Valentine’s For One

Valentine’s Day has become nothing more than a cheap, manufactured holiday designed to maximize the profits of florists and card companies. This alleged paean to romantic love and coupledom—perhaps once meaningful, but then again perhaps never meaningful—sends countless duos out to overcrowded restaurants for overpriced and underwhelming meals. Prices for red roses seemingly double that day and all sorts of heart-shaped boxes filled with waxy, mass-produced chocolates wend their ways into grocery baskets, to be presented with a similarly mass-produced card for the object of one’s affection. And one thing that certainly stands out on this madly marketed winter holiday is that Coupledom Reigns Supreme, so much so that it sends some singletons to the retreat of their own homes, afraid or embarrassed to venture forth in public without some complementary partner on their arms.

I’ve been both single and coupled on Valentine’s Day and, friends, but for the past 15 or so years I’ve celebrated even if I was outside the target demographic of V-Day marketers. And I am genuinely curious why Valentine’s Day is aimed at couples and not EVERYONE. As a society, we are becoming more “single”—witness the rise in adults living alone by intention (read Eric Klinenberg’s excellent Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone for a wonderfully readable examination of this phenomenon). Age of first marriage is progressively getting older and many adults eschew traditional marriage for something else (singlehood, cohabitation, serial monogamy, polyamory, etc.) Sex is just a Tinder swipe away. Millennials are eschewing tradition (and, while we’re at it, cars). Our definitions of family are evolving. The times, they are a’changing. So, why isn’t Valentine’s Day? Yes, there are stirrings indicating some change afoot (consider the “Galentine’s” parties), but V-Day still focuses on the notion that love can only be experienced by a two-person bond.

From my David Orelick calendar.
From my David Orelick calendar.

Perhaps our culture still doesn’t know what to do with the unmarried adult (especially the one that actually celebrates singlehood). Why are singles still seen as “lesser”, entities to be pitied? It’s time to revisit our prejudices and recognize that singlehood and coupledom are merely two different ways of living adult lives, one every bit as good as the other.

I’m in a relationship and am very happy. But I still cringe at the thought of the near worship of The Duo. When I throw a dinner party, I don’t want my guest list to be all couples. I have great single friends (and I’ve been a great single friend). I’ve known plenty of single assholes (as well as married assholes). Seriously, the time to stop venerating couples is now; the time to start honoring all adults, regardless of relationship status is now.

As I mentioned earlier, I celebrate(d) Valentine’s Day even when single. I’d buy myself a card, and a present (usually a book and always wrapped with a bow!). I’d eat some decadent pastry (or, as I did a couple of times, bake myself a layer cake). I’d indulge in a Reese’s something with breakfast. I’d open a bottle of bubbly and indulge.

Our most important relationship is with ourselves. If we can’t love ourselves (even if we don’t always LIKE ourselves), we can’t really love anybody else—friend, family, lover. This is what Valentine’s Day should be—a celebration of the love and acceptance of one’s self.