If you come out of Valentine’s day feeling empowered, if it has true meaning for you and deepens your relationship(s), that’s great. Stop reading.
If, however, you tend to feel like shit on Valentine’s day, stay with me.
Here are some things I’ve felt in the past on Valentine’s day, and that others have shared with me:
Sad and lonely because I don’t have a partner
Ashamed and embarrassed because the only Valentine’s cards I ever get are from my mom
Angry at all of the people who are walking around holding hands and rubbing it it my face that I don’t have a partner
Angry at all of the store displays for rubbing it in my face that I don’t have a partner
Ashamed of myself for being angry at strangers and windows
Like this is a great time to eat a tub of ice cream
Angry at myself for eating a tub of ice cream
Pressure to have plans
Pressure to appear as though I like Valentine’s Day, lest I be perceived as a grinch and a curmudgeon
Out of place because my relationship doesn’t look like the ones in all the advertising
Frustrated because deep down I know that there are bigger reasons to distance myself from Valentine’s Day than “I’m sad because I don’t have a date,” but I don’t know how to articulate them
Mad at myself for not having the courage and conviction to act on my truth
Awkward because I didn’t really want to go on that third date, but how could I say no, it’s Valentine’s Day
Miffed because we spent Valentine’s Day together, how could this not be a thing?
Pressure to look sexy
Pressure to have sex
Pressure to get a gift or do something special with my partner
Devastated because my vision of the perfect Valentine’s Day didn’t turn out quite right
Uncomfortable because my partner got me flowers / chocolate and made all these special plans, and I don’t know how to tell them that I hate Valentine’s day without hurting their feelings or being a party pooper
Confused and cornered because my partner says s/he doesn’t like Valentine’s Day, but at the same time I know I’ll be in trouble if I don’t acknowledge it
This is a wonderful time to remind ourselves of a few things:
You are not alone.
Many many people feel sad, alone, angry, and alienated on Valentine's Day. Some of those people have gotten so tired of feeling less-than on Valentine’s day that they’ve created alternate holidays the day before. Christine Arylo, a self-described “inspirational catalyst, transformational speaker, and founder of the international self love movement" invented International Self Love Day. And Galentine’s Day, which emerged from a fictional holiday created by the writers of Parks and Rec, is catching on as a way to celebrate female friendship.
There are a lot of people who stand to benefit from others — especially women — feeling bad about themselves.
We live in a culture that thrives off of our misery. The beauty, fashion, and diet industries — to name just a few — stay afloat by telling us we’re fat and ugly and offering us remedies that promise to turn our bodies into unattainable images of beauty. Asking yourself “Who benefits from my feeling less-than?” is a great way to shine a light on the bigger picture.
There are a lot of people who stand to benefit from painting a picture of what love and relationships “should” look like.
A few months ago I saw a New York City subway ad that said “Love makes us do crazy things … Like spend our entire net worth on pointy rocks.” It got me thinking about the expectations around engagement rings, and it turns out that the whole thing is a genius bit of marketing propaganda from DeBeers Diamonds. In the 1930’s, diamonds weren’t so favorable in America and diamond engagement rings certainly weren’t the norm. So DeBeers hired an ad agency which set out “to create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.” Given that many of the most critical thinkers I know have diamond engagement rings, I’m gonna say they succeeded.
While the $55-billion American wedding industry dwarfs our friend Santo Valentino, Valentine’s Day does represent a big bump in the consumer sales market. According to this article from 2014, the average person (American) spends $132 on Valentine’s Day-related merchandise. That’s more than the average cell phone bill, easily a week of groceries for 2 people, and a helluva lot of 99-cent pizzas. If those are truly value-driven purchases then that’s one thing, but if it’s coming from a place of “If I don’t buy this then I’m not ___________ enough,” that’s an issue.
Again, asking “Who benefits?” is an empowering action.
On Valentine’s Day, the consumer machine gets extra-special license to prey on feelings of inadequacy, discomfort, pressure, anger, confusion, and shame. While it is certainly your right to play along, it is also your right to bow out. To recognize the forces at play and say “No thanks, I choose to spend my time, energy, and money in other ways, and that doesn’t make me any less of a person or any worse of a lover*.”
*though I do recommend an expectations-setting conversation with anyone with whom you’re romantically involved.