I’m not a big fan of holidays. Perhaps it has something to do with not having those big “Soul Food” style celebrations that so many of my friends and classmates had (I’m from a large family on my mother’s side, and my grandmother was actually called Big Mama; but most of the family became Jehovah’s Witnesses and abandoned holiday joy before I was born). I also resent the expectations and materialism of the holidays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day in particular. Both days are so much more about ‘what did I get’ or ‘what did he do for me’ than they are the actual spirit of their respective meanings (okay, we know the latter is really just a Hallmark holiday, but it’s still celebrated under the auspices of ‘all about love’, so you know what I mean).
I started being a hater of Valentine’s Day in high school. I recall motivating my single girlfriends to wear all-black one year and all of us baking sweets for ourselves during another (a much more positive approach, right?); Senior year, I skipped school and hung out in a Starbucks on the other side of town, writing terrible morose poetry. My recollection of my college V-Days is much fuzzier, probably because anything remotely resembling a holiday (such as a day ending in ‘y’) was an occasion to party and drink. But I do remember feeling a little salty that I wasn’t getting whisked off-campus for Ruth’s Chris or some other overpriced dinner on some fellow broke classmate’s credit card.
My first job after college found me working alongside a handful of White women, which means (get your gross generalization meter ready) I was privileged enough to see the FTD man come to my place of work a few times that Valentine’s Day. It seemed like every sister I knew who worked in an office with a lot of White girls had similar observations about watching them come UP on the 14th. I was salty again; had less to do with the lack of whatever bauble or meal or flower these ladies got and was about wanting to feel loved, appreciated. You know the drill.
Some years later, after a fair-to-middlin’ run as an active dater in New York, I get to spend this Valentine’s Day with my super wonderful boyfriend. He’s the best thing since sliced bread ‘round these Brooklyn streets and I couldn’t be happier. But something about this damn holiday rubs me the wrong way still. I don’t know if it’s still residual feelings of bitterness from previous years, from watching other folks set to complaining about being lonely or what. In the midst of my excitement that I have an occasion to do something special for my beau (who told me that I needn’t do anything for him, as this is his time to spoil me, but whatever, I can’t WAIT till he opens his gift!) and that he has planned cool stuff for me…I just hate that this day is gonna hurt people. Because it shouldn’t.
I know it sounds easy to say “don’t sweat this silly day” when you know you are gonna be loved on said silly day. But to be honest, it was last year that I had the big “You know what? It’s just a day” revelation. I was single for the winter holidays, which hadn’t been the case the year prior. And it just hit me that these holidays and occasions are what we make them. If we choose joy- as half of a couple, as a solo or as part of a tribe of friends- then joy we shall have. If we decide to mourn the relationships we don’t have or to feel inadequate for being alone, then these days will probably hurt. Hating Valentine’s Day didn’t do anything for my mood and it for damn sure didn’t make me less single. I opted to ignore the love day and keep being my moderately-happy self.
I’m glad to have a Valentine this year, but I’m also grateful to have this person on the 13th and the 15th and hopefully, for the many subsequent days to follow. If I don’t have him (or anyone else) next year, life will surely go on. Don’t get me wrong: having a relationship was and is a priority of mine and it’s something I work hard to maintain. But a holiday is only speck of glitter on something that is already shiny. Treat it the same way regardless of your romantic status. Find something fun to do. Hit a happy hour. Or, just act like it’s any other day. Just don’t let it get you down. It’s hardly worth it.