February 14 is inescapable every year, but it seems even harder to avoid when you’re single. Every shop has its own Valentine’s Day-themed section in the run-up to the dreaded day. There are cards, flowers, teddy bears, heart-shaped chocolates, sexy underwear embroidered with little kisses — you name it, at every turn there is another reminder of love. There is no better day to feel as painfully a l o n e as this annual holiday.
Maybe I am so cynical because I don’t have a valentine. Maybe if I felt loved in a romantic way then I would appreciate the fourteenth of February and eagerly await its arrival every year. Being alone on Valentine’s Day goes hand in hand with the feeling of being unlovable. It’s a stark reminder that you are painfully single. You can love yourself and enjoy being single, yet still feel that dooming pang in your chest when you see couples confessing their love for one another on their Instagram stories. Maybe this year I’ll throw my phone into the Liffey so I don’t have to see another ‘love you so much’ post. I roll my eyes when I hear what my friends’ boyfriends got them for a Valentine’s present, but in reality my reaction may be masking my true feelings of loneliness that creep up more than ever this time of year.
“But every year as we approach Valentine’s Day I feel more alone than ever before.”
Being single is automatically considered to be a bad thing in our society – well, at least that’s how it has appeared to me. Those around me in relationships often remark that they don’t envy me when it comes to my numerous failed talking stages, being ghosted at least twice a week, the treacherous realm of online dating and all of the other fun stuff that goes along with the single life. Without meaning any harm, people are quick to ask about my love life. “Are you seeing anyone, Ria?” No. “Any nice boys?” No. I smile and shake my head while inside I scream and scream and scream. I have tried to make peace with being single. I have done all of the ‘right’ things, like journaling and smiling at myself in the mirror and going on solo coffee dates in order to realise, not just that it’s okay to be alone, but that it’s crucial to learn to be by yourself. But every year as we approach Valentine’s Day I feel more alone than ever before. The feelings that I have tried to remove and grow away from become prominent again and I find myself longing for what I don’t have, even though I know that’s not truly what I want deep down.
Why is this? What makes one day a year so hateful? Why is being single a negative thing on Valentine’s Day? Chatting with a friend, we both agreed that it is naturally embarrassing to be perceived as not being in a relationship; even if we don’t believe this ourselves, it is how we are taught to view being single. With the dreaded fourteenth finally upon us, we need to make sure that we are so distracted that we don’t even have the time to remember that it’s Valentine’s Day. Quick! Instead of being alone this Tuesday night we MUST do SOMETHING! Galentine’s it is! Let’s get very, very drunk and go out and drink cocktails and list all of the amazing reasons for being single. And maybe if we drink enough our feet will magically take us to Coppers where we can maybe find some fellow singles who are also celebrating this dreaded holiday. Why, I ask, wouldn’t a night in suffice? Is being single really that bad? When I think of Valentine’s Days in the past, my happiest memories have been receiving love from those around me, and never in a romantic way. My mum used to put little chocolate hearts in our lunch boxes every year, a reminder of her love as I sat down to eat in between classes. Despite knowing the importance and lasting nature of the love that comes from family and friends, I feel like myself and so many others still feel that pang stemming from the empty space when you’re single on February 14.
“Love should be evident through every aspect of our lives every other day of the year.”
Not only is Valentine’s Day a somewhat unenjoyable day for singles, but it also places unrealistic pressure on couples to pull out all the stops in order to make each other feel loved. If you don’t receive a present or if your significant other doesn’t book a romantic restaurant the natural response is to feel annoyed or upset. It’s been instilled in us that if Valentine’s Day isn’t celebrated in extravagant ways then we are not loved enough. While it is lovely to receive gifts — despite my cynicism — it shouldn’t take a card or flowers to remind us that we are loved, and it shouldn’t be through giving gifts that we express our love. If you are single and don’t receive a gift that morning your mood is automatically brought down, as if buying something is a direct measure of love. It becomes a game of comparison; flicking through social media and seeing what others have received can make you feel short-changed. Just because your boyfriend didn’t get you an engraved necklace doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. And just because you got your girlfriend an expensive gift doesn’t prove that you love her. As well as this, if you have a rocky relationship does one day of presents and nice meals and maybe some sex suddenly mitigate that? By emphasising material elements as a hallmark of love, a toxic approach to love and relationships has been created. Love should be evident through every aspect of our lives every other day of the year. The true meaning of Valentine’s Day has been lost beneath the teddies and heart-shaped memorabilia.
I, for one, am anti-Valentine’s Day, and you should be too.