When we were growing up, Valentine's Day was about one thing and one thing only: candy. Criminal, insane amounts of candy that no second grader's bloodstream could realistically be expected to take. But take it we did, and with enthusiasm. But it wasn't just about the sugar rush: The holiday was full of whimsy and anticipation. You meticulously selected your empty cereal box, folded construction paper to make hearts in reds and purples and pinks, and haphazardly glued them all together. You spent weeks picking the perfect Valentine theme for your cards, and picking out the perfect one for each classmate. Even the candy you chose spoke so much to who you were as a person that the excitement of it was like the elementary school version of planning a wedding.
I think when we all grew out of that phase of our lives, Valentine's Day started meaning completely different things to all of us. A lot of my friends started putting an insane amount of pressure on the holiday: They started considering it a major score if they happened to be dating someone on V-Day—and bemoaning their fate if they weren't. It was only natural for them to feel that way; greeting card and jewelry commercials pretty much pump the idea of it in our veins the literal second after the sun sets on New Year's Day. We couldn't help but believe that Valentine's Day—who you spent it with and what you did together—spoke disproportionate, illogical volumes about who we were in our relationship, and really, in life.
But Valentine's Day has always felt different to me. I think that's because I never stopped looking at it the way I did when I was a kid. I unabashedly, profusely, and very loudly love Valentine's Day, even though, with the exception of one coupled-up year, I've spent all of them alone.
There are several small factors about me that explain this right off the bat:
- I love the color pink. It makes me happy, and always has, and I've got science on my side to prove that I'm not crazy for feeling that way. I am notorious for wearing an offensive amount of glitter and pink every February 14th, because it's the one day a year nobody will give me weird side-eye about it.
- Another contributing factor to my love of Valentine's Day is that I've always been a kid at heart. ("I just realized you're really childish," is an actual thing an 11-year-old said to me recently.) I still get excited about free candy and paper cards from friends, and I still wake up on Valentine's Day as excited as I did back in my overall days (which are admittedly not quite over).
- Candy. Definitely still candy.
But the truest and most impacting reason I love Valentine's Day so much is that I have never really regarded it as an celebration exclusively of romantic love. For me, Valentine's Day is a celebration of all kinds of love: romantic love, platonic love, love for your family, and love for yourself. It's a day to look around and take stock of just how many people there are in your life who love you, and appreciate them for all that they have done to support you. It's a day to appreciate everything that is great about yourself that makes you worth loving in the first place.
That's why the script for my Valentine's Day has always been different from the typical one. I won't lie and say that my romantic life has been peachy keen. There have been years that I was head over heels for guys who didn't like me; There were years when I was getting over breakups; There were years when my romantic life has been a mess and a half. But somehow, when Valentine's Day rolls around, all of that heartache and stress becomes completely irrelevant, as if by candy heart-scented magic. If anything, Valentine's Day has always been a much-needed break from worrying about the parts of my life where I am not loved—and reminding myself of all the beautiful places where I am.
It helps that this mindset was established pretty early in my life. My mom has always made Valentine's Day feel special. Even when my siblings and I went away to college, she would send us a care package and a card. In adulthood, my sisters and I have always thought of Valentine's Day as more of a family holiday more than a relationship one. We go to movies or bake together, and the years that I haven't been home, I did the same things with friends, or even by myself. I think of Valentine's Day as the ultimate "Treat Yo Self" day, and I've never thought of a relationship as a necessary prerequisite to enjoying it.
In fact, I know I'm not the first person to argue that being single on Valentine's Day is more fun in general. It takes so much of the pressure off. The relationship I was in during the one year I celebrated it with someone was super chill, and even we, Mr. and Mrs. McChillington, ended up becoming giant balls of stress as we attempted to find gifts for each other, and to dress up for a fancy dinner because we were doing what we were "supposed" to do. Really, we would've been a lot better off just going to Jimmy John's and changing into our sweatpants (which we eventually did once all our best laid plans fell through, and it was #BLISS).
I think that February 14th would be a more universally happy day if more people considered it an everyone kind of holiday, and not just a couples holiday. There isn't anything you're "missing out on" by not being in a relationship on Valentine's Day the same way there's nothing you're missing out on by not being in a relationship any other day of the year. Even when I'm not in love, I know I am loved. Over time, I have come to appreciate that more and more, and for me, that has made Valentine's Day more spectacular every year. And also, there's still the gorging on candy. Some things never change.
Image: purplesherbet/Flickr; Giphy(3)