When I was in middle school, my school sold these things called Candy Grams the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. For a dollar, a lollipop and a note would be delivered to the person of your choosing on February 14th. I was in luuurrrvvvve with this boy Jesse. He looked like a young Leonardo DiCaprio and his family owned an amusement park and because we did alphabetical seating, he sat behind me in every class. We kind of became friends, meaning he copied all my homework and cheated off of me on tests. Friendship! The only thing I wanted in the whole world was a Candy Gram from Jesse. A thank you for helping him pass 7th grade perhaps? An admission of his love for me? I stayed up every night that week imagining what my Candy Gram from him would say. February 14th came and went. No Candy Gram from Jesse. I got in the car at the end of the day and started to cry. My Grandpa picked me up from school every day. I was sulky and hormonal in that special 13-year-old kind of way and he would try to get me to laugh by pretending like I was on trial and he was presenting my case. I don’t know why exactly, but he was really into this game.
“Ladies and gentleman of the jury…” he would start. I would stare out the window with my arms crossed or roll my eyes. So, on Valentine’s Day, I got in the car and he started. “Ladies and gentleman of the jury, today we are here to determine why this beautiful young lady is crying…”
I told him about Jesse and how he didn’t give me a Candy Gram. My grandpa got really serious. He looked at me in the rearview mirror, cleared his throat, and in a deepened voice said, “Ladies and gentleman, the jury has reached a verdict. Candy Grams are dumb.”
My tears turned to laughter, and my laughter turned to hiccups. My Grandpa was right. Candy Grams were totally dumb. It was a lame slip of paper and a cheap, dollar-store lollipop. Not even chocolate! DUMB! Why hadn’t that occurred to me? Because, I, like everyone else in the 7th grade, was buying into the Valentine’s Day hype to the point of losing perspective. Our expectations were getting the better of us and there was no one stopping the frenzy (probably because all the Candy Gram funds went to the student council and they wanted to sell a lot of them).
So, today, I’m going to do us all a favor my Grandpa did for me, and keep this holiday in perspective. Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day that no one says often enough: it’s kind of dumb! I’m not just saying that because I went through a breakup a few months ago and will not be receiving any Candy Grams if you know what I mean. When I say Valentine’s Day is kind of dumb, I guess what I mean, more specifically, is that having big expectations about the holiday is dumb. It doesn’t matter if you’re dating someone or not. So many ideas, so much pressure about how we should be spending February 14th are imposed upon us externally, that it becomes way too easy to lose perspective. Case in point: I’ve gotten no less than 95 emails from FTD flowers reminding me to send roses. I DON’T NEED TO SEND ROSES TO ANYONE! PLEASE, LEAVE ME ALONE!! Valentine’s Day is a day! No different than any other day! Really! Below, some things Valentine’s Day should not be used as an excuse for.
1. Throwing a bitter party. You may be single and bitter, or coupled and bitter, or divorced and bitter. You may have good reason to be terribly, terribly bitter about love. I’m not taking that away from you. But Valentine’s Day does not give you carte blanche to feel sorry for yourself. You don’t get to sulk. Or be mean to your co-worker who got a chocolate delivery. Or be a general, bitter piece of shit all day because you’re not getting a Candy Gram.
2. Contacting your ex. I urge you NOT to contact any of your exes on Valentine’s Day. Due to the external pressure I mentioned above, it’s too loaded. I’m not saying you shouldn’t contact your ex, but if you really want to, sleep on it for a week and see if you still feel like contacting the ex on February 24th, when all the chocolate is on sale.
3. Going on an emotional bender. You might be feeling lonely, or reflecting on why you don’t have romantic love in your life or mourning a love that was lost. That’s perfectly fine and normal. But don’t let it lead you down a rabbit hole of catastrophic thinking. You start with It would be really nice to get a Candy Gram and before you know it you’re at Who’s going to be there with me, holding my hand when I die? Come on, now. No need to spiral out of control. Indulging in feeling lonely on Valentine’s Day never really leads anywhere productive. Instead, challenge yourself to think more productive thoughts like What are some things I can do to be more open to love in my life this year ?or Let me remind myself why the ex and I didn’t work.
4. Testing the person you’re dating. Valentine’s Day is not a test to see how much the person you’re dating cares about you. There is no report card at the end of the night. If there’s something you want to do to celebrate, don’t wait for someone else to plan it. The people we date aren’t waiting around all year to make our magical Valentine’s Day fantasies happen.
5. Demanding an expensive gift. If the person you’re dating has the funds to buy you an expensive gift and does it from the bottom of his/her heart, then consider yourself lucky. If the person you are dating does not have the funds to buy you a mini pony with a diamond collar, so what? It doesn’t mean they love you any less. Don’t be that person who makes the holiday all about material gain. And please, dear God, don’t use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to push for an engagement ring.
6. Internet stalking. Getting on Facebook/Twitter/Google and looking at pictures of your ex and his or her new love is always a bad idea in my opinion. But if this is an activity you’re not ready to give up, fine. Just abstain for 24 hours.
7. Putting up an online dating profile to land a date. Please, put up an online dating profile. But don’t do it the week of Valentine’s Day. No need to get desperate, looking for a date, any date come February 11th. Being alone isn’t a bad thing. It’s a thing that everyone needs to learn to do at one point or another. If that doesn’t motivate you, remember that there is no lonelier feeling than spending Valentine’s Day with someone you don’t care for.