Don’t you wish you could go back in time, like to the days we were in grade school and could all enjoy a zero-pressure Valentine’s Day? Remember when your entire class had a party, you made heart-shaped decorations for your family, and everyone got the same amazing amount of candy? I still vividly remember these days, most likely because I got to vicariously re-live them for a bit through my own child, but otherwise, the last two decades (at least) I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this holiday– on the one hand, I think it’s great to have a day where you acknowledge those you love, but on the other hand having just gotten through the holidays, I am often at a loss for what to get a significant other (when there is one) or myself (when there isn’t).
If you are in a good and healthy relationship when this holiday rolls around, God bless you. Hopefully you can plan something nice together, without the need to succumb to the ridiculous holiday-surcharge at restaurants or flower shops. I always found a nice, quiet dinner at home on V-Day with some pretty tulips was far more enjoyable than stressing over impossible reservations, traffic, parking, and a bill that was never less than $120 (which is probably the equivalent of a week’s groceries for some of us).
If you are not in a good place with your partner, well of course you are going to want to avoid this holiday– but even that is going to tell the other person where you are in your head, so really there isn’t a nice way to avoid having an honest talk. Here are just 2 examples of huge V-Day fails by some of my past beaus: 1) I had a guy wait until 11pm on 2/14 to send me a “Happy VDay” text. My response was to sign up on some dating site the next day. 2) Another guy once told me on V-Day, “I didn’t get you anything because you’ve been criticizing my spending so much.” After that, I canceled a trip we’d be planning to take, and the biggest effort I put forth thereafter was to get him out of my life for good.
So now we get to the option of being single on V-Day, and I’ll admit that my feelings on this have varied greatly– some years I’ve gone all out for myself, although most years as a mom I have focused my efforts on my son. There was one particularly bad year when I hosted a girls-only party, where we all took turns smashing a heart-shaped piñata. The funny thing is this: there is no right or wrong way to celebrate V-Day when it’s just you. If you want to book a massage or other spa appointment for yourself, do it. Splurge on tickets to a concert, game, or maybe go big and get Hamilton tickets in NYC. Or, if you just want to stream movies in your pjs with a bowl of your favorite Ben & Jerry’s, do that! When you are single on V-day, the best part of that day is that you can make what you want of it, with absolutely no pressure and no disappointment because you are not counting on anyone else to make the day for you.
It’s taken me years to realize that the only way to completely avoid being disappointed is to not count on anyone else. Once you can accept this fact, then you can take control to ensure that not just V-Day, but every day, lives up to your own expectations. So whether you are single, committed, or in a “it’s complicated” situation, there shouldn’t be a reason to dread Valentine’s Day if you don’t expect anything from others and instead make your own plans to celebrate love in a way that brings meaning to you, not just in terms of romantic love, but something far more lasting and profound–particularly love of self, and the various roles we may play as a mother, sister, daughter, friend, mentor, activist and/or philanthropist.
By Regina A. DeMeo