Believe it or not, today is the first Valentine's Day that I'm in a relationship. Or rather, a love relationship. Throughout my adolescent and young adult life, Valentine's Day was a day of dread, when I longed for a card or a heart-shaped box of chocolates from someone special, someone outside my family, someone male, who longed for me. I longed to not be the kid with the fewest Valentines in the class, the teen with no carnations from admirers or a date to the dance (I even remember one year in which the carnations were handed out on a Friday and I was out sick; I returned on Monday to find three wilted, somber carnations from my girlfriends). I wanted a bouquet of roses delivered to me at work. I wanted a romantic dinner for two.
I wanted to be loved. Like, in love, love.
By my thirties, I said, "Fuck it." Not just to the day, but to the whole damn fairy tale.
After all, it wasn't about the hearts and roses and candy. It wasn't about the romance and the cards and the sentiment. It wasn't about a day. By my forties, I'd learned that love wasn't something to be attained. I'd learned to shower myself with roses and romance and heart-shaped cakes. I bought myself cards, left myself love notes. I took myself to the movies and the museum and for long walks on the beach. I fell in love with myself. I fell in love with my life. And I radiated that love outward whenever possible.
And yet, as a single person, I still couldn't help but feel ostracized every February 14th. Especially in the advent of Facebook-- I remember one year in which the trend was to post profiles photos of you and your significant other. I openly voiced the discrimination. Since then, I've stayed away from the fray as much as possible, and remained vocally cynical of the day.
But here I am, on Valentine's Day, in love. Engaged. Living with a man who is the reflection of the love and light in my life. For the first time. And I confess: I'm conflicted. How do I treat this day that has historically treated me and other singles rather shittily? How do I not turn into a hypocrite? How do I reconcile going out to dinner with my sweetheart tonight, and the heart-shaped pendant he presented me first thing this morning, with the commercial, Hallmark-hellish aspects I've avoided and abandoned these last few years without abandoning others?
By remembering the message Sarah Girrell and I delivered via protagonist Eva Perino in our novel, Why I Love Singlehood:
Singlehood is a State of Mind
This is my message to singletons and couples. A day devoted to love is nice in theory. But a life lived lovingly every day, regardless of relationship status, is the best gift you can give to yourself. That may be a corny sentiment, but I've experienced its truth.
Yes, my fiance and I are acknowledging the day. Yes, I love the simplicity of the pendant and the thoughtfulness behind the gift. But, had there been no Facebook, no displays at Target, no gaudy jewelry commercials, I doubt today would have been much different. We still woke up to laughter. We still give each other space when needed. We still don't depend on each other to be the supplier of happiness. It's not that every day is Valentine's Day. It's that every day is the love of our life.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.