Maybe I should blame Adam — the boy who chased me at recess in 4th grade — for surprising me with a heart necklace and a red rose. Maybe it’s because I believe in grand gestures and small tokens. Or maybe it’s because I believe in love. (Also, I like chocolate. And flowers. And even bacon flowers.)
Whatever the reasons, I’m not ashamed to make this confession: I believe in Valentine’s Day. I know. Just hear me out.
We know what’s wrong with Valentine’s Day
For many years, I kept myself emotionally detached from Valentine’s Day. I told myself (and anyone who would listen) that it was a conspiracy holiday created to ensure steady population growth by all-but-mandating mid-February romance, and then the greeting card, candy, and long-stemmed rose industries got involved. I read up on the Valentine’s effect and the corresponding spike in divorce filings. I learned about how bad it is for the environment. In some cases, it was even linked to depression.
I also resented how this holiday challenged my notions of what love looks like. After all, it’s not all giant teddy bears and heart-shaped boxes. It’s not one day of the year. Love should be an everyday thing. It’s smiling at the cashier. It’s holding the door. It’s buying flowers just because.
Simply put, Valentine’s Day has become too much pressure. And it leaves a lot of people behind. Worst of all, it leaves you behind. There’s not a lot of room for self-love in modern Valentine’s Day celebrations.
How we can make Valentine’s Day right
Whether it’s for your partner(s), parents, kids, friends, pets, your most recent right swipe, every kind of love is worth celebrating.
So this year for Valentine’s Day, rather than opting out, I am trying something new. Yes, I will still help the kids get their little cards ready for school. I’ll do something for my co-workers. I’ll stick a valentine out for the mailman. I’ll text silly hearts to friends or post cheesy love songs on their walls.
And, somewhere in trying to share the love, I’ll make sure to share it with myself. I’m not saying that I’ll send myself flowers from an imaginary Canadian beau (though I am not saying that’s off the table). But I can buy myself flowers and hazelnut chocolates. I can get a massage or read a favorite book or treat myself to a nice dinner. Because in the daily grind of work and the news and life, it’s easy to forget yourself. We leave ourselves for last and then wonder when it’ll be our moment.
Then, Valentine’s Day markets us a different narrative, one that tells us we should get that validation from an external source, preferably one who is bringing a tribute as proof of their love.
Forget that. I can be my own Valentine.
Amelia Cohen-Levy earned her MFA from American University. Her work has appeared in Pathfinder, Moment Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, and elsewhere. She loves ferns, but is unable to keep them alive.