The first time I ever remember feeling uncomfortable on Valentine’s Day was in the 5th grade. A boy in my class had developed a crush on me and decided to reveal his love by baking me a chocolate chip cookie in the shape of a heart. He handed it to me before school started that day and I remember staring at it feeling really confused.
To give you some perspective as to why I was overwhelmed with confusion, I should probably describe my 5th grade self: a huge tomboy, I was always dressed in giant baggy jeans and large hand-me-down t-shirts I had received from one of my older brothers. My hair was in a ponytail every single day and I don’t think I even owned a pair of shoes that weren’t sneakers. At that age there were many things I prided myself on being good at: sports, belching on command, arm-wrestling and spitting contests. I think it goes without saying that being considered desirable by the opposite sex was not something I ever would have thought deserved a spot on the list.
So, when I was handed that heart shaped cookie, I simply did not know how to react. Partly due to the confusion I felt, but mostly due to the sheer embarrassment of our classmates staring at us, I awkwardly told him that the feelings weren’t mutual. And then I ate the cookie.
Up until that point Valentine’s Day had always been a fun day where you got to eat a lot of candy and wear red. You’d come home from school with a bag full of cardboard Power Rangers Valentines from classmates asking you to “Be Mine” and a slight sugar high.
But sitting there at my desk in my 5th grade classroom, on the morning of February 14th, eating a cookie made for me by a boy whose ten year old heart I had just broken, everything changed. All of a sudden Valentine’s Day was no longer an innocent day of friends exchanging cards and candy but rather one centered around romance and its pursuit. This was all brand new territory for me and I didn’t like it one bit.
The only actual thing I remember learning in school that day was a life-lesson on expectations and disappointment, namely that where there is expectation, there is inevitably always going to be disappointment. The boy in my class had expected that in return for the cookie I would agree to be his girlfriend; Instead, I disappointed him by taking the cookie and turning him down. His level of disappointment was directly related to the height of the expectations he had placed on the day.
I think that’s why so many people end up hating Valentine’s Day. It’s not so much the pressure to spend the day with someone and it’s not even the over-commercialization of love; it’s the unfulfilled expectations.
Boys are expected to invest in some kind of gift and girls are expected to be the recipient of that gift. And if you have no one to buy something for or receive something from, you are made to feel like there’s something wrong with you. And because no one likes feeling that way, the disappointed feelings are then channeled as anger towards the day itself. Down with love and down with Valentine’s Day!
But why do we have to hate the day? Why do we feel this ridiculous pressure on and around the fourteenth of February? It’s because we have all of these crazy expectations.
As women we need to stop placing so many unrealistic expectations on men. As much as we wish they could, men can’t read minds. If you want your significant other to get you something and he doesn’t, don’t be angry or hold it against him. Maybe he just honestly didn’t know you wanted anything. Men and women operate so differently, so get over your pride and just tell him what you want instead of being disappointed when he doesn’t surprise you with what he never even knew you wanted in the first place.
And men, you need to stop placing unfair expectations on women. I know a girl whose boyfriend one year actually bought her a condom for Valentine’s Day. It’s a really good thing that didn’t happen to me because I probably would have broken the guy’s nose. Newsflash, men: girls are not obligated to sleep with you just because you’ve bought them a box of chocolates. Actually, girls are not obligated to sleep with you ever. Get over yourselves and start appreciating the woman in front of you for her heart, not her body. The purpose of the day should be about celebrating love, not getting laid.
Every person is unique, which means every relationship is unique. As a couple you shouldn’t make your plans based on what the couples around you are doing because what works for them might not for you. Decide amongst yourselves what kind of celebration matches your personalities and where you are at in your relationship.
And now, moving on to those who always have, and always will, maintain a special place in my heart: the ones who are single on Valentine’s Day. I have spent the majority of my Valentine’s Days single, and I have loved them all. There’s something about witnessing other people being in love that gives a sense of hope and warmth. It should never lead to resentment.
If seeing another woman receive flowers from her boyfriend makes you jealous, that’s a pretty strong indicator that you’re not emotionally ready for a relationship as being jealous essentially means you’re not content with your life. But there’s no reason that you should let being alone make you unhappy! Learn to embrace your situation and use the day to make yourself feel special. You can’t receive from someone else what you don’t give to yourself, which means no mortal person is going to be able to make you happy until you can learn to be happy on your own.
No matter who you are or what your status is, Valentine’s Day should be seen for what it is: a day of love. But it shouldn’t be limited to romantic love.
Take time during the day to reflect on all of your loved ones: family, friends and all of the people you can’t imagine your life without. If you’re really ambitious you can even write them little notes telling them how much you love them and why. It’s hard to be sad on Valentine’s Day, or any day really, when you start counting your blessings instead of focussing on what you wish you had.
Having no outside expectations to live up to gives you the freedom to actually enjoy the day. You should never let February 14th make you feel pressured, inferior or unwanted. You are wanted and you don’t need another person, a box of chocolates or a rose to prove it. Prove it to yourself by choosing to think positively and keeping the negative emotions in check. Treat yourself to a day that’s devoted to love and all of the ways it is reflected in your life. And don’t resent anyone else’s situation: Love other people, love the day, and love yourself.
I hope you have a very happy, very expectation-free, Valentine’s Day!