Posted on February 3, 2015 at 6:00 am
Valentine’s Day tends to be polarizing. People either love it, hate it, or try to ignore it. Some love it when they have a significant other, and hate it when they don’t. Some are completely ambivalent until suddenly that someone special comes along. Suddenly they feel the need to make up for past Valentine’s Days by cramming as much sappy sentimentality into the day as they can (making everyone around them slightly nauseous).
I confess to being somebody who has hated Valentine’s Day most of my life. In high school, I always felt left out and, inevitably, I had a crush on some guy who didn’t know I existed. It turns out teenage angst and Valentine’s Day make a great couple, or at least a long-standing one. College is when I first discovered the idea of celebrating Anti-Valentine’s Day. A group of girls would go out for girls’ night and ignore all the groping couples around us. Then it happened…my first Valentine’s Day with a genuine boyfriend of my own. I can’t lie, I loved it. These days, my husband and I tend to celebrate Valentine’s Day very loosely. It’s just not a big deal to us. We generally go on a date sometime near Valentine’s Day, but not usually on the day of. Restaurants are too busy, it’s too hard to find a babysitter and we just can’t seem to care enough to make the effort. Of course, now that we have kids, we can’t ignore Valentine’s Day all together. There are the requisite Valentines to be bought at the last minute and distributed at daycare and school. Then my kids come home with lunch bags plastered with hearts and I get that lovely moment of mommy guilt looking at all the Pinterest-worthy cards and goodies that every other kid seemed to hand out. I’m getting pretty good at handling the guilty feelings though. I steal a few pieces of my kids’ candy when they aren’t looking and the sugar has me up and running again in no time.
This year I’ve been thinking there has to be a happy medium. Instead of avoiding Valentine’s Day, what if we made it our own? I’ve decided there are several approaches that have potential based on one’s stage in life, and I’ve been busy searching the web for fun ideas. Of course, I am not the first one to try to “fix” Valentine’s Day. The first approach I’m going to talk about I’ve already mentioned, and it has been around for a while.
You can find many fun and humorous ideas for an Anti-Valentine’s Day party with a quick web search. There are ideas for decorating (think lots of broken hearts). Ideas for setting the tone of the party with the right music, such as creating a non-romantic playlist with titles like, “Why Did I Ever Like You?” by P!nk or “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift. One of my favorite activity ideas was to make conversation heart cookies and decorate them with snarky sayings such as “Bite Me,” “Over You,” “Meh,” “Gag” and any other cathartic phrases that come to mind. When you are done, you get to eat them. Win-Win. If party games are your style, have a contest to see who can make the longest list of “Best Reasons to Be Single.” You can also take turns telling worst date stories and then vote on the winner. Most Anti-Valentine’s ideas I found were geared toward women. It seems that guys just need beer and poker and they are good to go.
The second approach I came up with was to relegate the holiday to your kids. Of course, this requires having kids. Please don’t try this approach if you are not a parent or grandparent because it would be creepy. Kids are almost always up for making crafts, baking cookies and having parties. Also, kids aren’t about to say no to presents. As a little girl, my dad was a classic romantic and always got my mom a big bouquet of flowers (usually roses) and a large heart box of chocolates. However, he didn’t stop there. He also gave my sister and I each a single rose and a small box of chocolates that matched my moms. I remember feeling so special. Also, date night does not have to be romantic. I like to take turns taking my daughters on “dates.” They are usually simple. We might go to Starbucks and get hot chocolate together, or go out to eat at a place of their choosing. (McDonalds. Ugh.) I think taking the time to show your kids they are special is valuable, and what parent wouldn’t want an adorable little kid for their Valentine?
Sometimes we all need a little self-care. Valentine’s Day is a perfect excuse to pamper oneself. Get a massage or a pedicure. Go to a coffee shop with a good book. Take a long bath and curl up in front of a favorite movie. Splurge on that ski day you’ve been wanting. You get the idea.
If you don’t feel like being alone, and bitter Anti-Valentine’s parties aren’t your thing, then simply gather your friends and do something fun. Go to a movie (just make sure it’s not romantic or this could backfire). Go to a pottery place and paint. Do your own wine and cheese tasting party. I’m sure you even have some non-single friends who would rather join you than participate in the usual, cheesy Valentine’s traditions.
I saved my favorite idea for last. Many find the commercialized nature of Valentine’s Day annoying, and I have to agree. This is partly why my husband and I only sort of do Valentine’s Day. But what if we took a chance to spread the love instead? Who says Valentine’s Day has to be either romantic or for kids? Why not use it as an excuse to love those around us who could use a little extra love? Set aside some time to write notes of appreciation to friends and family and then deliver them on Valentine’s Day. Keep individually wrapped chocolates in your purse and hand them out to people throughout the day such as your bank teller, barista, or the person watching your kids at the gym. It might be just the thing to make them feel less lonely on a day that leaves many feeling a little sad. Write letters or put together care packages for deployed soldiers. Instead of buying flowers, chocolates and an expensive dinner for a significant other, spread the love by donating to a charity that’s close to your hearts.
Writing this piece has helped me think outside the box when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Instead of going through the motions half-heartedly this year, I’m excited to create some new Valentine’s traditions. Did you find any ideas you want to try this year? Do you have a tradition I didn’t mention that others might want to try? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.