I’ve always wondered why the song “What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas?” was so popular, as it is such a sad holiday ditty. The song actually leaves the question unanswered, leaving the listener to sympathize, or empathize, with someone who is without a love interest on December 25th. However, no other holiday highlights the glaring reality of singlehood more than St. Valentine’s Day.
Every year, people all over the planet feel the pressure to engage in the PERFORMANCE of love on February 14th. I use the word performance because even the love of those in relationships might be measured by their demonstrations of affection on Valentine’s Day. Forgetting it altogether or underperforming might leave one partner with a wounded heart and the one who committed the affront, well, just wounded. Valentine’s Day is considered the Super Bowl of the “cuffing season,” which is popular vernacular for the period of time during the cold months of the year during which many people prefer NOT to be single. The season begins the day of the first fall chill and a winning season ends with being coupled by the big V Day. Valentine’s Day is also the final hurrah of the engagement season, the period between October and February when almost half of all engagements take place. February 14, 2021 hosted more engagements than any other day that year. However, many people don’t love Love Day at all.
As a result of those who reject the notion that love has a peak and it is in February and others who are just plain tired of being alone, new concepts around the date have begun to emerge like Black Love Day, Singles Awareness Day and Galentine’s Day.
The pressure to engage in the performance of love in February and the bombardment of images of happy couples, leave some with feelings of longing, emptiness, defeat and loneliness at the start of February that frankly, Groundhog Day just does not soothe. So how does one survive a holiday that might spark negative feelings about one’s singlehood unscathed?
The least sexy option is just to have a regular day. Due to the commercial nature of the holiday, it can feel like everyone is engaging in Valentine’s Day celebrations, but only a little more than half of Americans recognize the holiday at all. Go to work, come home, eat dinner, binge watch a show, do whatever you normally do so that you are not concentrating on feeling left out.
Some may want to focus on indulging themselves. In the famous words of Tom and Donna from the TV show “Parks and Recreation,” “Treat Yo’ Self!” plan ahead and make Valentine’s Day a day of celebration for yourself! Send yourself some flowers and candy, order your favorite cheat meal, slip into your most comfortable onesie, and prep your favorite show. Spoil yourself for a night as a reminder that self love feels great, too.
For some, Valentine’s Day isn’t just a bummer, it is particularly triggering. If Valentine’s Day reminds you of a lost loved one, a missed relationship, or just unplanned and undesired singlehood, get ahead of it. Prepare to center your emotional health as the day approaches. Take a social media break, avoid romantic films and love songs, engage in a creative project or home improvement task for the day to give you a sense of completion and success. It is important to validate feelings of disappointment and loss when they arise. The goal is not to ACT healed if the heart is aching; the goal is to work toward healing by being intentional as the triggering threat looms ahead.
It is important to note that tips are not just for the unattached! Many people are holiday-celebration-incompatible with their partners and are betrothed to people that put little stock in anniversaries and birthdays, much less Valentine’s Day. If you start wearing red February 1st, yet are partnered with someone that bah humbug’s the entire concept, you may also experience feelings of despair as the date approaches. It is important in any relationship to express one’s desires and needs clearly to one’s partner. But it can create sour feelings in both parties if yearly expectations are not met with regard to Valentine’s Day recognition. If your heart sinks rather than flutters at the thought of cupid and his arrows, then decide this year you will love YOURSELF enough to honor YOUR heart. Partnered or not, you are worthy of love on Valentine’s Day and every day of the year, so give yourself some.
Dr. Kanika Bell is a licensed psychologist, specializing in clinical and forensic psychology in the Atlanta area. She is co-owner of A.T.L. Psychotherapy and Consulting Services LLC in Atlanta. Dr. Bell is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark Atlanta University. She is co-author of Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability. Dr. Bell has been featured as a psychology expert on TV One’s “Fatal Attraction,” ID TV’s “Evil Twins,” and Black Press USA’s Livestream series.