How to Ignore, Embrace or Reframe Valentine’s Day This Year

Whether you're attached or single, here's some Valentine's Day advice from editorial director Esther Kustanowitz
By Esther D. Kustanowitz  Published on 02/14/2017 at 8:00 AM EDT

You’ve seen the candy aisle. You’ve seen the price of flowers skyrocket and the jewelry commercials proliferate, so you know what day is coming: Valentine’s Day, when you’re supposed to spend a lot of money on roses and chocolates and dinner and romance and jewelry – at least that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re in a relationship. As Mayim will remind you, Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday that she never enjoyed. It puts tremendous pressure on people – rushes them to define relationships that are still forming, creates great expectations that are almost certainly too high to be met, and of course, continues the constant work of reminding single people that we are single.

So what is one to do, if one is – by choice or by circumstance – without a partner on Valentine’s Day? Here are some suggestions from a veteran of Valentine-less Valentine’s Days.

  1. Ignore it. It’s one day a year. It’s a made-up holiday. In fact, if you want to get historical, the holiday has what NPR calls “dark origins” – originally based on a pagan holiday called “Lupercalia,” in which “The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain” (NPR.) Charming. The holiday was expanded and renamed marking the day that two people, both named Valentine, were executed by ancient Romans. If you read that and thought, “How romantic! At least they were together at the end…” you’ve probably seen too many commercials pushing romantic love down your throat. I sympathize, truly. So let’s consider one of the other options.
  2. Embrace it. Whatever it was in pagan or Roman times, now it’s about love, which is many-a-splendored thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all we need is love. Right? If love is something you want in your life but don’t currently have, that’s okay. Watching commercials will tell you that it’s not, but they’re wrong. And if you’re optimistic enough to look at the world and say, “love is out there, but it’s also in here” – at which point you motion to your ribcage where your heart resides – then you’re probably one of the people who will find it. But probably not before the end of Valentine’s Day 2017. Make it a goal for the new year, but not an obsession. And keep being the wonderful you that you are.
  3. Reclaim and reframe it. Don’t like Valentine’s Day? Wouldn’t even eat pink and red M&Ms in celebration? (That seems extreme and like a waste of good candy, but ok.) A friend of mine pointed out that some people are rebranding it as “Galentine’s Day” – the origins of which lie with Amy Poehler’s “Parks & Rec,” so we approve. (You can download Galentine’s Day cards here.) While Galentine’s Day purists will tell you it’s February 13, we’re giving you an extension: this is a day to hang out with your girlfriends (“yaaaas queen”) and listen to Helen Reddy, Pat Benatar, Beyonce and whoever else, and watch chick flicks and do whatevs, because girl power, amiright? But why not expand this concept? There could be “Pal-entine’s Day,” in which you celebrate the mighty men in your life (even if they’re not “in your life” in a way that comes with benefits). Or “Valen-mine’s Day,” in which you do whatever you want, because it’s your day. (I started my “Valen-mine’s Day” on February 13, with a massage. Totally the right call.)  Are you a Star Wars fan whose favorite Darth is Sidious? “Palpatine’s Day.” Big fan of Firefly and Nathan Fillion? “Captain Mal-entine’s Day.” Big into song parodies? “Weird Al-entine’s Day.” Like one of the Impractical Jokers more than the rest? “Sal-entine’s Day.” I could do this all day, and you probably could too. The point is, celebrate what – or who – you love.
  4. Get activist about it. You’re still thinking about those ancient Romans whipping women with animal pelts, aren’t you…well, take that anger, combine it with a resentment of what Valentine’s Day does in a capitalist society that still doesn’t always protect women, pick a cause and get active. Pick a local cause, a health-oriented one, or an organization devoted to programs for the mentally ill (like or creating safer spaces for the most vulnerable.

Many of you may know that Mayim’s new book, Girling Up, is coming out in May. I managed to sneak a peek at the chapter on relationships and I found some of what she wrote to be particularly inspiring: encouraging us to believe that we deserve mutual care, concern and consideration in our relationships, and that it’s worth waiting for:

“Know that your feelings and your heart and your body are wonderful vessels for communicating some of the most profound and life-changing things we get to experience as humans. Learn about your body, trust your gut and don’t ever be afraid to put the brakes on anything that doesn’t feel right. That’s the best gift you can give yourself as well as those you choose to be close to.” 

What we’re saying here is that “love” doesn’t have to mean “romantic, sweep-you-off-your-feet-until-someone-hurts-their-back-ouch-no-I-mean-it-it-really-hurts” kind of love. Love is like a red, red rose, but love is also feeling pride in and happiness with another person. Love is giving of yourself to others who need it. We hope that all of you have someone in your lives who makes you feel better, who makes you smile, who respects you as much as you respect them.

So make room in your heart for love. Make room in your heart for optimism. Use your love and optimism to embrace those who are lonely or in less-fortunate circumstances. And whether you’re single or coupled-up or thrupled-up or “it’s complicated”-up, we got you, boo. You’re all invited to be our GrokNation Valentines by continuing to gather around our content and the issues we discuss here, by treating each other with love.

So if you get sad or lonely on Valentine’s Day, picture me or another member of the GrokNation team throwing Hershey’s Kisses – or Swedish Fish, if you’re vegan – at you. And send someone you appreciate a sideways caret and a numeral 3. Together, they make a <3.

Pro-tip/scrolling bonus: many stores slash prices of Valentine’s candy starting February 15, so why not mobilize the resistance to have your own Valentine’s Day celebration in the days ahead? Thrifty,  fun and delicious. You’re welcome.

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