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For many, St Valentine's Day is the pinnacle of the romantic year. It is a time for loved ones to exchange all manner of gifts, including chocolates, flowers, cuddly toys and cards loaded with mots d'amour. It is the one day of the year when you feel wanted. A pink sugar-coated happy day that brightens up the dullest part of winter.
However, for perpetual bachelors or those of us embracing spinsterhood with open arms, it can be the cruellest date on the calendar. So what to do with this day? Batten down the hatches, hide under the duvet and emerge anew on the 15th? Here's what you, the Community, suggested...
Talk Yourself Out of it
Survive Valentine's day by the simple expedient of ignoring any significance it might have.
This is easy enough in the modern world where it's just another excuse for companies to attempt to get you to buy large quantities of overpriced, badly made and tacky goods (which are also usually pink and heart-shaped). Think about how good it is that you've gone through another year with your head clear of Valentine's Day commercial-induced blindness. Comfort yourself with the thought that Valentine's Day is right up there with the brash commercialisation of Christmas. That somehow celebrating it with misplaced generosity will make you a more attractive and better person.
It's all a ploy to make us feel guilty about nothing, and try to bribe ourselves out of 'trouble' with the other party. Indeed, an insincere night of empty expense in order to create sexual obligation and get some credit toward being a slob for the rest of the year. Laugh at the poor suckers who spend the preceding week worrying about 'how little can I get away with spending without looking like a cheapskate and therefore reaping the appropriate benefits...'
In life we need food, shelter, water, oxygen, clothing, transport and each other. We've lost the point. We need each other, not tacky merchandising which obliquely refers to love. In fact, we should just boycott Valentine's day altogether.
Those people who find themselves single on this particular day (and this will probably mean me, too) can console themselves that they are saving money, time and hassle when all around the world, people are struggling to cope with tokenism and one-upmanship. 'Must be better than last year / the significant other's ex's past efforts' etc, etc.
I say bah! I am thoroughly happy that I'm not having to sit through bleeding 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' or any of that cheesy rubbish, just to appease the whimsy of someone who should jolly well know how much their someone cares for them without showering them with bloody teddy bears and heart-shaped choccies.
However, this does have the unfortunate side effect of making one seem like a crotchety, jaded and callous old cynic, which might be precisely the reason why I'm probably not going to be sharing Valentine's day (nearly said 'VD' there... ) with someone else...
Inwardly mocking Valentine's in this fashion is easy to achieve, but tends to turn one into a hopeless cynic for a few days. The activity merely consists of looking at romantics being, well... romantic, and seeing just how foolish and silly they act over each other. To retain friends, this activity is obviously conducted most efficaciously in one's mind only. Instead privately feel the sinister flow of pessimism course through your veins, and obey the skeptical nature of their venom. Hate the pink fru-fru hearts and the fake plastic flowers forever! Yeah!
You may feel that you are an unlovable piece of grease caught between the toes of creation. However, as you grow older, this feeling diminishes pleasurably, like bathwater draining away between the above-mentioned toes. This is not because you have ceased to be an unlovable grease-stain; oh no - you still are. It's just that there are far worse things to worry about in life and your whole brain is taken up with avoiding those. Now Valentine's day doesn't even register as a blip on my pain cortex; I normally spend the evening of the 13th rubbing the chillies from my TV meal-for-one onto my eyeballs, while laughing at programmes about plastic surgery.
Shut Your Eyes Tight...
... And ignore the whole thing. There could be good reasons for this, as one Researcher tells us:
I opted for this tactic after a major disappointment. When I was little, my cousins forced me to send a Blue Peter-inspired Valentine's day card to the boy down the road. His Mum never let him play with me again and I went thoroughly off the idea of card sending.
This was probably a good thing, because I will be 25 this year and have never, ever received a Valentine's day card. This is despite the fact that I dated a guy for 15 months. He said he wasn't going to buy me a card because it brought back sad memories. And what were these sad memories I hear you ask? Why, that his previous girlfriend had dumped him on Valentine's day. Witness me not being chuffed. So there I was thinking finally, I'd get a card, and no. Foiled again.
So Hallmark can stuff it. Of course, how many people remember that St Valentine himself was brutally murdered? Or am I just imagining this particular memory. Hmmm.
Even under painful circumstances such as these, ignoring the whole affair may be harder than it would seem. It really takes conscious effort. Try not to expose yourself to something that will make those negative emotions surface - sappy movies, people out on dinner dates. You can't forget that the day happens, but you can remove yourself from situations that might make you feel bad.
The best way to succeed is to involve yourself so completely in something that has nothing to do with Valentine's that you don't have time to realise that it's Valentine's day until it's already over. Such activities could include making extensive music compilations (180 minute ones, really well thought out, with no repetition of artist anywhere in its entirety), carving a really nice fork knife and spoon out of wood with a dull penknife, or other such suitably frustrating but time-consuming and ultimately rewarding activities.
A Few Alternatives
Rewarding activities such as spending the day Goth-style, for example:
My college friends and I have made a new tradition: Goth Valentine's day. Anyone who's either single or cannot see their love on Valentine's day (almost as hard to endure as not having anybody at all) is invited to participate in the celebratory alternative. Making a spectacle of one's self by wearing downright bleak and frightening attire makes the holiday easier to come to terms with. Firstly, it brings the focus from romantic tendencies to your own silliness and the silliness of others' perceptions (everyone might know that you're not really Goth, but it still freaks them out to see you dressed in that manner, especially if you're fairly conservative the rest of the year). And secondly, never underestimate the power of pure shock value to distract you. In essence, you get to play a conscious role rather than sit and watch all the romantics out there play out theirs.
Alternatively, another Researcher came up with this idea:
I have the best get-out alternative ever, luckily. Valentines day just happens to be mine and my dog's anniversary, so we celebrate that instead. Go for a long walk, share a pork pie and watch a movie together, it's much nicer.
Make a companionable day of it then... or not, as the case may be:
I was looking forward to playing Half-Life all night in protest to Valentine's day. Lots of slaughtering of other singleton males.
Indeed, there is help in even the unlikeliest of places:
Pursuant to a recent break-up, I discovered the remedial properties of 'Temptation Island'. No, seriously. Watching something that largely involves prolonged relational stress genuinely made me feel relieved that I didn't have the hassle.
Other than that you can just get good and drunk and watch violent action movies, and maybe listen to the Joe Jackson song 'Happy Loving Couples'. Fortunately in Australia at the moment we are getting smacked in the One-Day cricket series by New Zealand and South Africa, so there is far more important things to worry about.
Celebrate Being Single
Sometimes it seems that if we don't have an opportunity to sit opposite someone in a nice restaurant looking all giddy with love (or generally lust, and possibly nerves and wind) then we feel bad, like something's missing in life or in us. We can spend all of our single life wishing to be in a couple, and then, ironically, when we do find someone, we start thinking how cool it would be to have some of our single life back. Enjoy being single, make the most of it. Do something on Valentine's day that celebrates your independent status. In this life you have to be happy and content with yourself first. Help your fellow man, don't waste another day moping.
If you're not going out with someone, then just think about all the lovely people that are in the same position.
In previous years I have arranged to go out to dinner with a group of my single friends both male and female. Valentine's day should not preclude love between good friends, and it means that you're having fun on the day, not on your own which is enough to make you blue even on a normal day, and you don't have to worry about paying for someone else or all of the after dinner sexual tension. In three cases of these outings that I have attended, couples have formed from those present.
Now there's an idea.
The Old Book says 'greater love hath no man than he lays his life down for a friend...'. While this doesn't necessarily mean actually dying for someone, it does indicate a selfless love that is more prepared to give rather than take. It would seem that most of the popular activity that is associated with Valentine's day is aimed at a preconceived outcome rather than a selfless act of care.
Do something good, for someone who needs it. You will like yourself as a result. Do it several times and you will like yourself a lot, and sweethearts will be beating a path to your door.
Be happy with who you are or no-one else will be. Love yourself first or no-one else will. Do something good for someone else. Mind someone's kids so they can go out, or spend the evening with an elderly person, help out in a charity for the night, or phone someone who is having a rougher time than you and tell them you care. It will be more satisfying than trying to be Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms Cool and Alluring for the evening and worrying about if your date is in to you or not.
Being selfless is all very well, but there's nothing wrong with a little bit of self-indulgence. Buy something you normally wouldn't buy - maybe something you've been wishing for, something luxurious, something completely unnecessary. Or spoil yourself with a treatment of some kind: a professional massage and a beauty treatment. Remember that fresh flowers always look nice, whether you bought them yourself or were given them. Who's to know?
You could even buy a card, sign it with a hug and a kiss, then put it on show in your living room or on your windowsill and people will think you have a secret admirer. If anyone asks if you know who it is from, you can always say 'I have a good idea' and smile. One lucky Researcher has this to say on the matter:
I got 17 Valentine's day cards last year.
... cost me a fortune in stamps.
Or you could really go for the made-up mysterious admirer scenario. A few days before Valentine's day, place an order for flowers, chocolates and Champagne to be delivered to you at work. Have the card attached marked 'Your secret admirer'. When the presents arrive, feign ignorance and surprise, and claim not to be able to guess who the gift has come from. Your office colleagues will rack their brains for you all day and will give you lots of attention. You might even get some hints about real secret admirers in your office. At the end of the day you are left feeling loved by those around you, and will have chocolates and bubbly to look forward to for dinner. The flowers will look great in your flat and will last for weeks!
The sentiments of one Researcher exactly:
I'm even thinking about taking myself out for dinner and getting myself good and drunk on French Champagne.
Just so I know I care...
Consuming vast quantities of chocolate seems to be a popular option, too (face it - it is easy to get hold of this time of year and you might as well enjoy yourself). But proceed with caution. The Australian Bureau of Statistics confirms that over the last three years, 19 Australians have died eating Christmas decorations that they thought were chocolate, so heaven knows what dangers await us for Valentine's day...
Fortunately, in some countries Valentine cards and gifts are not only exchanged between sweethearts, but also between close friends. So send flowers and a card to a friend on Valentine's day.
Or you could move to a country where they don't celebrate it. Or at least holiday there over the fateful two weeks or so, and counter all questions about Valentine's day when you get back with long descriptions of what you did, where you went and what you ate, until the uncomfortable moment is over.
Russia is a good contender for this. Technically it's not celebrated there, though the day is fashionable among young people (so avoid schools/colleges) and the expat community is catered for in a big way with parties and bashes at clubs (and you can avoid those). Also if you hang around until 8 March, if you are a woman, you will be given flowers and chocolate whatever your marital status. And you'll get a day off work, too. It's woman's day.
Meanwhile, in Australia there's a woman's day every week.
It's right there next to New Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Who and TV Week, and often has knitting patterns...
And while we're on the subject of days off, Britain is currently bottom of the league in Europe when it comes to public holidays, with eight compared to the European average of 12. This is, quite frankly, pitiful and distinctly unfair. So, the government should solve everybody's problems by declaring 14 February a national holiday. That way couples can enjoy a guilt-free day together in loveydoveydom, or argue their way round Homebase, whatever best suits them. And single people can avoid the outside world by staying at home, reflecting over why exactly nobody has sent them a card. Or spend the day at a free museum with a friend, or go to the pictures, or call their mothers... That way everybody wins.