Not a single thing to complain about
By Natalie Serafini, Assistant Editor
For those without a partner, Valentine’s Day is one of several days that marks another point of singledom. No kiss on New Year’s? No lover on Valentine’s? No significant other on your birthday? Although these markers are plentiful, Valentine’s Day, more so than the others, is not meant for the single-set at all; it’s for the happy couples in their cocoon of love. Since the singles have 364 other days to whine, complain, and be general pests about their lack of a bedmate, can’t they lay off raining on the Valentine’s Day parade?
Well, this particular day—V-day—is set up to emphasize the importance of having a significant other. It isn’t dedicated to love in general, loves of all kinds, love for family, friends, and cats; the narrative of Valentine’s Day is (largely a heteronormative) one of boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife. A man walking by with flowers is assumed to be bringing said bouquet to a girlfriend or wife. A woman frantically shopping for ingredients to cook a four-course meal is likely going to that effort for a boyfriend or husband. Chocolates, cards, presents, and grand gestures on the day of red and pink are generally centred around romantic love.
Don’t get me wrong, a romantic relationship can be wonderful, but it isn’t the only relationship in town that deserves some appreciation and chocolate-festooned celebration. I don’t think anyone’s going to dispute that family and friends are as important as a boyfriend or girlfriend. Yet, because Valentine’s Day tells one tale of affection, it’s consequently exclusive. Not in a relationship? No love for you. If someone asks what your plans for Valentine’s Day are, and you reply with watching a movie with friends, the reaction will likely be “Oh poor you, you don’t have a person—maybe next year.”
On top of this, there are obnoxiously omnipresent images of the love you’re missing out on. It can be kind of a downer to go to the liquor store and see a couple purchasing a bottle of vino; to pop down to the grocery store and be bombarded with flowers, cards, chocolates, and pronouncements of love that aren’t for you; to walk down the street trailing an affectionate, hand-holding couple; to curl up with your computer and scroll through status after status announcing how much partner A loves partner B—pink hearts and all.
I don’t think people should want to complain about being single. I’ve always felt it was better to be happily single than unhappily paired, and if you’re unfulfilled on your own, the presence of a partner isn’t going to change anything. But I also reserve the right to whine as much as I damn well please, especially on a day that is constructed to make me feel inferior because of my relationship status.
Speaking of which, let’s turn now to my right to complain on Valentine’s Day about being single, and about the exclusive nature of the day. You’re telling me this day is not for me, and that I don’t get to complain because I’m excluded from your day? “Look, I baked some cookies. Oh you want one? You can’t have one. They’re only for a few select people. Oh now you’re complaining? You don’t get to complain. The cookies were never meant for you.” The fact that I’m excluded means that I’m justified in complaining.
Valentine’s Day should be celebratory of all kinds of love. I don’t have a boyfriend, but my life is made richer as a result of the men who are like brothers, the women who are like my sisters, and my actual blood relatives. Because the day is so centrally about one love only (romantic love), that means that I get to complain if I so choose—why should I be barred from a celebration because I’m not in a relationship? Alternatively, to be more proactive, I get to protest the day’s exclusive nature by making it inclusive, showing appreciation for all those I care about. Either way, I’m staking claim on Valentine’s Day as everyone’s day.