Valentine’s Day has never been good to me. Senior year of high school, I was completely, head-over-heels infatuated with this girl from the next town over. She had a buoyant personality and a smile that would have melted the snow stacked at the corner of Elm and High Street. And she liked me enough to hang out with me! Too bad I thought she liked me enough to go out with me — because on February 14, I waited for her after school, perched inside my friend’s Nissan, waiting for the moment when she walked up to her car and saw the gift bag on the hood, filled with the inside jokes we had created together during nights talking in each other’s cars in department store parking lots. At 3:15 p.m., she walked to her car and started rummaging through the bag. I jumped out and said “Boo!” Or maybe I said “Happy Valentine’s Day!” I don’t quite remember anymore — but I do remember her looking at me, a sour-tart expression slowly spreading across her face. She shuffled her feet. I looked at mine. And then she said, “Oh, hey.” I think we hung out afterwards, but my brain had already frozen and shattered into sharp icicles that tumbled and lodged themselves in my heart.
It wasn’t very fun to be single then, back in 2007. But now, I’ve come to the persuasion that being single on Valentine’s Day isn’t just as good as being in a relationship, but maybe even better. Obviously, there are recycled arguments for why this is true: my bank account isn’t decimated; I won’t need to pull out my already too-sparse facial hair, frustrated that I can’t find the lovely-but-not-too-overbearing present; new zits don’t matter; and I can buy a Ghirardelli Dark Decadence Chocolate Collection Heart Tin for myself — and eat it all without sharing.
My hyperactive inner romantic will roar whenever I see a cute couple on their way to Ibiza (or Barcelona? Which one’s better?) for a prix fixe, but without these going-out obligations, I’m going to be able to watch Season 4 of “The Wire,” only the highest rated individual TV season of all time, according to Metacritic. I know what you’re thinking — I could watch it with a significant other, but then I wouldn’t be able to really focus on the interplay between Omar and Bunk.
And it’s not just hedonic pleasures. For us singles, Valentine’s Day also becomes a day to revitalize our own spirituality and personality. It’s a chance to change our perspective. I searched “why it’s better to be single on Valentine’s Day”; (that’s right, I went there) it says “realize that one’s identity is not defined by his or her relationship status.” Moreover, being alone will galvanize new activity like playing squash, or collecting porcelain cows.
Let’s use Valentine’s Day to redistribute the love that would have been overkill on a significant other and lavish it on everyone else you care about. Free hugs; smiles on the street; propping the entryway door open for a stranger; donating blood; watching “The Notebook” and “Win a Date with Tad Hamiliton” with John Song ’11; not only do you have an infinite supply of love, but you have an infinite number of ways to share it with others. Psychologist Robert Sternberg has proposed that there are three components of love: commitment, passion and intimacy. If you’re not able to have the passion today, why not focus your energy on the commitment and the intimacy present in your social groups? Being alone can truly have an energizing influence on how much personal growth you’re able to accomplish, so use this time to reframe and reorganize your other relationships.
And if you still feel any emotional pain or anxiety, just know that you’re not alone. According to the Boston Globe, singles make up more than half of all American households today. (To the men out there: be thankful you’re not on the West Coast. The Globe article also notes that in the N.Y. region, there are 210,820 more single women than men; in the L.A. region, there are 89,459 more single men than women.)
Of course, it’s easy to go the opposite way: wallow, fall into self-indulgence and burn up in your own thoughts. But again, reframe: it’s cool to be single. And if you don’t think so, well, there are plenty of parties (Feb Club, anyone?) this weekend at Yale to temporarily cure your relationship status.
Peter Lu is a senior in Berkeley College.