Valentine’s Day isn’t the easiest holiday to celebrate for anyone. If you’re in a relationship, the trouble starts when you’re trying to decide what you’re doing and where you’re going to celebrate. And it’s doesn’t end even after you finally decide on the appropriate gift for your partner that isn’t the cliché box of chocolates or balloons or a teddy bear. But as a single person, the only thing I’m wondering is whether I’m allowed to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the first place. And if I am, how do I do it?
Like most Western traditions, I have found the holiday and the hype surrounding it to be yet another side effect of capitalism, which will literally do the most to make money off of anything. The flowers, the cards, the candy hearts, the newest rom-coms—other than the consumerism, Valentine’s Day doesn’t really mean much when love should be celebrated every day of the year.
That said, who said that single people couldn’t join in on the fun? You might be tempted to point out that that’s why we have Galentine’s Day, that it’s a consolation prize for single people in an otherwise insufferable time of year. As much as I love celebrating it (to the point that one year I re-named it Palentine’s Day to include my nonbinary friends), even I have to admit that it’s rather flawed in its premise. We shouldn’t need an extra day to celebrate platonic and familial relationships when Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romantic love, despite how it’s been marketed to me and what I used to believe.
I don’t blame myself for thinking that way growing up. Besides the obligatory Valentine’s Day cards that everyone received in primary school, I always felt left out of the annual celebrations each year. From middle school to high school, my friends and classmates were carrying around flower bouquets and chocolate boxes from their boyfriends, and one year a girl even received one of those giant teddy bears from Costco. Cheesy? Maybe, but that didn’t stop me from feeling unworthy and unloved. I didn’t know yet that many of the relationships I saw around me during that time wouldn’t last long anyway.
In college, because of that lingering insecurity and what I was learning about capitalism in my classes, I found myself with harshly negative feelings towards Valentine’s Day. It’d also been several years since I was in a serious relationship so I couldn’t help but feel angry, resentful, and lonely. Because I’d moved across the country to New York for this new chapter, I was expecting more changes out of my life that included finally falling in love and getting to display it in a socially acceptable fashion. But to the surprise to no one but myself, it didn’t happen.
As I’ve transitioned into my 20s, I’ve become more aware of this unspoken pressure on women to enter long-term, serious relationships and become just like everyone else, especially Latina women—which is where I think most of my grief with Valentine’s Day comes from. It may be 2022, but patriarchal ideals still exist in a lot of Latinx families. Yet it’s always other women who perpetuate them, who urge us to reach important milestones before we’re even ready. How many times have we heard the phrase “¿Y tu novio?” at family parties? Or, if we’re in a relationship, when we’re getting married already and when we’re giving our parents grandchildren? And it doesn’t matter how old you get either. One of my aunts is single and in her 70s, and still gets asked if she’ll ever get married again.
Maybe out of spite, maybe out of a genuine need to be independent, it’s become less important for me to be in a relationship if it’s not better than my life as a single person. I love doing things on my own time, answering to no one, living my life how I want. I’m not opposed to having someone to share it with but it’s not a life-or-death scenario the way it used to be. Even short-lived relationships that I hoped would go somewhere but didn’t, don’t make me so upset or wonder why I’m a lesser human being.
Maybe that’s why I’ve finally learned to love Valentine’s Day: the pink, red, and white color palette; the chalky candy hearts; even the overpriced teddy bears at CVS make me feel all fuzzy inside. I won’t be going so far as to buy any of it for myself (because I still have to protest against capitalism) but I’m looking forward to treating myself to some well-deserved rest and self-care and fun this February 14th. Who could say no to face masks, movies, a favorite breakup album, safely spending time with my family, and reaching out to the friends I care about? Like I said, who ever said the holiday can’t be about more than one kind of love? But more than anyone else, I’m learning to love myself. To let go, to move on from past relationships, to take life as it comes—that’s what my Valentine’s Day will be all about this year for me.