02/14/2013 12:32 pm ET Updated Apr 16, 2013

It's Valentine's Day: Lighten Up, Have Fun

When did Valentine's Day become such a BIG deal? At some point, when I wasn't looking, Valentine's Day went from being a lighthearted fun semi-holiday to another over-the-top, loud, commercial holiday accompanied by feelings of annoyance and angst for so many. It's not really about "who do you love" anymore. It's about gifts and lavish displays of, well, I'm not sure what.

Once I received a beautiful bouquet of roses from a guy I'd broken up with six to eight months earlier. We really weren't speaking and he's not the sentimental type, so I was more than a little suspect. So I called the florist and learned that he had set up, years ago when we first started dating, an automatic "send her flowers on Valentine's Day" thingy. So each V-Day when I was so pleased with his thoughtfulness, he really hadn't given it much thought at all. Well, maybe the first time... I laughed and said nothing. It took him another two to three years to remember that he had me on automatic delivery and I continued to enjoy my flowers each year. It had nothing to do with him or V-Day; I just like pretty flowers.

And then there was the guy who "surprised" me with a ginormous 10-lb box of chocolates. And it was a surprise because I don't really like chocolate, and he certainly should have known that because we'd talked about it many times. I guess he only pretended to be listening.

Despite all the fakeness around this holiday, lots of single women dread Valentine's Day. (Actually, it's no picnic for many women in relationships, either, as they fret about whether he will do the right thing and honor them with an "appropriate" tchotchke or event.) We need to change that.

For too many single women, Valentine's Day is a loud reminder that they have no man (or woman, in some cases) in their life to love. It's a loud reminder of their sad, lonely lives... even though most days their lives are not very sad and not that lonely. On Valentine's Day it is. And the lead-up to it is fraught with anxiety because "whatever will she do" on this day when happy couples all over the country are celebrating? (Even though that isn't really happening).

When I was a kid, I loved Valentine's Day. I got such a kick out of giving out Valentine's Day cards with big red hearts to all the people who made me happy. I gave them to my parents, my teachers, favorite classmates, my playmates, even the mailman. Back then, Valentine's Day was fun, and it was an excuse to tell the people who make you happy how much they mean to you. Romance had nothing to do with it when I was 10.

Every year, I hear from single women who are dreading Valentine's Day. It seems to be even more anxiety-provoking than New Year's Eve. Just like the long Christmas season has become less religious (for many) and more of a good excuse to (re)connect with people, I wish Valentine's Day was less about romance and more about an opportunity to remind people or tell them for the first time that you enjoy them... they matter to you. A day to have a little fun.

When I'm not in a relationship on Valentine's Day, I like to have a fun dinner or some other outing with people who make me laugh. Not a gloomy, woeful dinner with whiny people who are miserable about being single, but interesting and delightful people who happen to be single... single for now or single forever. It's fun.

And this is what I recommend for everybody. Let's reclaim Valentine's Day and experience it the way we did when we were kids by injecting some lightheartedness into this day so fraught with emotion.
▪ Have dinner with fun friends.
▪ Go bowling or plan some other group outing for people you know and enjoy but may not see as often as you'd like. It's a great excuse to reconnect!
▪ Volunteer at a nursing home or children's organization and surprise them with V-Day cards and trinkets so they can share in the day's fun.
▪ Treat yourself -- and maybe even someone else -- to flowers. Flowers can brighten anyone's day!
▪ Buy a pack of Valentine's Day cards and give them to anybody and everybody you want.

Let's make Valentine's Day about love and luv, not just romance -- love of great people in your life, love of laughter, love of life. And you don't need a date for that! Make it fun and it will feel real good!