February is a month of survival. It’s dressing in layers and layers of clothing just to go out and get the mail, only to find that you are still shivering despite wearing 3 pairs of fuzzy socks. It’s slathering your hands in so much Germ-X that they seem to permanently burn, only to spend a week locked in the house as you cough up your internal organs. It’s trying (and failing) to recall what any color besides gray looks like. It’s wanting to cry every time you see the sun.
For college students, February is trying to hold yourself together long enough to make it to that mythical land called “spring break”.
For many, the most crucial day of survival is February 14—the dreaded Valentine’s Day. This is the day where the people who are in a relationship scramble to find the perfect present or plan the perfect date without it all blowing up in their face. This is the “Single’s Awareness Day” that has given almost all single people a temporary addiction to ice cream and a phobia of the color red. Valentine’s is the day of “be loved or be forever alone”, “date or be ditched”, “spend or be spent”.
You either love it or you hate it. There’s no gray area among those shades of pink.
When I was growing up, I loved Valentine’s Day. I would even go as far to say that it ranked #3 on my list of favorite holidays, right after Christmas and Easter. Back then, Valentine’s was all about the chocolate, crayon-tattooed paper hearts, and showing off the valentine stash I gained from school. So what if there were hearts and cupids and roses everywhere? They all represented love, didn’t they? Who doesn’t love love?
I think my distaste for Valentine’s Day came when I realized that it wasn’t just love, it was romantic love. The pressure to love and be loved twisted my entire perspective. Suddenly, Valentine’s was only for those who had a significant other. It was a day for couples to show just how much they adore each other and show the rest of the world what it was missing out on. It was a day to feel sick and not get trampled by the gigantic teddy bears some kids struggled to drag through the school hallways.
Valentine’s was a day for me to lock myself in my own thoughts, focus on nothing but the bitter taste of dark chocolate on my tongue, and survive until it was February 15th and the world was sane again.
This was my perspective throughout most of middle and high school, but lately, I’ve noticed that my feelings towards Valentine’s Day have changed yet again. For the past two years, February 14th…hasn’t really been all that different from any other day. I wake up, go through my day, maybe smile at some of the cute things I see people doing, and I feel completely fine. I’m single, yes, but that shouldn’t keep me from going out into the world to soak up what itty bitty rays of sunshine are available, or prevent me from eating an entire box of chocolates and, heaven forbid, enjoy it!
My indifference towards the holiday shocked me at first. In fact, the first time it happened I tried to force myself to gripe and complain because things just didn’t feel right without letting the hate flow through me. My journey towards the dark side of Valentine’s couldn’t be complete without it.
Here’s the thing, though. It’s okay to be single, or in a relationship, and not hate Valentine’s Day. Even though the ads and culture insist that Valentine’s is a day only for romantic love, it doesn’t have to be.
I mentioned earlier that my childhood love for Valentine’s came from the candy and class parties, but I failed to mention one other thing that made the holiday special: my parents.
I know, I know. Cheesy. But what’s Valentine’s without a little sentimentality?
My family has had a special Valentine’s tradition for as long as I can remember. When I was little my Valentine’s Day would always end with the sound of the doorbell. The minute I heard it, I would race towards the front door and fling it open to see a pile of candy and even the occasional stuffed animal lying on the doorstep, not a single person in sight. There was always something for me and each of my siblings labeled “from Mom and Dad”. In my younger years, I swore it was magic. How could they do all this without us catching them? As I got older the fun of being surprised morphed into the fun of seeing my younger siblings surprise. Even at 19 years old I love this tradition, because it always reminds me that I have people who love and care for me.
There are different kinds of love. There’s romantic love, yes, but there’s also brotherly (or sisterly) love, friendly love, universal love, and so on and so forth. Our self worth and who we are as people are not based solely off of our relationship status, whatever it might be. Who we are is a conglomeration of every single person we have loved and who has loved us, a mixture of relationships we have both formed and lost over the years.
So my advice for surviving Valentine’s Day? Don’t. And by that, I mean don’t look at this holiday as a war zone, as something to be survived. Look at it as an opportunity to appreciate those around you. Yes, it might just be you and your cat. Yes, you might burn the dinner you spent hours cooking for your significant other. Yes, you might not of gotten the exact necklace that you wanted. But don’t let it ruin your day, or the rest of your year. Take a step back and remember that your life does not depend on that one day in the middle of February. Love, in all it’s forms, should not rely on the perfect Valentine’s Day.
And hey, if that fails, you can always take advantage of the candy that will inevitably be on sell once it’s all said and done.