Oh, Valentines Day. So much meaning, so much significance, all packed into a single 24-period. It’s like the New Years Eve for lovers, wannabe lovers, and those trying to rekindle the love. At its best, the day is an occasion to step out of life’s dogged routine to cherish and honor the people you care about (a worthy endeavor by any account). At its worst, it’s 24 hours of overly-hyped excessively-priced commercial madness that many don’t look forward to, and definitely don’t enjoy.
Of course there are people who adore Valentine’s Day, who truly relish a day devoted to the mass celebration of their love. And for those who dread it (aka, single people) there are always the lucky few who manage to land a great date on that Day Set Aside for Mythical Great Dates (any night that can withstand that pressure is surely worthy of some wine and chocolate!).
But for the bulk of singles, notwithstanding the promise of some good chocolate sales, Valentine’s Day can feel like a New York Times trend story come to life; a national reminder that you are alone, possibly alone forever, a brutal kick in the gut delivered with hearts and balloons for good measure.
And yet, there is another way to do this holiday. This Valentine’s Day, consider this: your singlehood is not a burden or a curse. It’s the perfect opportunity to spend pure, unadulterated time with the source of your happiness and well-being as a single person (or any person, for that matter): your friends.
First, before you shrug my idea off, let’s dispel the notion that you’re the sole human on earth who isn’t spending V Day with a significant other. Just look at the stats. Fifty percent of adult Americans are single — a number that roughly translates into 17 million women and 14 million men — and 31 million of them live alone. A national lonely hearts club, you say? Quite the opposite. According to Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo, the Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, people are choosing to live alone, and despite the best efforts of every romantic comedy ever made to convince us otherwise, many of those consider their current single status “a mark of distinction, not a social failure.”
Meanwhile, the state of modern friendships is currently in technology-driven upheaval. In this world of emoticons and Facebook updates, we tend to get time with friends–the very relationships which sustain us through all the bad dates, breakups, and brush offs that consist of 90% of romantic life–in 140-character doses or artfully filtered status updates. But study after study shows that actual in-person contact with a smaller number of friends makes people far happier than hordes of Facebook friends. So what’s wrong with setting aside Valentine’s day for some IRL time with the people who touch your life the most?
Nothing. Obviously. But when every pink heart and red rose is poised to remind you of your supposed unhappiness in the face of singledom, it’s good to point out the obvious. The less celebrated truth is that friendships, the good kind, the invaluable, reliable, deeply meaningful kind that survive thick and thin, require real work and attention, just as romantic relationships do.
So if you’re single, throw off the tyranny of the National Day of Shamed Aloneness! Kidding. Sort of. If we are now a country in search of the perfect studio apartment (Bloomberg is on this, by the way) then we are also a country in search of new and better ways to sustain our important friendships in the real world. Plan a bowling outing, or a Mexican fiesta at the kind of place that hangs Christmas lights above the bar. Have a singles-only dinner party and cook something indulgent. Saunter into that high-end yoga class that’s usually packed with prim married ladies. Whatever you do, do it with a cherished and beloved friend, and find a way to express the value he or she brings to your life.
There’s plenty of dating to be done on every other day of the year, glittery hearts not required.