If you love Valentine’s Day and are thrilled about spending your next few days amid a barrage of hearts, flowers and candy, this post is not for you. But I’m guessing you’re more on the “bah humbug” end of the V-Day spectrum. How do I know? Because if we’ve learned anything over the many years of Valentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day-adjacent Carolyn Hax chats, it’s that pretty much everyone hates this holiday.
Single people feel lonely. Coupled people feel stressed. Cats feel … well, you’ll see. Not even the disgustingly in love get off with a carefree, romance-filled day.
So if you’re feeling like the only one not filled with the Valentine’s Day spirit, think again. Here are all the people who are feeling stressed, annoyed or otherwise disillusioned this Valentine’s Day (and, if you make it to the end, a reminder that maybe it’s not that bad after all):
People in new relationships;
DC: What’s your take on a guy I’ve been on 5+ dates with (so not super serious yet), who completely goes AWOL at the first mention of Valentine’s Day? I asked if he wanted to go out to dinner tonight; three days later, he still has not responded to my message about V-Day but has texted about random other things. I guess he figures we aren’t “there” yet, which is fine, but so irritating–it’s not like I asked him to marry me.
CAROLYN: I’ve got a strictly wait-and-see take on this. It could be nothing; it could be that his being spooked by a silly holiday will turn out to have been the first sign that even his issues have issues; and it could be something in between. Let the V-Day thing pass without comment and see what else he has to say for himself over time.
People in old relationships;
NERVOUS IN NEW YORK: My girlfriend and I have been together for just over three years, and talk of marriage (namely her desire to get married) has been coming up a lot lately. She wants to get married sooner rather than later, and I understand where she’s coming from. On a rational level, I agree that it’s time to get married. But emotionally, I’m not quite ready (though I believe I will be within a few months).
I have no better explanation than that. I just have to work through my own nerves, which I will make an effort to do because she’s worth it. In the meantime, a big problem looms: Valentine’s Day. She has made comments hinting that she believes a proposal is coming on Valentine’s Day, which is reasonable for her to think.
She has also made it clear that she would like me to plan our Valentine’s Day celebration. I won’t be proposing on Valentine’s Day, but since she’s expecting me to, I know that whatever I do plan (dinner and cocktails) will come as a disappointment. What do you suggest I do–talk to her beforehand to warn her not to get too excited about a V-Day proposal? Seems like such a buzzkill, but I would hate to waste energy and money on something that won’t be what she wants.
RE NERVOUS IN NY: Dude, man up and have an honest conversation with her about VD.
Perpetually single people;
V-DAY BLUES: Just to get it off my chest: here’s my thing about Valentine’s Day. Most coupled people went to bed on February 13th, and many nights preceding it, warm in a bed with someone they love, who they can share their thoughts, hopes and fears with and who’s with them through thick and thin. I did not. I do not, and rarely have. I know how precious a gift that is and I miss it and I’m increasingly frightened, on a daily basis, that I’ll never have that luxury.
Then you wake up one day and all these jerks who take for granted what I consider a precious gift up and collectively, publically and superficially, celebrate that they’ve got something others don’t, that they don’t actually really fully appreciate the other 364 days out of the year. Then at best you’re considered a scrooge for not playing along, but mostly a considered a pathetic, jealous loser. Insult, meet injury.
CAROLYN: Fair enough–I see your point.
I also think it’s just one angle. People who are warm in a bed with someone they don’t love are legion–and often see independence or solitude as a precious gift. I also suspect, but can’t support, that a lot of the people you describe–the ones who are “warm in a bed with someone they love, who they can share their thoughts, hopes and fears with and who’s with them through thick and thin” -are- in fact counting their blessings every day, and aren’t bunched up about roses on Feb. 14.
My point–and I do have one that isn’t about stomping someone who feels stomped upon–is that the happiest people don’t come in any one household configuration. They’re just the ones who’ve figured out a way to “want what they have.”
Newly single people;
NEWLYSINGLE, DC: I broke up with my boyfriend of three years about one month ago, and am feeling a little sad about V-Day, as well as my weekend nights. First, any suggestions for what I can do tonight? I don’t really like the thought of sitting at home alone, but am not sure of any activities that a woman can do by herself.
As far as the weekends go, my friends are all coupled up, and I often join them when they go out on the weekend nights. I realize I am lucky to have this outlet, but am feeling like I should not depend on them for my social life. I am just not sure there are many desirable options for a single girl out on the town by herself. (I really don’t have any friends that are single).
I don’t necessarily want to “pick up” anyone, just maybe meet some people. I am still healing from my breakup, but think it would be healthy for me to “get out there.” I am really busy during the days and enjoy doing a lot of activities. I just find my weekend nights to be a little empty. Any ideas for this newly single 30-year-old woman?
CAROLYN: Anyone up for a group barf?
What happened to … go to a movie, go to dinner, go dancing, go shopping, read a book over a foofoo coffee thing at a bookstore, work out, work, go to a concert, see a play, go to a gallery opening, annoy a bartender, take flowers to a hospital and ask if there are any sick people who haven’t been visited and make an anonymous gift.
You are living in one of the liveliest, busiest, most interesting spots on Earth and you can’t think of anything to do because you don’t have an arm accessory for it. Puh leez.
People in happy marriages;
STERLING, VA: Got a quick valentine question. I have been married for almost 10 years and I hold the position that I am no longer under any obligation to partake in the Valentine’s Day silliness. My wife begs to differ; her position is that if I “loved” her I would look forward to needlessly spending money on a silly manufactured custom. I have absolutely no problem buying silly cards for my daughters to exchange at their school parties, but I feel that my wife and I have gotten past this nonsense. Your thoughts?
CAROLYN: Well, -you- have gotten past it, but your wife hasn’t. And you’re slamming her pretty hard for it. Which is probably more of the problem than some annual non-flowers — that an your seeing it as an “obligation” or not. Your marriage sounds about as touching and heartfelt as a President’s Day car ad.
Not that I’m taking your wife’s side, either. Any declaration about romantic gestures that begins with “If you loved me …” is suspect at best. And I would object if she never did sweet things for you. But, dude, you’re putting up a hell of a fight against showing a little affection. Hate the manufactured occasion, okay, but when was the last time you created one of your own?
People in unhappy marriages;
BETHESDA, MD: Ugh! I feel really bad asking this question, but here goes. I’ve been married for 8 years, the last several unhappily. No abuse or other horror, was just too young to make wise choice.-Been through counseling, so don’t go there please!- I’ve decided to stick it out awhile longer for the young kid. Hubby meanwhile is in denial. Thinks things “are getting better everyday.”
Problem: he bought me diamond earrings for Valentine’s Day! 1. We can’t afford it, which he knows. 2. I really don’t want-need them. 3. I REALLY don’t want-need them from him. How do I respond? Since he kind of left the present out for me to find, it was easy to avoid initial response. But, I DO need to say something soon.
CAROLYN: Be honest, and say they’re beautiful, but you both know you can’t afford them? Or set them aside for the kid? Or, if straight male kid, for kid to give to his future bride?
People who celebrate Valentine’s Day;
HELP: Hi Carolyn, every year I tell my husband we should keep it low key for Valentine’s Day and then every year I get mad at him if I don’t get chocolate, roses and the like (usually I do get a nice memento). Why do I do this??? Why can’t I mean what I say?
CAROLYN: I don’t know, but would you please tell him, tonight, that you have no idea why you keep downplaying V-Day every year because you actually love it? Then get him something fun to show you’re not just in it to receive.
People who don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day;
FLUFFY QUESTION: My boyfriend and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. We decided scheduled romance isn’t all that romantic, and we have enough romance elsewhere in our relationship not to need it. Plus, we were so against the holiday when we were still single friends, it would be hypocritical to change our minds now that we’re friends in love.
Problem is that people ask me what we’re doing for the holiday, and they react badly when we say nothing. OK, that’s their problem, but how do I explain it to them without coming off as better-than-thou or something?
CAROLYN: Don’t explain it?
AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE?: I want you to know that my normally impeccably behaving cat, after observing this chat, jumped onto my desk and pooped on my keyboard. Take that, Valentine’s Day!!!
CAROLYN: The forehead implications are why I don’t have cats.
But teachers know the true meaning of Valentine’s Day.
HEAR, HEAR FOR THE SHOEBOX!: I work weekly with kids in a creative writing group. Last night the activity was poetry and I brought a few supplies to let them put their poem on a valentine if they wanted to give it to someone. One of my kiddos raided the supplies (“nine girls and five boys!!”) he said and was racing to make valentines for every kid in his class.
My first instinct was to insist on one valentine per person and try to redirect him to the writing activity. Two years ago that’s probably what I would have done. But shoebox days are too short, and it was the night before Valentine’s Day, and it makes my heart warm that he remembered every kid in his class and hand-made (if super hastily) a card for each of them.
That’s what it’s about. I’m glad he reminded me!
CAROLYN: Aw. This got to me a little. Thanks.