Like any type-A personality, I started planning Valentine’s Day weeks ago. I placed my flower order on Monday, finalized my dinner menu two weeks ago, and picked up a bottle of my favorite wine. Aside from my birthday, Tuesday will be my favorite night of the year — because I flippin’ love Valentine’s Day. This may seem odd to those of you who are familiar with my writing. For those of you who aren’t, spoiler: I’m single. as. fuck.
It wasn’t always like this, though. Valentine’s Day used to fill me with the kind of fear some people reserve for public speaking or Tinder first dates. It started in fourth grade when I, being a “boy crazy” 9-year-old, slipped a love note into my crush’s heart-shaped mailbox, hoping he’d finally notice me. He did — but with ridicule, not adoration — and the entire class laughed at me for the rest of the day.
The seed of hatred for this holiday was planted on that day, and after years of being alone on the big V, bloomed into full-grown loathing my sophomore year of college. I was dating my first (and, objectively, my absolute worst) “serious” boyfriend for about five months when Valentine’s Day rolled around. I’d not-so-subtly let him know how important this day was to me, because I was 19 and I’d never had a boyfriend during the holiday before. “It’s easy,” I’d naively told him. “Just get me a card and some flowers. Literally the carnations from the bodega at the corner will be perfect.” He, of course, did nothing — and I mean absolutely nothing — resulting in our first fight and the beginning of my realisation that he didn’t really care all that much about me. (This didn’t stop me from dating him for another six months, however.)
So, the following Valentine’s Day, I made a plan: Order myself pizza, sit in bed, and drink myself into oblivion. After class, I went to the liquor store near campus that accepted my fake ID, bought a bottle of shitty Carlo Rossi, and dragged my Ugg-covered feet back to my apartment. When I opened the door, my roommate, on her way to dinner with her boyfriend, told me I’d gotten a package and that she’d put it on my bed.
This was the moment when my feelings toward Valentine’s Day irrevocably changed, because in that box was my first-ever vibrator, the one I’d ordered on the DL on my laptop in the back of my communications lecture. It was two weeks early — I’d bought it as a birthday gift. But there it was, in all its glory. It was a sign. “Make this day about you, Maria,” it seemed to whisper. “Grab some AA batteries and let’s get to know one another.” And so, my mopey night turned into one of self-love — and, yes, bad wine and pizza. But sometimes, that’s pretty damn good.
And thankfully, I’ve never looked back. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve had good Valentine’s Days with loving partners. But, in this recent stretch of singledom, I’ve decided to co-opt Valentine’s Day and turn it into something I can enjoy with or without a partner. Just as feminists (myself included) turned “Nasty Women” into a battle cry, it is my goal to take Valentine's Day back for the single people who lament it every single year.
In this recent stretch of singledom, I’ve decided to co-opt Valentine’s Day and turn it into something I can enjoy with or without a partner.
This isn’t an easy mindset to adopt — I’ll be the first to tell you that. If you aren’t in a relationship, it seems like everything in the world is designed to remind you that you’re single on February 14th. (Case in point: My email inbox is currently flooded with blood-boiling press pitches cooing over hearts and flowers.) If Valentine’s Day happens to fall on a weekend, it sucks doubly, because all of your coupled-up friends have plans and you’re decidedly not invited. No, Maria. We don’t want you to play third wheel to our romantic evening at The Ludlow Hotel. We don’t give a shit how much you love their bathtubs.
But here’s how I flip the script: Valentine’s Day is about love, right? So why can’t I just show that love to myself? Why can’t I take a day that seems to make me want to feel shitty about my current relationship status and turn it into something else? I mean, if Beyoncé can make lemons into Lemonade, I can certainly turn “hey-remember-you’re-single” day into “I-love-myself-yas-queen” day. The only thing that had been stopping me before was, of course, myself.
After that initial V-Day (which I now consider “vibrator day” instead of “Valentine’s Day”), I started planning little things to do to show myself the love I deserve. One year, I planned a small dinner with a few of my other single friends. Another year, I cashed in a gift card and got an incredible massage at the The Ritz-Carlton Hotel. I started ordering myself flowers last year — this year, I spent $50 on a bouquet of my favorite blooms. Ridiculous? Probably. But damn, ranunculus make me happy as hell, and can you really put a price tag on that?
The past couple of years, instead of venturing out into the world, I’ve been enjoying spending Valentine’s night at home by myself. Not because the idea of seeing other couples makes me sad, but because I’m most comfortable at home. I don’t have to dress up — in fact, I’ll probably spend Valentine’s evening in leggings, a nubby sweater, and thick wool socks, instead of the lacy lingerie I’ve sported in years past. And there’s something remarkably freeing about that, since it’s the exact scenario I used to dread: sitting home alone on Valentine’s Day. Instead of filling me with anxiety, now I look forward to these nights alone all year. Being able to sit comfortably on the other side of that fear is one of the most loving gifts I can give myself.
So Tuesday night, I’ll leave work and pick up a big, hideous, heart-shaped box of chocolates from the Duane Reade near my apartment. I’ll slip into my comfy clothes, pull my cheese plate out of the fridge, and nibble at it while I cook my gnocchi with pesto. Then, I’ll sit in front of the television with my meal, my wine, and my chocolates and watch The Golden Girls until I’m fully satiated. And when the food and wine is gone and I can’t listen to Blanche anymore, I’ll sprawl across my bed alone, turn on my humidifier, and (after some vibe time) fall asleep.
Do I hope that, one day, I’ll have someone to sip wine on the couch with on February 14th? Of course I do. But in the meantime, this day is for me. And something tells me that, when I do find myself in a happy relationship, there will be a small part of me that will miss the Valentine’s Days I spent in love with just myself.
After being raised on a steady diet of Disney movies, I expected to meet someone and fall passionately in love — but wound up collapsing under the pressures of modern dating. Luckily, I eventually realized that there's no "right" way to date, and that I need to find happiness within myself, no partner needed. It’s Not You is where I write to calm the voices in my head — and hear from all of you. Follow me on Twitter, on Instagram, or email me at maria.delrusso@refinery29.