Like it or not, it’s coming. Valentine’s Day brings up a lot of stuff for a lot of people, particularly for people who are not partnered up. I’ve always kind of liked it, but then I like all holidays — not the commercialism of it, but the sentiment: love — and I like it whether I’m seeing someone at the time or single.
That’s because I don’t believe, as many do, that celebrating something means those who don’t match the holiday’s target group are any lesser. I don’t think Valentine’s Day is a put-down to single people any more than Mother’s Day is meant to make childless women (or men, for that matter) feel bad…though I understand some may feel that way, too.
What’s more, holidays, like all days, are what you make of them. For me, Valentine’s Day is first and foremost a celebration of love: romantic love, sure, that’s where the big money is, but also love of one’s friends, family, pets, and — hold on for this radical thought — love of oneself.
But that is kind of a radical concept, isn’t it? We are told over and over, by those we meet, by the music we grew up with, by the romcoms at the cineplex, and by the echo chamber of it all, that we can only be happy when paired up. (We’re also taught loving ourselves is somehow, well, selfish.) We are somehow incomplete or deficient losers if we are not coupled with someone, the story goes. Well, guess what? We’re not. Irony aside, Whitney had it right.
Sure, being single can be hard. Loneliness used to be my greatest fear. (I’m happy to say it has been replaced by cancer.) And being partnered with someone can be really great, if it’s the right someone. But, as I’ve said before, you’re never alone. And if you think you need someone to complete you, I’m sorry, you’re just wrong.
I would go so far as to say that self-love is a prerequisite to being in a good relationship. Note the operative word, good. To those who say relationships are really, really hard work — and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that — I recommend considering that maybe you’re in the wrong relationship.
Though I like the holiday, being with someone is no guarantee of a Happy V-Day in any case. I’ve been told, “Nah, I don’t do Valentine’s Day,” by a boyfriend who, come to find out, chose to spend our first February 14 with someone else he’d just started seeing. I’ve had the opposite experience of a partner feeling obligated to spend a fortune on roses and Godiva chocolates year after year because that’s what he did our first year together (and I would spring for the overpriced dinner to balance it out)…so that became oppressive in its own way, as often happens with traditions.
This year, I had the brilliant idea of holding a party February 14 with my roommate, also single, with only other single people invited, a party to celebrate singlehood. It’s reverse discrimination, we know, and odd yet kind of thrilling to have a party where the majority of our friends are not invited. It’s also odd to have a party on a Tuesday. Coupled friends I’ve told about the party they’re not invited to have unanimously loved the idea. I wonder if any will break up in order to attend?
It’s not such an original idea, I know. Evite even has templates for SAD (Singles Awareness Day), for god’s sake. We’re using one. (I’m not crazy about the acronym, which sends the opposite message we want to get across; that it also stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder doesn’t help.) We’ve named our party Don’t Be SAD.
Carrie Bradshaw famously had a party for her single self on Sex and the City, but she approached it from a kind of whiny perspective and wanted expensive gifts. Our focus is not on grievance, it’s on celebration. It’s not an anti–Valentine’s Day party, but a celebration of what’s good about being single, of love, and of our fabulous single selves.
The most common reaction we’ve gotten from invitees has been, “Wow, what a great idea!” The second most common reaction has been along the lines of, “I’m unhappy about being single. I don’t want to celebrate it,” which is a little sad (as opposed to SAD) because there is some “I don’t like myself as I am” mixed in.
There’s a little of that in all of us. It’s hard to overturn a lifetime of anti-single song lyrics, after all, but that’s kind of the point of the party: to celebrate self-love. A friend wryly said, “So, you mean we’re all going to pretend that we like being single?” (Kind of like how Jerri Blank famously said, “You mean I’m supposed to act like I don’t like sexual harassment?”) I thought for a minute before answering, “Yeah, we are.” I don’t claim to be fully there yet. Sometimes you’ve got to fake it until you make it.
Who knows, with a house full of single people feeling good about ourselves, a few romantic connections could be made. Although that isn’t the main theme of the party…or, it wasn’t initially, but the RSVP list is looking pretty foxy…it wouldn’t be a bad outcome at all.
Being happily single doesn’t mean you don’t like being in loving relationships, serious or casual or whatever. It means you’re open to all loving possibilities should the right also-happily-single person come along. Are you ready? It could happen Tuesday. It could happen any day.