Last weekend I confessed to a friend that I don’t have a valentine this year. On cue, he launched into The Rant: The holiday makes more people unhappy than happy. It puts too much pressure on relationships by making romance mandatory, so even if you like doing something sweet and surprising for your loved one, it can’t be surprising because it’s expected. Why can’t we each just pick our own Valentine’s Day? he went on to ask. His could be, say, May 5—a day when he might actually get into his favorite restaurant.
I know The Rant. I’ve done The Rant. I had a fresh rant last year when I was so busy I somehow forgot it was Valentine’s Day until I wandered into a Duane Reade to buy detergent and under the unflattering fluorescent lights, I came face to face with one of those white teddy bears holding a red foil heart balloon. I wasn’t sure what was worse—the fact that the guy in front of me was buying the Duane Reade bear for his girlfriend, or the fact that nobody was buying one for me. That was the year I announced that I was going to think of Valentine’s Day like Kwanzaa—a holiday we should all acknowledge, but one that only some people in this country celebrate.
I’m 35 and still single, I spend my days writing about dating, sometimes writing about writing about dating, and this year I realized I’m tired of The Rant. I don’t feel angry at the holiday. Instead, I’m angry at the people who are angry at the holiday.
I remember in my junior high school in Oklahoma, you could have carnations delivered to your valentines—white for friends, pink for people you had a crush on, red for the person you made out with at recess. We didn’t overthink the carnation system. Back then we didn’t even know carnations were bad flowers.
Now I can’t even scrounge up an anti-valentine. A guy I’ve been corresponding with online (it’s not as pathetic as it sounds) won’t even pass on information about a few Anti-Valentine’s Day parties—the latest trend for single people—because he didn’t feel like that would be a good first meeting for us. What’s a single heterosexual to do? I finally decided to have a party for my “single but optimistic” friends, not to be confused with an Anti-Valentine’s Day party, since as of this posting, I am still pro-valentine. And I invite you to join me—not at my party—but in adopting a more hopeful, inclusive stance. We all have people we love, or at least people we’d like to send a white carnation … why not celebrate them? Do the expected. That can be romantic, too.