone, because we all know those 'treats' that you gave yourself don't do much to fill the void that they have created by bombarding you with their propaganda.  Yet they will yell at you in the ads they pay for on TV, the internet, the radio, and even the storylines in tv shows that you have an illness called singleness that can only be cured with paying money for their stuff."

"For those of you who aren't single, or are single and fell into the trap of going on a date with some stranger just so that you won't be alone, they will trap you as well.  To girls they will make you feel like the only way that a guy can show you that he loves you is with stuff.  What a load of C-R-A-P!  We ARE NOT that shallow, but some are because they have bought into the lie.  They actually think that a guy who gives them an expensive ring likes them more than the guy who gets them a ring-pop.  Who knows, maybe the guy with the diamond ring has cheated on you and is hoping the diamonds will shut you up.  Maybe he is trying to buy your way into your pants.  All of this stuff he get you will take up space, it wilts and dies, or it's full of empty calories, or it ends up leaving him in the Red and I don't mean Valentine's Day love red, I mean the Dr.Evil red ink of debt that leads you to unhappiness one monthly payment at a time.  Eventually if you stay together all of that lovely red ink of his will become yours.  Isn't that a delightful thought.  Because this red ink thing has now become a tradition you will get the love of Valentine's Day together with 12 easy payments for the rest of the year FOR THE REST OF YOUR LOVELY LIVES TOGETHER."

"For the men there are two horrible things.  First, what do you pick?  The industry will always push the most expensive because $$=love, right?  WRONG!  You must go to a fancy restaurant, give her more flowers, give her jewelry with more diamonds, go to a resort with more amenities, etc. etc. etc.  Do you know what this leaves you with?  The idea that all women are this shallow.  That we have all been brainwashed by this consumerism lifestyle.  I am hear to say, WE HAVEN'T!  What you are always looking for in a gift is a gift that will make an impact.  The jewelry salesman is definitely ready and waiting, 'Oh no, that ring is so plain.' He eyes you who he sees as Mr.Gullible and thinks to himself that Mr.Gullible is practically handing me his wallet.  'I'm sure she only wants a one-of-kind ring that has a bajillion diamonds and other shiny doodads because you know your wife is really a raccoon and only likes shiny things.  Here, let me hook you up to our transfusion machine while we use your blood to write your bill in all of the lovely Valentine's red ink monthly payments that will suck the life out of you and eventually your relationship.'"

"I don't think any of you even knows what a gift with an impact looks like."  I walk over to my computer and pull up a few stats.

"For those of you who were excited because this is math and you have some how gotten me to talk about something non-math related (or so you think), I am going to pull in some numbers.  Many people around the world do not have access to clean water."  Then I read off a bunch of stats from .  "'Worldwide, 1 out of every 5 deaths of children under 5 is due to water-related disease. 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related disease. It is no wonder that these countries are lagging behind.    Girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely to be responsible for fetching water, which takes time out of their studies.  For every 10% increase in women's literacy, there is a boost of 0.3% in the country's whole economy."

Finally, I pulled out two of the most important numbers.  "Do you know the approximate cost to bring clean water to the world?.......10 billion dollars."

"Do you know how much we spend on Valentine's Day? Seriously, take some guesses."
"10 million!"
"No even close!"
"100 million!"
"$500 million!"
"ONE BILLION!"  yelled a kid from the back with a smirky grin.
"Higher."  He looked a bit deflated.
"Five billion?"
"Sadly, higher.  We spent 13.1 billion dollars on Valentine's Day last year alone.  Just soak that in for a second."

"We could solve the world's water problem and still have 3.1 BILLION dollars left to spend on this evil day.  Yet, the flower, jewelry, restaurant, and in general STUFF industries have taken this away.  I have called them evil all along because it is more fun to think of it that way, but in all reality they are just doing their jobs, which is to make as much money off of you as possible.  It is you who are letting them tell you where to spend your money."

"I say, this Valentine's day, think about a gift with a real impact.  An impact like a rock hitting the water that leaves ripples.  Water for a community, means less money spent on the sick, means more time in school, means more literacy for women, means more money for the economy, means less war, means less violence, and on and on.  All because you decided to draw a picture of a rose for your honey instead of spending tons of money on flowers that will wilt anyway.  Or maybe compromise- give one rose instead of 2 dozen."

"The key is though, not to just be a cheapskate and not spend anything on Valentine's Day, but to instead decide with your honey or just by yourself that you are going to give a gift that really makes a difference.  If your valentine isn't cool with that, you might want to reevaluate who you are with.  Just saying."

"So as far as my husband and I go for Valentine's Day here's what we normally do.  We go to the card section of a store and pick out 10 cards each for each other.  We read them and laugh, and then leave.  Not having spent a cent."

"We don't have a fancy dinner, because it is all marked up for the holiday anyway and there's too many people, which gives long lines, which does not give us happiness.  We'll probably go to our usual hole-in-the-wall authentic Mexican place and spend the same amount that we always do, which is not very much."

"We don't drive to the city to spend the night at a hotel, because we like our house.  We have a comfortable mattress that we like better than any hotel's."

"We don't go to the movies.  Instead we go to the library and pick out a movie and bring it home to watch on our super comfy couch.  I don't have to worry about sticky floors or sitting on popcorn, or paying for ridiculously over priced popcorn, or being cold, sitting on my coat and scarf, having the movie be too loud or too soft, sitting behind tall people (a serious concern as am 5'2 and a half), having to pee and not wanting to miss a part, being annoyed by people dinking on their cell phones, etc.  Instead we sit on our couch with a comfy blanket eating whatever yummy snacks (that are normally healthier) that are cheap and high quality because they were bought at Aldi, with a perfect view of the screen and full control of sound and pausing.  The best part is if we both get tired, we can stop the movie and go to bed.  The money saved on this holiday we donate to something, maybe thewaterproject or to bring education to the world.  Normally we like to give "sustainable" things, so that we don't promote an culture of 'toxic charity.'  That is a speech for another day.  So that is my thoughts on Valentine's Day.'"

Then, I quietly stepped off of my imaginary soapbox and put it away.

Happy Valentine's Day class!


  1. Major fist pump on this one. You teach great lessons, Laura!

  2. "So as far as my husband and I go for Valentine's Day here's what we normally do. We go to the card section of a store and pick out 10 cards each for each other. We read them and laugh, and then leave. Not having spent a cent."

    "We don't drive to the city to spend the night at a hotel, because we like our house. We have a comfortable mattress that we like better than any hotel's."

    I love it! Going out and spending good money on this "holiday" is beyond ridiculous! I with I had teachers like you!


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