Day of love should be the most natural of all

Thursday February 11 2016

A florist arranges Rose flower stems at City Market on February 11, 2016 ahead of Valentines Day. The prices have shot up from Sh30 to Sh50 per stem due to high demand. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A florist arranges Rose flower stems at City Market on February 11, 2016 ahead of Valentines Day. The prices have shot up from Sh30 to Sh50 per stem due to high demand. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Valentine’s Day has always found me alone, mostly because my relationships tend to end just as February the 14th rolls by.

The one exception was the year my then boyfriend planned an elaborate romantic dinner that ended in tears.

Oh wait, that was my birthday.

Point is, my terrible record at romantic liaisons on Valentine’s Day make me a prime candidate for Valentine’s Grinch.

You know, the person who steals all the joy on Valentine’s complaining about what an unnecessary day it is, and how fickle your love must be if you are expressing it in chocolates and flowers and dinner dates.

Valentine’s Day is easy to hate on. It is easy to argue that it has singlehandedly endorsed the commodification of love, where marketers will bombard you with emails all week about the perfect gift for your loved one, or the perfect getaway to the most romantic place on earth.

In truth, there are much better ways to show your partner you love them than the overpriced bouquet of flowers or the wool sweater that would have been beautiful but was ruined by the tacky red love hearts sewn on it.

But the reason I will not hate Valentine’s day, even with its cliché and sometimes tone-deaf messages, even with its gaudy and tarted up decorations, even with the obvious surprises that we can smell a mile off, is that fundamentally, human beings are designed to love. We yearn it, we crave for it.

The act of falling in love itself is more of science than art, and requires the full participation of chemicals in our bodies. Don’t just take my word for it, either.

In 2014, an American scientist Helen Fisher from the University of Rutgers found that we fall in love in three stages: lust, attraction and attachment, and each is driven by hormones. Testosterone (which, by the way, is present in both men and women) fuels the lust stage; dopamine is responsible for the attraction stage and oxytocin completes the job at the attachment stage.

Basically, what our bodies are trying to tell us is that we are genetically engineered to fall in love and that they have all the arsenal needed to make it happen.

Which is why a day that celebrates this most natural of impulses should be the most natural thing in the world.


And no matter how cynical and immune to Valentine’s Day we might want to pretend we are, those of us in relationships will still expect at least a text message from our partners, and those of us winging the day without a significant other will be forced to think a lot more frequently about the state of our romantic lives. The desire for intimacy is ingrained in us.

And we have good cause to worry if we are unattached. Remember how in the first paragraph I said that I have always spent Valentine’s Day alone?

Well, of course I did not mean all alone. I, in fact spent last year’s with a good friend cycling in the lovely serenity of Karura Forest (it is more correct to say we were hiding from all the flowers and chocolate wielding couples in town).

We are, however, programmed to think of ourselves as alone if we are without a significant other.

Coupling, much as it is hard to admit, has taken the prime spot in the hierarchy of human relationships, leaving one more prone to loneliness should they not have a partner even if they have an abundance of good friends and family.

What’s so bad about loneliness? Again, science has all the answers. A recent study by researchers found a strong correlation between loneliness and illness.

According to scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles school of Medicine, loneliness leads to changes in the blood cells which makes them less able to fight infection.

In fact, loneliness makes people so vulnerable that they develop greater risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimer’s disease.

Science is trying to tell you that dying alone is no longer a vague threat we bandy around while trying to make light of our unattached selves. Loneliness will kill you. Literally.

If I were you, I would focus less on making fun of besotted couples (with stronger immune systems) on Valentine’s Day and pick up the phone and try to jump-start my love life.

If my luck changes this Valentine’s, I will be happier, and healthier.