“Hello, you've reached the winter of our discontent." - Ethan Hawke as Troy Dyer, Reality Bites, 1994
Are we still doing Valentine’s Day? I’m not one for cancel culture, but if the very mention of a holiday makes a significant portion of the population scrunch their face like they’ve just smelled strong garbage, I think we can put it to bed, don’t you? Tell me this is not your least favorite aisle at Target. Perhaps at one time, before it came with social media showoff expectations, Valentine’s Day could have been considered sweet. A loving gesture, a bouquet, a cute little card with scalloped edges. Now the day carries expectations that feel heavy, and obligatory. I don’t want to use either of those words to describe love, ever.
Valentine’s Day and I have a history that reads like flat Diet Coke. There was the first time I ever got a beautiful pink box of chocolates (I was five, it was from my parents) and I treasured it for weeks — because my mother would only let me have one piece per day. Then there were the middle and high school years where I watched all the girls who knew how to put on makeup sauntering down the hallway with their teddy bears and balloons, while I’d stand next to my locker with nothing more than a three-ring binder in my arms. Later on, I have one very clear memory of being in a grocery store at 9 p.m., watching a rather frazzled man purchase flowers wrapped in cellophane with an expression on his face as if he were being commanded to do so at knifepoint. I was single at the time (I have been single most of the time), and remember thinking to myself, I am so glad I am not on either side of that relationship.
Valentine's Day and I have a history that reads like flat Diet Coke.
It’s not like other holidays. On the 4th of July, you know it’s going to be a fun BBQ. Thanksgiving, overeating and football. Christmas, cute pajamas and twinkling lights. But Valentine’s Day? It’s a roll of the dice, man. V-Day is an unruly holiday, void of any real tradition and guaranteed joy apart from chocolate.There isn’t any sort of natural gathering of people and you always have to “figure out” what you’re going to do. If you’re single, you have to “figure out” how you’re going to ignore it all. Again.
There are plenty of ways to distract yourself from the fact that one day a year takes it upon itself to make you even more acutely aware of your singleness than you are the other 364 days. I myself enjoy staying home, making dinner, and watching something murder-y on Netflix. I typically buy myself a bottle of pink bubbles to enjoy, but this year I’m thinking kombucha. I don’t need a hangover just because other people are in love.
You can also take a “safety in numbers” approach, gather friends together to go to a movie, enjoy a trivia night, burn a pile of trash in a park, whatever you like to do on a Friday. My personal favorite way to celebrate is a dinner party, with singles and couples alike just hanging out and enjoying everyone’s company. There’s a scene in Julie & Julia where Julia Child and her husband have the cutest dinner party with all their friends in Paris. I think about that scene like twice a week.
By the way, I don’t feel any less sympathy for couples. They don’t like this shit, either! And I think they should stop having to address it. For awhile I might have asked colleagues if they had anything planned for the evening, but after seeing so many of them dramatically roll their eyes at the question, I stopped inquiring. I was afraid they’d get stuck that way. There’s nothing less romantic than the expectation of romance. I have enough married friends to know this for sure.
In the spirit of making everyone happy (LOL this is the internet, like that happens), I’ve been thinking of a few activities couples and singles can enjoy participating in this Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter if you’re partnered, or just looking to enjoy an evening with friends. These ideas work for everyone, and the thing they have in common is that there’s no forced romance or forced “alternative” holiday hooey involved. (Galentine’s Day, lookin’ at you.)
1.) Have dinner someplace that gets it, like Hart’s in Brooklyn. The restaurant does an annual “Love Stinks” dinner comprised of extremely makeout-unfriendly foods.
2.) Try a new dance/yoga/workout/pottery class during exactly the time people typically make dinner reservations. Bet it’ll be easy to get a spot.
3.) Make really, really good lasagna from scratch. Time consuming, solo or group activity, huge ROI. If you’re not in the mood for lasagna, sub in any recipe that takes up two pages of a cookbook.
4.) Research/book your next trip and be super excited that’s what you’re spending your money on instead of random gifts and a pre-fixe menu.
5.) Check the expiration dates on everything in your pantry, fridge, and spice rack. Dispose accordingly, recycle the vessels. Actually just Marie Kondo your entire home. Accomplishing something useful sounds way more fun than trying to negotiate your way home on the subway with a vase of flowers.
6.) Make the determination that from now on Valentine’s Day, as your household knows it, shall ONLY apply to pets. Picture it: gifts, new outfits, a photo shoot. Not only will you look back on these memories and smile, but you’ll actually look forward to the day itself because “OMG! I cannot wait to design this year’s photo backdrop for Mittens. I bought her a tulle skirt.” Those allergic to animals should feel free to sub in plants.
In sum, let’s not. I think it’s time for Valentine’s Day to go the way of the Walkman. Perhaps it had a function at one time, but now it’s outdated, has too many moving parts, and in general just sounds like a pain in the ass. At this point, I think if society has to rely on a holiday to remind it of romance, love, and overt gestures of admiration, we are — ironically — fucked. So Valentine’s Day, go love yourself. We’re not in the mood anymore.