By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
For a lot of people, Valentine’s can bring about a lot of angst if not sadness. Valentine’s Day for a single person or a recently-made single person can be a brutal reminder of not only singlehood, but of the pressures to be in the epiphany of couplehood and in the throes of a deeply romantic relationship.
This complex had started for me at a very young age. As much as I loved receiving a number of perforated rectangular cards with cupid bows, red hearts, and cute carton bumblebees that said silly things like, Bee Mine—yes, I was only in Junior Kindergarten—it had hurt me very deeply not to receive a Valentine’s Day card from everyone in my class.
Later, Valentine’s Day had taken on a new kind of burden. Feeling as if I was the only one amongst my friends who was not only single, but certainly singled out with a fury of condescending pity for not having a partner—any partner.
While I was relatively successful: a graduate with both a university degree and a sense of accomplishment and optimism for the future, a new job in a prolific investment firm, and continually active in the writing community, with a number of friends of whom I had a strong relationship—I was, however, eluded by the opportunity of romance.
It was something I later learned how to accept, having dated a number of men I found mutually intelligent, artistic, amicable, even compatible, but could not muster myself to be severely passionate about. The dates seemed more of a time filler for weekend companionship, but a waiting station always for something potentially better.
And so, Valentine’s Day, had always remained for me an elusive holiday, a harsh reminder of my social impediment, a missing partner much like a missing limb, something I attributed to either my poor luck or poor looks, reasons that I were later told were actually unreasonable.
But, I braved the holiday all in its red and pink verbosity, its clip-winged cupids, its heart-shaped chocolates, its over-priced flowers, and “I Love You” stuffed toys. I coped by deciding to participate in the fun, rather than be excluded by it, so I consciously wore red, gritted my teeth, bought myself some beautiful lilies, and enjoyed a beautiful meal with matching wine, and gorged on some decadent chocolate. I even went so far as to buy myself a favourite Valentine’s gift—a book of poetry.
I figured even if I wasn’t in a relationship, I could still honour the celebration of love and love for myself. A cliché? Perhaps, but the essence of Valentine’s Day thrives on that very cliché.
This year, while I’ve grown to expect some form of romantic courtship from my husband of 14 years, Valentine’s Day has lost some of its ideological lustre.
I think whether you’re single or in a partnership, the only advice I can give is to have the heart for Valentine’s Day, to take the time to reflect on relationship, your needs, your desires, and to be grateful for love in its many forms—plus to treat yourself to some indulgence even if it doesn’t include wearing red or eating chocolate hearts.
You could even go further by compassionately sharing that love with someone in need by turning the day into one of action. Perhaps that means volunteering at a soup kitchen or visiting a nursing home. Perhaps it means paying a visit to a relative you haven’t seen or talked to in a number of months or years. Perhaps it means adopting a pet from an animal shelter or buying a coffee for the person behind you at a café. There are a number of ways in which Valentine’s Day can become more that an exclusive celebration of romance.
(And if Valentine’s Day wasn’t what you desired it to be this time around, you can take comfort in the reminder that February 14 will certainly come again next year!)
What’s the best Valentine’s Day you’ve ever had?
What’s the worst Valentine’s Day you’ve ever had?
How do you think you’d like to celebrate it next year?