My worst Valentine’s Day was when I was 24 years old. I was in the midst of a tortuous break-up with my then boyfriend of 5 years. It was one of those slow splits, where we reconciled and broke up and redefined ourselves every other day—it was kind of like having a Brazilian wax where you rip your hair out one at a time.
So there I was in the midst of this emotional masochism on the so-called most romantic day of the year, when, to my surprise, I get a dozen-rose delivery. Immediately I thought it was from my boyfriend—perhaps he finally realized he’d made a mistake in questioning our love. I was overflowing with joy. And then I opened the card. They were from his parents. My heart sank. From the soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend? Nada. His parents could remember me on this day about love, but the man I had been planning to spend my life with couldn’t even give me the time of day.
For so many people, Valentine’s Day is a drag. It’s miserable if you’re single. It’s awkward if you’re in a new relationship and you’re not sure how to act. It stinks if you’re in a crappy relationship and you’re reminded of it every time a co-worker gets flowers or chocolates sent to them at the office and you don’t. And, of course, it’s the worst if you just got dumped.
Thinking back on those flowers, they may have been the death knell for my relationship, but I deeply appreciated the thoughtful gesture his parents made in sending them to me. I was really close with my ex’s family, and the flowers signaled to me that no matter what happened with their son, they truly cared about me. It was sweet, really.
And that’s what Valentine’s Day should really be about. Not a litmus test of your romantic life, but a chance to let the people you care about know how you feel. It should be a time to tell your mom, your friends, heck, your yoga teacher, that they make a difference in your life. The dreaded Valentine’s Day would no longer be about the have’s and have not’s—since we all have people (and pets) in our loves that we truly love.
Or maybe Valentine’s Day should be about showing yourself some love. Do something indulgent for yourself: Lock yourself in your bathroom for a long bath with a glass of wine and a good book. Get a manicure and pedicure. Go for a 5-mile run. Stream the entire series of Friends on Netflix.
I guess what I’m saying that no matter your love-life status, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to suck. The day doesn’t have to be a Kay Jewelers ad to be able to enjoy it. This year, make it about love not romance.
Ross Geller knows what I’m talking about. When Rachel confessed her feelings to him after he married British Emily in Season 5, episode 2, he sagely told her, “It’s always great when someone tells you they love you.”