PSA: Valentine’s Day Isn’t Real

Valentine’s Day, a creation of the Hallmark industrial complex, is not real. Conversation hearts and boxes of waxy chocolate that serve as placeholders for the actual work of a relationship are what they look like at face value — a panacea for loneliness, a salve against the supposed void left in a life spent unattached. Recognizing that these things are nothing more than smoke and mirrors is the first step to rejecting Valentine’s Day, stripping it bare of its empty promises and seeing it for its truth.

The practical aspects of actually celebrating Valentine’s Day are few and far between. Put on that dress, throw on some lipstick and drag yourself to the bistro down the street. Push around some spaghetti bolognese and drink the cheap wine. Your relationship is now validated by virtue of performance. You’ve gone through the motions. You’ve made a fuss. What could’ve been a quiet night in, spent in the company of someone you love, is now a spectacle. Did you fight in the car on the way home, because the flourless chocolate torte was bitter and you sent it back? Are you silently texting your mom from the front seat, wondering why you’re sharing a 450 square foot apartment with a human that you so clearly hate? Congratulations, you got duped. You were suckered in. Don’t fall for it this year. Don’t succumb. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself, your partner or no one at all to something truly revolutionary — whatever you fucking want. 

There’s no right way to participate in a holiday that isn’t real. The candles and the wine and the edible underwear purchased one night drunk on Amazon while eating pizza in bed are fine to trot out every February 14th, but trust, that’s some shit you can do on any day of the year. Sexiness is tacky. Planned sexiness — lingerie and lace and rose petals and body wax — is gauche. Squishing all the love that you should feel for someone in ebbs and tides over time into one day is giving your relationship less credit than it’s due.

Relationships, like self-care and maintaining your brows, take work. It’s hard work. It’s work that you should be rewarded for, every single day. If you have one, and you’re happy and you know it, clap your goddamn hands and be grateful for that relationship every single day. Don’t just wait for February.  Why would you put all of your happiness eggs in one shoddily constructed basket that intentionally self-destructs after 24 hours?

Pat yourself on the back for being in a relationship, but if you find yourself contemplating the vast chasm of loneliness that is your life on Valentine’s Day, guess what — you’ve won. So much of life is centered on finding a relationship cribbed from the movies or ripped from the pages of a book. A woman attached is a neutralized threat; a single woman is a terrifying mass of unanswered questions. We’re getting better, we are. But, we still prioritize being attached as a sign of normalcy, when really, it’s just not anymore. Valentine’s Day ratchets up the anxiety, but it’s your job to tamp it back down. Defining yourself by your relationship or lack thereof on a day that literally doesn’t matter is silly and reductive. Not to be all Sex And The City about this, but be in a goddamn relationship with yourself. That’s fine. That’s great. Who else is going to be there for you in the end, anyway?

Relationship aren’t the key to happiness. Loneliness isn’t the end of the world. It’s a state of being that is infinitely mutable, changing its shape and recontextualizing itself at every turn. If you let it, loneliness becomes palpable, a sharp stone carried close to the chest that stings every now and then. Loneliness and being alone are two sides of the very same coin. We fear one and cherish the other.  Stop being afraid of being alone, especially on Valentine’s day, because remember that none of this matters anyway.

So, this Valentine’s Day, celebrate the relationship you’re in, however you see fit. Clean the grout in the bathroom and read a book. Throw whatever’s left in the crisper in your slow cooker and go to yoga. Fall asleep snoring gently on the couch next to your person in front of a Property Brothers marathon. Tell someone that you love them, not because the seasonal aisle at Duane Reade shouts at you to do so, but because you want to. It’s just a day after all. There will be more.