There was a time when I looked forward to Valentine's Day.
True, it was about 40-some years ago, back when I was in elementary school in New York City, but it was a pretty darn exciting day plus there was candy involved. It wasn't because I came home with 31 Valentine's cards, one from every boy and girl in my class; it was more because I didn't. If I was lucky, I got one special card from one special someone, although I remember there were a few years when there were several special cards from several special someones. Guess I was working that pigtails and lost-tooth look. And, of course, there was the inevitable card from the "eww" boy -- the freckly kid who picked his nose whenever he was nervous and whose fly was always open, or the one with the crew cut who never got an answer right when the teacher called on him and had a faint smell of liverwurst.
Still, Valentine's Day meant something back then. You didn't have to express your feelings for the entire class and give each kid a card just because it wouldn't be "nice" to exclude anyone, like kids have to do nowadays. You were allowed to love whom you wanted to love, even if it wasn't reciprocated. Heartbreak came with the territory, and we were learning to accept that.
Over the years Valentine's Day lost a lot of its specialness. Even marriage didn't quite salvage it; in fact, it often made it worse. A pricey sparkly something or a dozen red roses can make a wife feel like it's a quick and easy apology after some dreadful slight -- real or imagined -- her hubby bestowed upon her. Or, worse, it raises suspicions -- why is he being so nice to me all of a sudden?
Special or not, Valentine's has remained one of those days you're forced to pay attention to because it evidently proves just how loved you are. A lot of people file for divorce depending on how their spouse treats them on Valentine's Day. Can this marriage be saved with an oyster-champagne-chocolate dinner at a chi-chi restaurant?
But nothing is worse than being divorced and unattached on Valentine's Day. Not that we divorceés have a problem with the day itself -- we don't. It's a "Hallmark holiday," after all, one with such heightened expectations that you have to wonder who can even enjoy it anymore. It's just that the so-called relationship experts are constantly bombarding us with advice and tips on how to "cope" or "survive" the day -- like it's a disease! -- and offering ways to "love ourselves." Too bad most of the advice has us pampering ourselves in ways that we'll still be paying for next Valentine's Day -- either as charges on our credit cards or extra pounds on our body.
It's the adult version of giving everyone in the classroom a card -- we must be "nice" to ourselves. Why should we be excluded just because we don't have a partner on a day that celebrates romance?
Google "surviving Valentine's Day" and you'll get 874,000 results; "coping Valentine's Day" brings 465,000 results, "single on Valentine's Day" brings 72,300,000 results and "divorced on Valentine's Day" brings 9,760,000 results. "Alone," "unattached," "solo" and other buzz words that may convince you that you're so unloved and unlovable, why are you even pretending you're happy have their own disturbing "results."
Of course, it's mostly women who feel that way. I don't think too many men are tweaked if they're single on V-Day and I'm guessing a lot of attached guys wouldn't feel too bad if their partner somehow forgot about it, especially since guys mostly have to fund it. Not to say many would object to getting something special from their partner -- as long as being naked was involved.
The truth is most of us wouldn't feel so bad about Valentine's Day if the messages we kept hearing didn't insist that we do feel bad or that we should. Honestly, I'd rather be solo than in a marriage so fragile that it could bust apart depending on how my hubby treated me on one day of the year.
So now that Valentine's Day is upon us, I have a tip for the unattached: stop listening to the so-called relationship "experts" and their silly advice.
If you do, I can guarantee that you'll survive.
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