Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ho-hum…Just Another Valentine’s Day

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone…sigh. There’s something about this holiday that makes it seem “exclusive”… like it’s a holiday only if you happen to be in a relationship that day – for people flying solo, you need not apply because this is a holiday for lovers! Lol..

For lovers… or for love????

You would think that with all the hype and commercialization that goes on around this time of year that retailers would’ve got smart by now and realize that they’re missing out on a huge part of the market: singles. Sure, they’ve got a sweet deal going on by creating valentines for kids give to out to each other…and it helps of course that the schools require kids to bring enough Valentines for every member of your class. But what about single adults? There are plenty of them out there – just look at the myriad of dating websites that exist. There are sites for the young and the old, the millionaires and the not-so-rich, from Christian-specific to any religion, and of course, even ethnic specific. Singles come in all types of shapes, sizes, and belief systems and yet Valentine’s Day retailers have failed to capitalize on this. What does this say to us? That singles are somehow unlovable???
There’s something about being solo and a mid-lifer that lends itself to seeing the day differently. I’ve been able to enjoy Valentine’s Day in a different light – without any feelings of sadness, self-pity or loss. Sure, I may not be in any relationship with a “lover” but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be enjoying the day as a celebration of LOVE, period.

Growing up, Valentine’s Day was always a big deal… in large part because my dad really enjoyed the holiday. Without failure (and even up to now), my dad would buy us kids a heart-shaped box of chocolates accompanied by a Valentines card that in so many words said, “I love you.” As an adult, I have always appreciated the gesture and as a parent, I have continued my father’s tradition by bestowing a box of my kids’ favorite chocolate on this day. But as a single person, you can’t help but feel cheated (at least in the earlier years of singledom) by this holiday because of its overemphasis on couples and couple-hood.

It’s bad enough that being single does bring about a certain amount social stigma from time to time. When you’re young and still quite attractive, it’s not such a big deal… it’s easy to deflect the “why aren’t you married yet?’ queries with excuses about the lack of good dating prospects. It’s quite another story when you’re a mid-lifer. I’ve observed at least three things about this status:

(1) People tend to assume there’s something “wrong” with you because you’re still single;

 (2) People think there’s something “wrong” with you if you are genuinely happy without a significant other in your life OR they doubt that you could be genuinely happy without one; and

(3) If you’ve ever been married before and are now happily divorced, people presume you’re damaged goods…and therefore probably not good relationship material either.

AND all of these stigmas get magnified ten-times over if you can answer “yes” to any of the above on Valentines Day.

For example, this year for Valentines Day I treated myself to a lovely lunch, bought myself some wonderful new shower gels at the local Bath & Body Works store, got dressed up and went out salsa dancing. While at the nightclub, I was in conversation with a newbie to salsa when he asked me, “So, did you get a lot of chocolate and flowers today?”

Hhhmm…the question caught me completely by surprise, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that. Immediately, a number of other questions began to swirl around in my head: If I tell him that I didn’t, will this person think less of me? Will I somehow be perceived as “defective” because I don’t have a special someone to give those to me? I entertained several such questions for about five more seconds before going with my gut.

I then replied with a large smile, “Why no. I believe it’s all about loving yourself too. Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples; it’s about LOVE, and loving yourself as well. So I treated myself out for Valentine’s Day.”

I think my answer came as both a surprise and a reassurance to him – as if he realized that there was no sin or crime for being single…and that Valentine’s Day need not be a painful reminder of the past. I later learned that night that he was still dealing with a fairly recent divorce… and he was feeling the shame and stigma that can often be felt when you have to explain away your marital status, i.e., single status at midlife.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that Valentine’s Day (like Christmas) should be celebrated every day! If we truly see it is as a celebration of LOVE, then the special things that we do or say should be happening each and every day with all of our loved ones, whoever they may be.

Happy V-Day