By Olivia Bothamley-Dakin
Oversized teddy bears with giant red hearts stapled to their bodies. Overpriced set menus. A queue of disgruntled-looking men outside of Clintons. Oh no, it’s that time of year again! It’s Valentine’s Day.
It’s ironic that a holiday designed to celebrate one of the most enjoyable emotions instead brings dread to couples and singletons alike. It’s not all red roses and heart shaped chocolates. Valentine’s Day can exacerbate loneliness, reignite past relationship trauma, and cause way too much unnecessary worry and spending. The consumer world has taken advantage of the celebration of love, and the meaning of the holiday has been lost. Whilst giving or receiving flowers, cards and chocolates is sweet, it’s the thought behind those actions that really important. Valentine’s Day should purely be about that crazy little thing called love.
In fact, Valentine’s Day was once meant for the single amongst us. A day intended for people to express interest in potential suitors has since been monopolised by romantic couples. Now, if you’re left single on Valentine’s Day, you’re stereotyped as a pathetic failure who eats way too much Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and quotes Bridget Jones like the bible. This needs to change; it is about time we reclaim Valentine’s Day for everyone.
Somewhere, there is someone who loves you and who you love back. Spend Valentine’s Day with them. (I stress this isn’t, and probably will never be, your current crush.) Platonic love is underrated. Your friends, family, your neighbour’s cat, whoever or whatever you love —celebrate it.
We have healthy relationships with so many people, so why is Valentine’s Day all about celebrating the relationship between you and your one true love? Relationships with friends and family also provide us with love, comfort, and security. Forget valentines — celebrate with your galentines. Even if you’re dating someone this year and it looks promising, try making your friends your valentines. A year ago, we couldn’t even see our friends. This year, take advantage of the fact you can.
From experience, restaurants on V-Day are not filled with gushy couples, or men sweating nervously about the correct time to go down on one knee. You’ll also find tables of friends standing in solidarity amongst the sea of googly-eyed lovers. If you are single, don’t sit there being a Valentine’s Day Scrooge. Celebrate and champion the love that you do have.
Even if all of your friends last minute cosy up with their significant others, catch a date, or drag a traffic warden from the street so they aren’t without a partner, you can still celebrate love with no one around you. After all, the ancient Greeks celebrated eight types of love. One, and arguably the most important, was philautia: self-love. Sick of not receiving a card from a valentine? Write yourself a love letter. So, you’re single? Own it.
We tend to associate being single as something entirely out of our control, but that isn’t necessarily true. We voluntarily make choices to remain single. You chose to not have something toxic, something boring, something less than what you truly want. Instead, you chose yourself. Self-love is the key to loving others better and the secret to living your best life. Love yourself first this Valentine’s Day, and you never know what next year will bring.
So, whether you have a significant other or not, this is the year to proudly proclaim that Valentine’s Day should not be exclusive to romantic couples. Visit your parents and cook them a meal. FaceTime your friends. Take your dog for a long walk. Volunteer in a homeless shelter. Or indulge in a relaxing bubble bath by yourself. Branch out from the cliché romantic dinners and overdone gestures. Once you do, I promise you’ll dread Valentine’s Day a lot less.
In writing this article, that introductory scene from Love Actually — the Christmas film we all love-to-hate and hate-to-love — has played on a loop rent-free in my head. Yet, we should embrace Richard Curtis’ cliché but genius words this Valentine’s Day. Let’s recognise that love is actually all around.
Illustration: Anna Kuptsova