UNPOPULAR OPINION: I Wish I Had A Valentine
I know. I know. Another Valentine’s Day thing? Yes, I’ve read quite a few in the past few days as well, here and on other sites, and yet I haven’t seen one that I related to, so here we are.
I’m saying what I’m not supposed to say: I wish I had a Valentine.
I should be fine alone. And overall, I am! Just maybe a little less on Valentine’s Day.
Look. I am a grown-ass woman. (Can you hear the thug claps as you read that?) Of course I don’t need a Valentine. But I want one. I can discern that what began as a liturgical feast day became connected with romance, then the gifting of notes and candies blossomed into a greeting card bonanza and that I am free to participate or not as I see fit. And many of us recognize the bare-naked manipulation and forced nature of retailers’ efforts to get us to Buy More Things and Spend More Money in the name of love. It’s a commercial, cliché, B-list holiday. I know. But that doesn’t mean I am totally unfazed by the holiday itself.
I hate the transparent jewelry store commercials and the obvious release dates of the extra treacly movies, but it would be dishonest of me to equate seeing through that bullshit with not being affected by the existence of Valentine’s Day at all. As I said, my brain recognizes the hollowness of marketing. But I’m human, and my heart is reminded that love is in the air! And at the CVS, and the gym, and the supermarket, the multiplex, the gas station.
Nuance is declining in this age of internet headlines competing for your attention, and I find myself adrift between the Island of Badass Bitches Who Are Thrilled To Be Single Because Fuck Valentine’s Day, and the Island of I’m Single So I Don’t Exist Nor Do I Matter on Valentine’s Day or Ever. I’m at neither extreme; I simply wish I had someone. I am able to claim so much in my life on my own terms, and I can also say that I just want to know what it would be like to have a romantic partner to share the romantic holiday with.
Most of us realize that it is unreasonable to heap extreme expectations on a square on the calendar, which is an inherent danger with any holiday. Love doesn’t have a due date of February 14th. But is it unreasonable for me to want to share my life with someone? And, if we accept that perhaps it is not, is it understandable that a holiday dedicated to romance could intensify that desire and underline what is missing?
I get pretty lonely. I would love to have love in my life, and while I have so much to be grateful for, that has continually eluded me. I deal with those emotions every day, but the Love Holiday -- in conjunction with the months leading up to it when it seems that the whole world is covered in red satin and smells like chocolate -- kinda turns up the volume on that channel in my brain.
I had a dating person last year, and if you care to click you can go on that little trip down memory lane because I wrote about it here and later here and I was hesitant to write what you’re reading now because we’re not on xoPiaHasTroubleWithDating.com, I mean C’MON.
But just as I was scrunching up my face with displeasure at an essay somewhere else by a married writer about how Valentine’s Day is no big deal, I heard this for the bazillionth time from a married friend: “Ugh, it’s the worst. It’s all commercialized. We don’t even celebrate it. Honestly, I don’t know why you even care.”
In a similar way in which I have spoken out about people making me feel bad for feeling bad, I gently point out to my married friends that while they may choose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, they could if they wanted to, and therein lays the difference.
I don’t have many single friends. As the years have passed, they’ve partnered off and I continue to buzz around them like an uninvited gnat on Noah’s Ark watching everyone else pass by two by two. And as often as I hear the chorus of “We don’t even celebrate it/Why do you even care,” I have never once been convinced that I shouldn’t care.
Caring itself is not a bad thing. And I’ll double-down on that and say that longing is not a bad thing, when monitored so as not to become debilitating loneliness. The recognition of desire for a romantic partner may be unpleasant, but it is ultimately comforting—when I feel no desire at all is when I’m in real trouble emotionally. I happen to be someone who enjoys romance. I like companionship. I love sex. I like sharing my life with someone, though I have not had the opportunity to do so very much in my life so far. (Last year’s ex was the only activity in the past five years.)
As a stage performer, I have done shows on many holidays, which is business as usual. But Valentine’s Day always cut me a little deeper than others. Broadway show tickets are a popular gift to get FOR Christmas (or other major holidays), but it is not always desirable to go see a show ON Christmas. Valentine’s Day is sold out, with many people making a show part of a Big Fancy Night Out. I would look out from the stage onto a sea of people in various shades of red and pink, becoming a part of their romantic Valentine’s Day celebrations and then going home alone.
I focused on being happy for them, just as I always focus on being happy for those who are happily coupled up. Which is another reason why the “Ugh, Valentine’s Day is the worst!” speech from couples annoys me. It goes beyond not recognizing that you have an option that I don’t have, to expressing disdain that I wish I had it, even as I celebrate what you’ve got.
I can’t harbor any ill will to those couples who really don’t care; I would never project so hideously as to say, “You’re in a relationship; you HAVE to do something special!” But I am claiming my right to say that I am someone who longs for love and that Valentine’s Day highlights that.
I’m also not going to perform Sassy Singledom, flipping tables and burning Valentine’s Day to the ground. Restaurants and bars that are hosting “Bitter” themed events for singles are doing the same thing as Hallmark, albeit on a smaller scale and for a different audience. This Single Lady really doesn’t feel like throwing my hands in the air to the Beyoncé track, putting on The Uncaring Independence Show as a defense mechanism.
In the past, I’ve made all of the “VD” jokes and said all of the bitter things. Sure, we all know that flowers “will just eventually die soon anyway” or the classic “are already dead when you get them.” But I would still like to know what it’s like to receive some. There are enough sour grapes being harvested out there. And I can get down to Beyoncé all night, but I have been that girl before and it is not cute for very long.
Practically speaking, I already have plans. I’ll be volunteering at the homeless shelter where I am frequently, simply because that’s the way the schedule worked out. And emotionally, I’m gonna keep on chuggin’ and see what I can do to improve my Date-ability. I went on my first date at 21 and they have been few and far between, so I’ve always felt a bit left out of that part of life. Being honest about my longing helps me to remain engaged with my heart and not just shut it down, which I’ve done in the past as a survival tactic.
The aforementioned grown-assness of my womanhood means that I know I’ll be OK, that I continue being a productive member of society and yadda yadda yadda, but yeah. I wish I had a Valentine.
Not for a falsely romanticized Valentine’s Day extravaganza, or for anything that can be bought at all. Not for the chocolates or champagne or fine dining or even a card, but to hold someone’s hand. To be a little part of the holiday. To not feel so left out anymore. I have hope that I won’t be left out of love forever; that it could happen for me too. I am not a hopeless romantic, but a hopeful one.
So I write this for anyone else who’s neither shouting at the sky against Valentine’s Day nor presently baking hundreds of heart-shaped cookies. Anyone who just needs to exhale for a minute; to say that we can be grown-ups and still want someone to say “Be Mine”. There’s room for us all, whether you are in a relationship and not celebrating, or if you’re going all-out to make it a huge event, if you are truly, deeply, madly in love with being single, if you’re doing something small or celebrating the non-romantic but incredibly valuable love of friends and family, and yes, even me.
Sometimes it feels good to say the thing you’re not supposed to say. I often find it leads me to connect with a person who might feel similarly, who can be a lovely reminder that we are all human.
So, how ‘bout it? Will you be mine?