Single on Valentine’s Day

When I was in grade school, I used to hate getting my tests back. Not because I was a bad student , and not because I dreaded some draconian punishment if I did poorly. On the contrary, I had good grades and my parents were very permissive. No, I hated getting my tests back because I hated seeing what I had done wrong, marked up in red ink. If only I had studied more on chapter six…I knew the answer was Jefferson, not Hamilton, why did I change it? Ahhh!…Why am I so stupid? Looking at my mistakes, in black, white, and red, was agonizing.

So, Valentine’s Day. Time’s up, pencils down. Did you pass? Do you have a woman on your arm this weekend? Are flowers being sent to your apartment this Saturday? It feels like a test. If I had only spent a little more time staying in shape…I knew I should have waited to call. Why is Valentine’s Day so dreaded? Not because we’re single – we’re just as single on February 13th as we are on February 14th – but because we are forced to confront our singleness. Like looking at a graded test, we are forced to see our failures.

It hurts, not because we are alone, but because we wonder why we are alone. For some of us, the answer comes easily – perhaps a divorce, perhaps a messy break-up, or perhaps just single-minded dedication to career or school – and we can just shrug off Valentine’s Day. But for the rest of us, those who put in the time and energy, the mental and emotional investment, and still came up short, when we wonder why we are alone, and the answer is not so easy. I have tried my best, so why am I still single? Is something wrong with me? Valentine’s Day asks us a question for which there is no dignified answer. No wonder people hate it.

So, what do you do, come Saturday? Try to forget, somehow? Go to a singles’ night at the local bar, go dancing with fellow single friends, or do some other socially-acceptable substitute activity? Yes! Enjoy a nice Saturday night. But what if you can’t enjoy yourself? What if you feel that you’re only doing these things to avoid thinking about the terrible question of Valentine’s Day? Go anyways. But before you head out, make a note to yourself – I am going to set aside some time tomorrow to think about this.

Then, Sunday afternoon, find a nice quiet place, perhaps a window desk at the local library, with only a pen and paper. No TV, no internet, no music. Just you and your thoughts. Let’s be realistic here – there will be no magical epiphanies or beams of light shining upon you from the heavens. But you are going to spend one or two hours staring at a sheet of paper, thinking about yourself and your life, and when was the last time that happened? Start with the basic question – why am I still single – but turn it around. Why do I care so much? Can I be happy with myself even though I am single?

If you can be happy with yourself even though you are single, then you shouldn’t care so much Valentine’s Day. After all, you can confront your singleness, and still be happy. Looking into the mirror on Valentine’s day shouldn’t bother you at all. But no, Valentine’s Day does bother us – we can’t be happy for ourselves if we are single. And this is a real problem, because what we are saying is we need someone else to love us in order for us to love ourselves. In other words, we need someone else to validate us.

Again, this is a problem. If you look to relationships not as a meeting of equals, but as a lifeline to save yourself from failure, things will not go smoothly for you. You might find someone with a Messiah complex, but do you really want your relationship to be one of the-savior-and-the-saved? Life isn’t meant to work that way. You need balance. Don’t look to other people for validation; self-worth must come from other sources.

Find a way to be proud of yourself in an honest way. You might find that you need to do some heavy lifting – become more mature, more responsible, more generous, more kind – do it. But become someone who doesn’t depend on their relationship status for happiness. How? You’d laugh if I said I knew how. Besides, giving you a good recipe doesn’t make you a good cook. It could take years. But at the end of those years, you want to be able to say this. Let’s call it the Single’s Creed:

I’m not perfect, I’ve got issues. I know dating someone doesn’t solve those issues. I won’t seek relationships to ignore my problems. My self-worth doesn’t depend on my relationship status. When I enter a relationship, it is for what I can give, not what I can get. Finding someone will make me happy, but I can be happy without finding someone.

Next year, you might be single, you might not. Who knows? But perhaps, next year you will care a little bit less. Perhaps next year Valentine’s Day will feel a little less like a test of your value as a human being. And perhaps eventually, if you find yourself single on Valentine’s Day, it won’t bother you at all.

6 thoughts on “Single on Valentine’s Day”

  1. I agree with you Josh. Oddly (to some), I never celebrated Valentine’s day. I looked it up in elementary school and realized it was about a massacre and some other junk. So when I began dating I told each boyfriend he was exempt from V-day and must treat me well every other day. He could pick whatever day he wanted to do something extra special for me just because and vice versa. It only confused one guy…he thought it was some kind of trick.

    I went to an impromptu dinner at a friends house this V-day and only one couple in the bunch. It was great.

  2. Hi Lala,

    Thanks for your kind comments. I agree with your take, Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be anything more than some frivolous fun.

  3. This is an excellent article. I love the way you compare valentines day to a test and show how we tend to be so hard on ourselves. I believe the key to happiness starts within yourself. But not by critising our faults. Simply by realizing them and making changes. I look forward to reading future articles.

  4. Totally took your post to heart JOSH! I think your SINGLES’ CREED is right on — taking on a less desperate mentality about the dating scene helps give off a somewhat devil-may-care vibe that’s kinda sexy. So I’m told.

    Went out dancing with my single gals — and we had a BLAST! Most of us ended up giving out our contact info to quite a few takers. I’ve already been on a couple dates since.

  5. Hi sA6! At the risk of sounding like a broken record – don’t just give off a less-desperate-vibe, BE less desperate. One of the pitfalls in dating, I think, is false advertising. We’re often so focused on getting that first date, that we forget that even if things go to plan, we actually have to start a relationship with someone who thinks you’re someone else!

    Mrinsight – thanks for your comments. I agree.

  6. I know the feeling… Here’s something that happened to me the night before V-Day…

    Last night I had a dream. The dream of the most vivid imagination, the imagination of one who wishes to never be alone, the imagination of one who lives in a world which bends light and blocks sight.

    This dream was that of a struggle, the struggle and conflict which rages inside all who are alone and seeking answers. I was fighting, I was that of the role which takes on a form of an agent, a lawman so it seemed, seeking justice… To put right that which has been wronged. My life was in mortal danger, but I was strong, so so strong. My aim was deadly and my fist that of steel. Looking down the barrel of many guns and taking them on with Vengeance!!!!

    I watch as the last one begged for mercy, after watching the last of his consorts fall to the mistake in judgment he had made before confronting me and my will. I spared this man’s life and apprehended him and had him taken away. Then I saw it, a door… One that was in plain view of the carnage and righteous fury which was my scorn. That which was being guarded by the foul and filth that dared curse my name. I reached for the handle, opened the door slowly, Looked in to find a girl, strangely the sent of this room was inviting, sweet and perfumic. The atmosphere was also pulling on every since of my soul, tender and soft as if to be calling to me. I look across the room, to this girl… She motions me to come closer, she seemed scared, I think to myself she must have been kidnapped I should save her and take her into my strong arms…

    As I walk towards her I find that it was I that suddenly turned weak and my resolve had broken. I reach the girl and I was a pulp/ a shell of the man I was just moments ago. Suddenly she says my name, I stare deep into her eyes, she says “I knew you would come, and now it is I that shall save you, my love…” We end in a loving embrace, hugging and kissing, the sweet passionate scene one would view at the end of a movie. The hair of black with red highlights, the skin of that kissed by the sun, the red pouty lips, the dress… That of blue silk with a bow tied off in the middle. It was real and I knew it!

    It was real, so so real… It was tormenting and blissful I wanted it to never end, I had everything that was missing in my life in that one moment. Suddenly I was ripped unfairly away, to my empty room in my empty bed in my empty house. Had it all just been a dream??? If so, then why was I blessed with such feelings and emotions, to just have been mocked and teased? I still have that thought in my head which will stay with me always…

    I don’t know, just thought I would share this with you all… Make your comments as you wish, I am going to go weep in the woe and bask in the memories of this dream. Perhaps for a brief moment I can have that happiness again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *