It’s easy to hate on Valentine’s Day; it’s a corporate holiday that preys on our consumer habits. But, really, the animosity springs from elsewhere. After all, anyone who’s been struck by Cupid’s arrow knows the exchange of love does not come in the form of roses or chocolates or diamonds. It’s not the artificial marketing of love that gets under our skin. No, the reason the single and lonely throw shade at that half naked man-baby angel is because we’re jealous his OCD-ass didn’t drug us with one of his soma-coated arrows. Coming face-to-face with all those heart-shaped cards at our local Target merely serves as a reminder of that which is absent from our lives.
I should know, because I’m one of those single and lonely bastards. And yet, I’ve never been able to wage war against Valentine’s Day. Sure, it’s not a party holiday brimming with booze or food or fireworks, but it makes for a great excuse to share some whimsy with those you love. I’m not talking about that redhead crush of yours with the killer body, nor he with the slicked-back hair and black-rimmed glasses you’ve been eyeing at The Beat for a month. That’s not love, that’s lust.
If loneliness has taught us anything it’s that the fear of being alone lends a greater risk of magnifying that emptiness when we stuff it with vacuous filler; its agency afflicts our virtues and muddles our hearts, our character. We begin to make compromises with ourselves. We invest time and energy into people who can help us fuck the pain away, or, at the very least, buy us some time until the real thing comes along. Valentine’s Day seems to magnify our loneliness, although not everyone demonstrates their fear in equal measure. Among the negative personality types that emerge are the self-loathers, the haters and the too cool to care. Except, Hallmark holiday or not, being negative or bitter will not fill the void.
My Valentine’s Day history has been of the “too cool to care” personality type, often making a joke of the occasion. Last year I spent my Valentine’s Day sitting across from a Guy Fieri look-alike shouting “Orgasm now! Orgasm now!” during a hypnotism-induced orgasm workshop at a Mexican restaurant in the suburbs of Georgia. The previous year, I shared hashbrowns with Charles Bukowski over candlelight while people watching at the Ultimate Valentine’s Day Experience at Waffle House.
But there’s something that happens the older you get — you begin to reprioritize that which matters most. There’s beauty in the vulnerability that comes with falling in love, but with it comes the realistic possibility that the love will not be everlasting. The only true love we have in life is that of our family and friends. When the loneliness hits and the breakups derail our spirits, our friends and family are the glue that bind us and prevent us from crumbling.
When New Years Eve hits, we are optimistic. “This year,” we tell ourselves, “I will be different. I will be — better.” We then draft our list of resolutions. Among the most popular: lose weight, quit smoking, spend more time with friends and family. By the time February sidles in, we’re back to our old habits. Then again, maybe I’m just projecting my own shortcomings onto others, specifically the point of spending more time with friends and family.
Over the last year a great aunt of mine died of brain cancer; my father may have cancer; my aunt was struck with a rare disease that nearly paralyzed her; and in moving to the City of Lights and spending more time here with my mom, she’s forgotten enough things that I worry she’s beginning to develop Alzheimer’s. My mom was my first Valentine. Even while away at college, she bought me a little something as a way of telling me, “I will love you and be here for you forever.” Next month I will be turning the dread Dirty Thirty, and regret is not an item I want to add to my bucket list; it’s something that should never haunt any of us.
The law of attraction states that “like attracts like,” which is to say that bitterness or sulking about why you don’t have a date on Feb. 14 will not manifest the partner of your dreams. There exists a better way to counter the emotional distress of loneliness, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. The answer is simple: Love those who love you. Bypass the text and make a phone call. Tell your friends and family, “I love you. Thank you. I want to see you.” Pay the love forward, if not every day, then at least on Valentine’s Day.