When I was a barista in college, February was the best month. One awesome/terrible thing about working in our cafe was their obsession with Every Holiday Ever, so every season came with new personalized decorations. From the middle of January to basically St. Patrick's Day, I'd grin up at the little "Kate" heart stuck to the ceiling, and think "IT'S VALENTINE'S DAY SEASON!"
You know how some people get all aflutter about the winter holidays about being in out of the cold and sticking their hands in their loved one's coat pockets? That's exactly how I get about V-Day. Every time someone came in, shook the snow from DJ Ithaca's Wintry Mix out of their hair, and stammered out a drink order, I'd beam at them and draw a little heart on their mug.
"Feels good to be inside, huh?" I'd chirp, humming "They Can't Take That Away From Me" under my breath like any well-adjusted person would.
"Yea-a-a-a-h," they'd say, trying to pay me without actually touching my hand. "Sure does."
"Happy holidays!" I'd say after them, barely even noticing the weird look they shot me over their shoulder.
Lest everyone try to set me on fire with their minds, I will reassure you that I have never actually had any sort of serious romantic relationship in place on Valentine's Day. The closest I've come was when in seventh grade, Tim Hassmore gave me a half-crunched box of Jolly Ranchers that he'd gotten from the Circle K on February 15th because they'd been half-off.
Sure, I've been kind of dating people around that time. Valentine's Day dates have been inflated to such an intense degree, though, that I wouldn't inflict that kind of coupling existentialism on anyone who hadn't put a "fucked me after witnessing me consume an infant-sized burrito naked" proverbial ring on it.
I still wouldn't blame you for wanting to murder me for my unabashed glee alone, because it's easy to hate Valentine's Day. The rom-com/greeting card/condom industry has groomed us to expect the perfect date on February 14th, one that involves a lot of wacky shenanigans and ends in people leaping on each other the kind of joy that starts in your elbows and explodes outward.
As it stands now, Valentine's Day totally glamorizes traditional romantic relationships as one's primary motivator in life, while completely ignoring all the other meaningful interactions we have with humans on the daily. I mean, hell, it's supposedly sponsored by the parody site Heterosexual Awareness Month.
Much like the New Year's Eve Party Slump, it's easy to compare that idealization with one's real life and come out the other side feeling like you'll be forever doomed to spoon with a pea coat in an effort to approximate human contact.
Yes, you can react by being grumpy or by proposing that we all just celebrate Steak and Blowjobs day instead. Here's the thing, though -- that flowers and candy nonsense is basically inescapable.
Take it from someone who now genuinely likes V-Day festivities: if you're a Single's Awareness Day proponent, like I was back in the day, you'll spend most of February moodily staring out bus windows and listening to Laura Marling, feeling a nonspecific yearning for a place you've never even been. And who wants to spend those pearly gray mornings consumed by ennui? Not I!
In light of so much potential despair, I decided a few years ago that I was going to think of V-Day as an excuse to just shower everyone I cherish with cheesy affection. Now, Valentine's Day is my prime opportunity to combat the "Oh God, it's a month into a new year and I haven't cleaned my room once!"-style misery that starts to set in just before spring.
In my senior year of high school, when this horrible perkiness first began, I put on red lipstick for the day and went around kissing everyone who asked on the cheek, because that's a great way for a 16-year-old to fit in at an all-girls' high school.
In college, my extremely tolerant best friend TOK and I used to get dressed up and go on fancy dates, which we would then end by snuggling under the covers and earnestly discussing glam rock.
In fact, this year's the first time in five years that we haven't spent a Valentine's Day together, which would make me mopey except I plan to compensate by giving everyone I know those cardboard 99-cent kitten Valentines that fourth graders love to use as substitutes for second base.
If we're friends on the Internet, don't be surprised if I send you questionably suggestive photos of myself making heart-hands. It's just my way.
Even if you're determined to spend this V-Day alone, there's always the "lavish-affection-on-yourself" option. I'm not talking the stereotypical "cry over a plate of fried Oreos" Single Valentine's Woman trope, though if that's your junk-food-jam then be my guest. These days, I like to give myself the warm-n'-fuzzies by drinking midrange wine, blowing through an entire stack of Meg Cabot books, and watching the dumbest movies in the Gay and Lesbian section of Netflix's streaming service. That actually sounds way more appealing to me than awkwardly eating around the cheese sauce at a fancy Italian restaurant.
Though it's ostensibly for the benefit of another person, all this pampering isn't done totally selflessly. The V-Day Sads strike when we're at our loneliest, or when we feel like we're undeserving of the kind of love that the greeting card industry has taught us to expect. It's hard to feel empty and lost when you're laughing like a drain over cheesy V-day lingerie or writing tag-team-erotica with your best friend over Skype.
So if, in the next few weeks, you feel the familiar urge to punch a wall when you see a drugstore Cupid, I suggest that you instead combat the rage by texting someone a dirty haiku, or telling Twitter that they're pretty, or buying a six-shot espresso / soy peppermint chai (my V-Day drink of choice) and scream-singing Ani Difranco in the bath.
If it feels good or makes other people feel good, do it. That's what the best kind of Valentine's Days are all about.
Feel free to be Kate's Valentine: @katchatters.