With every Valentine’s Day that rolls around, there arises a new chorus of lamentations about the impact of the holiday on the lives of single people, particularly women. Questions are asked, jokes are made, and women are inundated with advice on the top ways in which they can “survive” Valentine’s Day.
There are survival guides for men, of course—but those are mostly about how they can do the best for their girlfriends without completely sacrificing their “manliness” or totally ruining their own lives. The survival guides for women all assume single women will experience extreme loneliness, pathos, and holiday desperation… and, quite frankly, I’m sick of it!
Valentine’s Day, like many popular and widely celebrated holidays, has origins that are a mash-up of religious lore, whimsical mythology, oft-debated event timelines, and “facts.” Saint Valentine was likely real, but Cupid is not, and I don’t think there have always been exchanges of love notes on candies and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate.
What we do know is that stationary and confection companies stand to make a great deal of money in their first quarter because Valentine’s Day is made out to be the defining date in every relationship. You can’t imagine how many resources are put into making sure they turn huge profits to protect their bottom lines. And I should qualify this by saying the focus is almost always on heteronormative relationships, which in this day and age remains problematic. With that said, women still bear the brunt of shunning when it comes to answering the most popular question: “Do you have a valentine?”
For those who happily celebrate Valentine’s Day, either with partners, friends or family, it can be a wonderfully fun time spent with loved ones. Love is in the air when couples walk down the streets, hand-in-hand, sneaking kisses and beaming. Young children rush home to show off the cheesy cards and candy they received at school, bragging about getting more than their friends. Messengers hurriedly deliver floral and edible arrangements, and co-workers become playfully jealous.
It’s a day of harmless fun and reverie, yet there are those who project their own unhappiness onto others and do their best to damper the day for everyone. I get that some people are genuinely sad to be alone, because that’s human. It doesn’t mean, however, that others should feel bad about anticipating the good times they’re planning to have.
To be absolutely clear, Valentine’s Day is not the dawning of a world-ending zombie apocalypse. There will be no wormhole that will threaten to engulf half of the human population on “V-Day.” We do not need survival guides and support systems to help us come out alive and intact on the other side!
The more we tell women that they’re somehow deficient and in need of saving or protection to make it through one single day, the more we perpetuate the idea that women are nothing without men in their lives to validate their existence. The more we continue to measure women’s happiness by what they expect to get on Valentine’s Day, the more we devalue the quality of their lives every other day. It’s not only unfair, it’s unnecessary.
Being single is not akin to having the plague. At some point, we’re going to have to accept that all people, especially women, have the right to not be in romantic relationships. We need to embrace the idea that people are valuable as individuals and don’t need to be with other people; it’s better to want to be in a relationship than to need to be in one. You don’t need to be in a relationship to go out to a nice restaurant, to arrange beautiful flowers on your dining room table, or to have mind-blowing sex.
Let me say that again—you can have mind-blowing, toe-curling, back-bending sex this Valentine’s Day whether you are single or in a relationship. Who says you have to wait to “get chose”? I’m sure you know other single, attractive people with no valentines and no plans, so why not take initiative and make something happen? People call that “desperate”? So? Who are they, and do they have control over your body and time? Since when does spending time in ways that make you happy and feel good, completely free of obligation and drama, equate with being desperate?
#newrules: Valentine’s Day is not the time to ridicule people for being single or offer patronizing advice on how women should get together with their other lonely friends to eat ice cream and watch sappy movies on Netflix. Valentine’s Day is not the time to throw your relationship in the faces of others who just got out of bad situations. Valentine’s Day is, however, the perfect opportunity to take that first step, ask for the phone number, send the direct message or email, and make your presence known (if you’ve been thinking about making a move).
Don’t be corny, though. Keep it simple, sweet, and to the point. And if all you want is sex, make that known too. You never know—someone might have been waiting for you to open that door.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Feminista Jones is a sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger from New York City. She writes about gender, race, politics, mental health and sexuality at FeministaJones.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FeministaJones.