As someone who’s looking forward to another V-day on my own, my increasingly wedded-and-engaged friends are asking me the same thing: aren’t you sad to be spending S.A.D. (Singles’ Awareness Day), well, sad?
There are some years where I might have answered yes, maybe an 8th grade spent on Xanga bemoaning my eternally loveless existence with angsty Maroon 5 lyrics or a college year pining after my incredibly cute, incredibly unavailable coworker.
Even so, I can’t recall ever having spent a Valentine’s Day lonely. Growing up, I recall waking up every February 14th to a lovely something sitting on my windowsill: a Pooh bear, a bouquet of flowers, a pink card with “We love you” scrawled across the front under a picture of Snoopy hugging a heart. In elementary school, I remember the tissue box card holders that we would eagerly decorate and bring to class, along with our customized cards that we would then dutifully slip into all of our classmates’ boxes, even the box of funny Chris R. who sat in the corner and made strange farting noises during math period. I recall the joy of opening up every card and reading message after message that began with “Dear Ala…”
Middle school marked the beginning of specialized attention from boys. While the mass carding stopped and most of my friends just brought bags of chocolates to share with everyone, meek presents from would-be suitors began pouring in, much to the amusement (or bemusement, perhaps bordering on mortification) of my parents. I still own the bumblebee build-a-bear, the sterling silver “A” necklace, the giant poster of a Dalmation surrounded by red roses, and enough other stuffed animals with which to open up my own Plush Museum.
Somehow, in spite of all this attention, it never really occurred to me to consider Valentine’s Day a day of romantic love in particular. Maybe I was a hopeless romantic looking for something more, or maybe I was just the clueless friend that my friends have always accused me of being. Maybe I really had heard the phrase “no boyfriend until you’re married” one too many times from my overprotective dad.
Whatever the case, it wasn’t until college that I began noticing the divide between the “them”‘s and the “me”‘s. Spending Valentine’s Day as a “single” person suddenly became a hush word, a suggestive question asked by your relationshipped-friends who feverishly pried their way into your insanely private (but usually nonexistent) love life. Last year, the Trader Joe’s cashier asked me how I had spent my V-day weekend. When I told him that I’d hung out with a few friends and done some work, he asked in a tone of surprise:
“Really? Why, are you still single?”
It was meant to be a harmless question, but it prompted me to think hard about my own response afterward. I told him that “I dunno, things were busy, “I didn’t have time to date right now–all of the age-old auto-replies that I was used to using on my friends and family whenever they asked the same thing. He nodded in understanding. By the time I had grabbed my groceries and was walking out of the store, though, I couldn’t help wondering why I felt like I needed an excuse to not be dating in the first place. As a girl who has actively chosen not to date for the majority of her life, the prospect of being alone is sometimes less scary than the societal pressure to feel like you should be afraid of being left alone.
I’ve encountered my fair share of people who believe that not being either in a public relationship or in love with somebody means that there’s something fundamentally off about your priorities. Yes, it’s okay to be a free-spirited individual who loves her job and friends–but don’t you like anyone right now? I’ve been assured by friends. family, and strangers alike that I’m just a girl with “high standards,” which seems to imply that I’m a Roman empress sitting above the gladiator arena waiting to give give the big thumbs down at every suitor who passes my way. Eventually (I’ve been told), I’ll come around and see how nice it would be to be in a committed relationship. And as somebody who places high value on others’ opinions, it’s hard to not take it personally when my friend says to me, only half-jokingly: “We need to fix you and your love life.”
And yet, every year arrived with more and more tangible reasons to be thankful for a holiday like V-day. During my first two years of grad school, a friend of mine would throw epic Galentine’s Day bashes celebrating what we should all be celebrating, every single day: a group of people coming together to enjoy one another’s company and cultivate love for self-love’s sake. I remember feeling at my happiest on these days, because the insistent–if innocuous–questions suddenly became irrelevant. These past few years, I’ve spent the special day with friends and loved every minute of it. Faced with so much love at every turn, it becomes hard to see what could be wrong with choosing to be happy in my own way: on my own and still open to the possibility of rekindling romantic love someday, tomorrow or in the distant future, but never being lonely for a lack of it.
This year, I’m taking a leaf out of my elementary school self’s book and writing Valentine’s Day cards to everyone in my life who wants one. Bringing the day of love back to its simplest roots is important to me, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to be celebrating it with everyone I love!
As a final case-in-point: my friends came over spontaneously last week to help me make these V-day inspired cupcakes and create this “how to bake hearts into a cupcake” tutorial. We spent the whole night laughing and cutting out red velvet cake shapes and slicing these cupcakes open for the big reveal while singing boisterously about fart songs. I can’t wait to spend my big day with these incredible people. However you plan to spend this Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ll spend it happily and surrounded by loved ones!
Happy almost V-day! (And happy Chinese New Year’s to everyone celebrating it!)