It is February 14th and we cannot escape it – TV adverts promoting special deals, our inbox full of newsletters about gift guides and romantic getaways and happy couples on outdoing each other on Instagram with their surprises for their Valentine. Valentine’s Day has to be celebrated in a big way. It is not enough to give flowers – it has to be a dinner at least, maybe even a trip somewhere, paired with an expensive present. And, of course, anyone can follow online – #myrelationshipisbetterthanyours.
We could blame social media for blowing Valentine’s Day out of proportion. But the frenzy has been there long before Instagram. I was single for most of my twenties and every year I dreaded it. No matter if you are happily single wanting to enjoy your freedom or actually looking for love but without success so far, “Singles Awareness Day” will make sure that you feel like a failure being single. You have to be in a happy relationship – or at least in one that pretends to be happy on Valentine’s Day. When I was single, I made a promise to myself that I would never ever celebrate this silly day. And even though I am in a relationship now, I stick to this promise. No Singles Awareness Day for me.
I never really got it. What is the need to celebrate my relationship in public? Why do we need to outdo our friends and their partners? Why prove to social media followers that we all are in perfect relationships? Is it because we want to escape from reality? Is it because we feel better just because we have “found someone”? All that glitters is not gold. And most of the time, the most glittering proposals, weddings and Valentine’s Days do not reflect the reality. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship.
Similar to Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day has become another day fuelling consumption. Mid-February is the perfect time to create a reason to shop: Christmas happened almost two months ago and Easter is not as big as Christmas spending-wise. I do not need a special day to do something nice for my partner, take him on a date or give him a present. I rather prefer celebrating on random days. Flowers are nice, but my presents are a bit more thoughtful. Let’s be honest, we throw flowers away a few days after we got them. Gone is the Valentine’s experience. And last but not least, I definitely do not make a big (online) show out of these gestures. This is a very private thing between me and my partner, sorry Instagram.
Furthermore, why did we create an entire day which excludes people who are not in relationships? Why do we make singles feel second class – or, worse, unloved? And why do we keep reminding them that their “only mission in life” is to find a partner? Love is something beautiful, but I know how it can feel when you go through a string of bad dates or relationships. Every year on Valentine’s Day, I saw the happy couples around me and asked myself what was wrong with me? Why has it not worked out for me?
Why didn’t it? Simply because I had not found the right person and because it was not the right time. I decided to rather stay on my own instead of being with someone just for the sake of having a relationship and not feeling alone. These phases were important. I learned who I really was, what I wanted and what I looked for in a partner. If I had been with someone who I did not really care about for the sake of being in a relationship, I would have never found that out.
For women, there are enough events reminding us to make “the right choices”. Work colleagues ask us why we are not married, other women remind us that the “biological clock is ticking” and if we are single, we constantly need to justify why. Whatever your justification, the answer is always the same. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” for women in their twenties, or a pitiful look if you are 30+. Do we really need yet another day to enforce stereotypes and expectations?
I think in 2022, Valentine’s Day should be more inclusive. Shouldn’t we have reached the point where we celebrate love in broader terms? I see people celebrate “Galentine’s Day” on February 13th and quite like the idea – it is the day to celebrate your female friendships. Why do we not move it all to Valentine’s Day and turn it into the day of love for everyone. Let’s think about ALL the people we love and make it less about the show and really care. Think about those who may be on their own today. Let’s pick up the phone and call a loved one you are thinking about today. I promise you, no Instagrammable Valentine’s experience can beat that.