(The characters in the image read ‘Hopes and Dreams’).
Today is February 14th! Are you out enjoying it with someone special? My aura of the Single Lady has thrown Cupid’s aim off again, I’m afraid, so perhaps you’ve been like me and have spent the day greedily anticipating all the half-price chocolate tomorrow?
Well, if you are a fellow Singleton, I’m sure you can appreciate that Valentine’s Day is not an easy time of year to be single. It is incredibly hard to feel comfortable with and secure in being on your own when, for the first two weeks of February, every bus stop is plastered with holiday deals for couples, every gift shop is reminding you to buy something for that special someone and every restaurant is reminding you to book a table for two. Essentially, if you are single, for two weeks of the year every year, the message everywhere is as follows: February 14th is nothing to do with you.
Unlike a lot of modern celebrations, the traditional origins of this day haven’t changed– it has always been a day to celebrate romantic love. Like most things, however, it has now been lost in the fog of marketing and advertising and is just an excuse for supermarkets, shops and department stores to prey on peoples’ sincere feelings for someone they care about by guilt-tripping them into wasting their money on extortionate sweets. Now, I’m not saying that I think this is nonsense– of course, it’s lovely to be able to make these gestures to someone, but I can’t help but feel like in this day and age we are constantly told that love is made of material worth as opposed to a connection between human beings.
So it is for this very reason that Valentine’s Day is something I have never understood. If there is a person in the world that you feel that connection with, then why do you need a single day of the year to prove it and why does it have to be done with gifts that are often fragile or disposable? I am sure it was more relevant back in an age where a relationship had a much more serious weight to it for political or financial reasons, but I feel that in this day and age, where relationships tend to be more relaxed and casual, it has become another excuse for mindless consumerism. Why the gifts that expire in less than 24 hours? Are the many days, months, years you have spent together not a gift enough? And why just the one day for celebrating someone we love? Better still, does it really need to be focused just on romantic love? Could we not celebrate all the people we love in all the ways we love them and each and every day? This would be a much more inviting way to open the celebration up to all people across the globe, rather than focusing on one type of relationship and thereby shutting probably about 60% of the population out.
We should advertise big tables for six people wanting to share their friendship as well as teeny tables for a couple. I have started a little revolution to make this happen, this year, as when I’ve been asked if I have a valentine or someone I love, my simple answer is “Yes, I have many”. And there will still be many on February 15th, 16th, 17th… We don’t have to limit showing people we love them to one day. I have friends and family that I love very much, and I don’t stop celebrating the fact that I love them at 23:59 on 14th February. I will still buy them presents to tell them I love them on July 24th. I will still cheer them up by taking them out to dinner on March 16th. I will still tell them I love them and that they mean the world to me on November 3rd. The date makes no difference– I love them, year-round, and I think it’s ridiculous to limit this celebration to one day.
Similarly, some people feel the need to counter-balance this celebration of together-ness by demanding there is also a day for Singletons. February 15th has long been touted as a follow-up celebration for those who don’t have a special someone on February 14th. I am 99% sure that this motion was put forward by someone incredibly patronising who thinks that Singletons need to have some kind of compensation for their bitter loneliness. But again, why should I limit my celebration of being a Single Lady to one day a year? I can celebrate that every day. On a more personal level I also find it rather insulting that the celebration has been suggested as being the day after Valentine’s Day. It’s as if is an afterthought– it’s like the days of the month are literally going “Oh yeah, single people, better tack them on, too”. I also don’t want a day celebrating single life in the winter, because that’s just miserable. Who wants to sit alone at home in the dark and the cold all day? Rather, I suggest we have Singles Day in the summer, so we Singletons get solo traveller deals for long weekends. And big cakes that Singletons can eat all by themselves. Perhaps also DVD box sets on offer, too.
However, all in all, while it is hard to be single with the amount of kisses, hand-holding and hearts around at this time of year, once you sigh and let the thought come and go that maybe, just maybe, it might be nice to have someone around, you are able to separate yourself from the consumerism. You can then examine it objectively and not feel pressured to buy the chocolate or send the flowers or book the table or hotel room. Singletons realise that the advertising is not aimed at us. While on the one hand that’s a problem in itself as it drives home that consistent low-key message that to be single means your life is incomplete, at the same time it means that we can take a step back and realise what a gimmick the whole occasion can be. As I said before, the gesture of showing someone you love them is, of course, a lovely one. There is nothing wrong with that at all. However, the trend among young couples and high schoolers seems to be that Valentine’s Day can be ‘make or break’ for a relationship. But adults and those in more long-term relationships, while they do celebrate the day, recognise that chocolates and flowers are superficial and are not a benchmark of a successful relationship. Trust, teamwork and time are, and you cannot buy any of these things on Valentine’s Day. Singletons, while we may not have a relationship, have the privilege of being party to this knowledge simply because we are outside eyes and I would argue that this ends up working in our favour for romantic relationships later in life, should we choose to have one.
I’ll leave you with this little tidbit. A study in the Netherlands, has shown that people who marry on Valentine’s Day and other special dates actually have an 11% higher divorce rate within five years of getting married. The study suggests it’s down to the fact that venues are harder to secure and are more expensive on days like Valentine’s Day, and costly celebrations are one of the many reasons marriages can become unstable. Quirky and / or romantic dates may not always be convenient for friends and relatives who might be at work, either, leading to lower attendance for the ceremony– another leading factor in marriages becoming unstable. However, I like to think that the higher divorce rate is simply down to Valentine’s Day coming with a bigger amount of social pressure than people realise. The advertising, the billboards, the many shades of pink– they play on our minds and make us force more romance than might really be there. Perhaps the pressure to make this day a romantic one is really nothing more than a distraction, stopping us all from realising that the people we love are in our lives every day and they don’t become any more important on one particular day a year. We don’t need expensive gestures and a specific day to tell them we love them, because they know we love them and they love us, too.
So, Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers! And if you live in the Netherlands and are getting married today, I hope your marriage will be a long and happy one.