Some days are harder than others. One of those hard days, for many people, is Valentine’s Day. Here’s how to dedicate it to self-love instead.
One of the hardest parts of being an adult is when there is a day or an occasion that’s supposed to make you feel *heart-eye emoji* *smiley face emoji* but for reasons that are particular to your life, you feel *sad face emoji*, and this emotional disconnect makes you feel alone.
There are a plethora of days and events that are extremely polarising for this reason: Christmas, Mother’s Day, baby showers, baby announcements, weddings, Father’s Day, etc.
Valentine’s Day is one of those days. In some ways, it’s a little bit easier because we’re all a bit ‘jokey, jokey, silly ol’ Valentine’s Day’ about it, unlike the incredibly earnest conversations around, say, Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day has been a social punchline for years, which is all very well and good if YOU ARE IN ON THE JOKE. But if you’re not, if it’s already a day that sticks in your teeth a bit, then it can make you feel that bit more alone.
And feeling alone sucks! Feeling alone is very different from being alone, which is actually, for the most part, fine. But loneliness is a pervasive, insidious little shit of an emotion. The first poem I ever remember writing was a poem about loneliness; one of those senses poems where you have to write what something smells like, tastes like, sounds like. To my apparently quite emo 11-year-old self, loneliness looked like a dripping tap (!?), smelled like metal, tasted like burnt food and sounded like a single pair of footsteps on a moonlit road. (Yes, I was a dramatic child!)
So if the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, this year or any year, is looking like a big old dripping tap (again, what?) in your heart, then I am going to suggest that this Monday is a great day to…
RECLAIM VALENTINE’S DAY.
A few years ago, it was Valentine’s Day and I was going home on the bus past the Parnell Rose Gardens, which was positively frothing at the mouth with loved-up couples, lolling about betwixt the roses. As we drove past them, an inadvertent hiss escaped from my lips – like I was a menacing cat, rather than just a single female.
What is this day and why does it have such power over us?
The origins of Valentine’s Day are murky at best and either involved a saint – Saint Valentine, of course – who either helped couples get married in secret or helped Christians escape from the Romans.
Either way, he was beheaded.
You’ll notice that little detail never makes it to the Hallmark cards? Or, there’s the other theory, that Valentine’s Day was based on the Pagan ceremony where pagans gathered in a cave (cool!) to honour a she-wolf (cooler!) by dancing around and doing an animal sacrifice (not cool) and then covering themselves in sacrificial blood and roaming the streets (similar to the plot of the horror film Midsommar).
And then, in the Middle Ages, February 14 was the start of the bird’s mating season. Choose your own Valentine’s Day adventure – dead saint, blood dance or bird sex.
In the same way that Santa wears red because Coca Cola said so, the real reason we’re all supposed to down tools and pick up flowers on February 14 is due to – you guessed it – consumerism. In the 1800s, it was expected that people should exchange hand-written cards with each other declaring their affections. But by the 1900s, printed cards started to be made and here we are. Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas when it comes to card-sending and while I – an orphan of print media – always love to support people buying bits of paper with words on them, there’s definitely a part of me that thinks we could scale this whole day down, no?
Maybe instead of building an entire day in worship to heteronormative couples (like there isn’t a wedding industry that does exactly that), Valentine’s Day could be a chance to romance yourself. And yes, I’m sorry if you’re lactose intolerant because this is going to get a little cheesy.
Ways to love yourself a little better this Valentine’s Day
– Write yourself a love letter where you note down everything you like about yourself and every time you roll your eyes or get writer’s block, imagine that you were writing to a friend. Or, write a letter to your past self, thanking her for the lessons. Alternatively, you could write a letter to your future self; taking a bird’s eye view to our current situation can help us see the wood for the trees when we need it most.
– Fall back in love with your own life. Sometimes we can be so wrapped up in our ‘I’m single’ spirals that we think that our life can only start once we’ve got someone beside us. If you’re so focused on your single status, you can miss all the magic that’s happening in the here and now. Cook yourself the good food, take yourself to the nice places, wear the nice dress. Don’t wait to treat yourself well.
– Get to know yourself better. The NY Times put out a ’36 questions to that lead to love’ story a few years ago, filled with questions that are said to lead to greater intimacy with a partner. Well, they’re really good questions and you could have a crack at most of them solo – or you could bring some friends in as well. Romantic love is not the only love worth celebrating!
– Turn of social media and settle in with a good book that celebrate friendships or self-love, like Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts or Everything I’ve Learned About Love, Expectation by Anna Hope, Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, or Untamed by Glennon Doyle.
– Remember, it’s just a day. If anyone asks you what you’re doing on Valentine’s Day, tell them you’re honouring its history by dancing naked in a cave (but without the animal sacrifice!)