Who knows what Valentine's Day commemorates? Although its origins are somewhat cloudy, it seems that it was a pagan fertility day (actually on February 15) that the Pope assimilated for Christians and named for the saint who was martyred on February 14. It apparently became more romantic when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a 1382 poem on that day to celebrate the anniversary of the engagement of England's King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia, both fourteen years old. That's not something that I feel inclined to toast (call me cranky). Anyway, the actual date of their engagement was May 2. The holiday signifies very little indeed. For singles it is a gaudy reminder of their solitary status with hearts and cupids as far as the eye can see.
Even when I was happily coupled the holiday always paled in comparison to events that did signify something. My sentimental feelings are generated by events and milestones that have some significance in my life, not something manufactured by the deeply-romantic, advertisement-driven media. (Yes, that's an oxymoron.) In a free society, we get to choose what events are meaningful for us; we do not have to think or feel the way that others dictate. The holiday was once very low-key, usually involving a hand-written card and perhaps a small box of sweets. Now a pricey present and a romantic meal are often expected. (Of course, this is not the only holiday that has become commercialized beyond recognition.)
All of the single people that I know have that status because they have been through at least one too many bad relationships and have become more discriminating. They are unwilling to settle for Mr/Ms Right-Now. They know that they are much happier alone than in a relationship where there is neither trust nor understanding. Apparently a lot of people have come to that conclusion since recent research has shown that now half of all adults are single, which is up from a third of adults in the seventies. Singles are no longer a minority.
It's helpful to consider that those couples that love to flaunt their connubial bliss are often covering up for significant dysfunction in the relationship (unless they're in their first blush of love). Of the half dozen most overtly devoted couples I have known, five of the males have made inappropriate advances while their other half was oblivious. (And no, I don't flirt with married men.) The sixth one left his stunned wife for his long-term mistress with no warning. Several friends have had similar experiences. Truly happy couples are content to keep their affections discrete; they have no need to publicly parade their love with excessive displays.
Still, for all the singles that feel sad or left out on this day, my five favorite ways to spend Valentine's Day are:
1. Spend the day at a spa getting a massage, facial, seaweed wrap -- the works! You will feel more relaxed, pampered, and self-indulgent than you can remember.
2. Buy yourself a charming little trinket to commemorate a year that you were not in an unhappy relationship. Spend the evening in your comfiest sweats watching your favorite guilty pleasure and sipping hot toddies.
3. Snuggle under your down comforter and write in your journal all of the reasons that you have to be grateful: "Dear Diary, I am healthy. I have work and people that I love. No one glares at me when I pick up the remote. My doggie looks at me adoringly whenever I say his name and his breath never smells of alcohol. We go on long walks every night and he never looks at other women's derrieres (although he might sniff them given the chance)." You get the idea.
4. Go to a Valentine's Dance and sashay out to the dance floor alone (after two stiff drinks). Dance until you are delirious. A friend of mine did this and ended up dancing the night away with the best looking guy in the place. It was great, carefree fun.
5. Buy yourself some rich, dark chocolate and a small (or not) bottle of champagne. Turn on Wagner, Springsteen, or whoever rouses your soul full blast. Chocolate causes the brain to release natural opioids (like morphine) that produce euphoria and dull pain. Chocolate also contains stimulants which quicken the pulse and create the same kind of "high" as being in love, only chocolate will never let you down or betray you (except by giving you thigh bulges)!
And, of course, the champagne tickles your nose, among other things. With great music, a chocolate high, and a touch of the bubbly, you have everything you need for a wonderful evening.
To singles everywhere, have a ridiculously Happy Valentine's Day!
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