So you're single on Valentine's Day. Good for you. Fear not--I won't patronize you with ridiculous advice that 1) presumes you need pity, 2) insults your intelligence, or 3) suggests that you need a bubble bath and a new pair of shoes because you don't have a boyfriend.
Ok, so maybe some ladies LIKE to celebrate the holiday with a hot bath and a journaling session. Some seek to mark the holiday with a decadent meal or a pricey purchase. And still others enjoy belting out a round of "I Will Survive" before weeping soundly into a glass of Veuve Cliquot. But I think we can do better than that.
I think what bothers me most is that this cultural stance (not to mention the caricatures I've just drawn for you) presumes that single women should feel bad about Valentine's Day, and worse, that we can do little to stave off the despair besides crying or consuming--or both.
Where Valentine's Day Went Wrong
How did one of the most innocuous holidays become so completely polarizing? The holiday itself is arguably kept afloat to give consumer products (namely greeting cards, jewelry, flowers, and candy) a mid-winter boost. The long, yawning weeks between New Year's and Easter could use something, anything, to break up the winter doldrums. Sex and chocolate aren't such a bad idea.
But somewhere along the line we got the idea that the holiday was only "for" couples; that single people are second-class citizens, all hail the couple. Why you'd assume that anyone in a relationship is generally happier than someone who isn't is beyond me--and assuming that having a partner on Valentine's Day somehow makes your life better (than, say, being Irish on St. Patrick's Day) seems just insane.
Single? You're Hardly Alone
Need I remind you just HOW many people are single in this country, on Feb 14, as well as every other day of the year? The U.S. Census reported in 2009 that there were nearly 100 million unmarried Americans. And 53% of them were women.
A 2010 census shows that 51.6 percent of households are headed by unmarried adults--up from 44.9 percent in 1990 (source: unmarriedamerica.org). So if you have this image that you're cutting a lonely silhouette against a world of couples, think again.
3 Reasons to Love Being Single on Valentine's Day
Yes, Valentine's Day celebrates romance--but it's also about romantic ideals. That's something we can all partake in if we want. Hating romance just because you don't happen to be in one is like hating beaches because you're not currently on vacation on one.
(And I'm pretty sure if you asked most couples if they are living a "romantic ideal," you'd get a lot of laughing in response). Here are some reasons why being single on this great Hallmark holiday ain't so bad.
1. Pressure's off. Being single on Feb 14th, if you ask me, is a free pass. If anything, pressure is on for couples--if it's a new relationship, it's all about what the dude did to make or break this one day. If you're in an older or more seasoned relationship, this holiday can sometimes serve as an unwelcome benchmark--what did you used to do that you don't anymore, etc. I think there's a lot of pressure on couples to prove something (to themselves, each other, or other people) and I don't envy that one bit. Think I'll pass this round.
2. We have the luxury of uncoupling romance from relationship. Last I checked, romance and relationship were not synonymous. Romance is not limited to being in a relationship, let alone being married. Some of the most romantic things I've ever done I did when I was single (including slip a napkin with a nice note and my email on it to a handsome stranger in a cafe. Not because I thought I'd hear back necessarily, but because it was such a romantic thing to do, and, I believe, in some way added to the amount of romance in the world). The point is this: Your life is what your life is, and to take an occasion such as this to magnify your own misery and denounce yourself utterly unlucky in love is--well, it's wasted effort if you ask me.
3. We singles have something that coupled folks don't have: The air of romantic possibility. There's something far more romantic about being single if you ask me--an air of mystery and potential that, let's face it, people in 20-year marriages do not necessarily have (unless they have a special arrangement). How you view your life creates your experience of it, and so if you choose to see it as a tragedy, that's probably what it'll feel like. But view it as a romance--which by definition is a narrative filled with heroic deeds, pageantry, and romantic exploits--and the world opens up. You might take a risk, reach out to someone new, try something completely out of character. If you see your life as a romance, then you can assume that it can have a happy ending, whether you're part of a couple or not.
Want to read more? If you haven't checked out this stuff, you should:
Single by Choice by Janelle Nanos, Boston magazine (full disclosure: I was interviewed for this one)
Singled Out by Bella DePaulo, PhD (LOVING this book; really a must-read for singles)