I used to hate Valentine’s Day, and I still don’t particularly enjoy it. It’s just such an incredibly commercialized holiday that people put so much emphasis on. ,But maybe I just feel this way because I’ve never actually celebrated it with someone, or because I’ve never been in a relationship.
I don’t know if there’s a reason for my lack of a love life. In high school I had hoped for some forbidden, heart-stopping romance based on the slew of romance themed Young Adult novels I read religiously, but it never happened, and for a long time I was left wondering if something was wrong with me.
I had hoped this would change in university since I was older, and since I had overheard some older boy’s saying that “[high] school girls [were] nothing to look at. They’re all ugly ducklings until university when they become beautiful” and thinking that that was a reasonable answer for why I was single (Teenager Sarah was not confident in herself), I assumed my luck would change and I would finally find the love of my life. But once again, it didn’t happen.
By this point, I hated Valentine’s Day. I had felt so alone and unloved in high school watching my friends and classmates celebrate in the hallways with kisses and flowers that when the day of love happened in university I ended up hiding away in the Student Centre and dashing between classes to avoid any of the love sickness I saw, when I was given a valentine by an engineering rep. I don’t remember what it said, some pun about engineering I didn’t understand, but it made me so unbelievably happy. Then I noticed that a group of engineering reps and other reps around the school were handing out Valentine’s, and I learned that there were so many other ways love could be shown and celebrated.
Slowly, I stopped asking myself what was wrong with me for being single and started learning how to love myself. I had to get out of the mindset that the only way I mattered or was important in life or to other people was if someone loved me. I had to love myself, and I think it’s important to love yourself before you can love someone else (how can someone love you if you don’t love yourself?). I had to focus on what I wanted in life, what was important to me, what my goals were/are, and how I wanted to be seen. And after all that, I learned that there were/are so many things I want to do in life, and I don’t want to be seen just as someone’s girlfriend or wife while accomplishing them. I want to be seen and recognized as my own individual person first.
And I’m happy that I’ve realized that about myself, but explaining that to people can get weird. I’m learning that there are more people interested in my love life than I thought, and they’ll either ask me, my friends, or my family if I’m seeing anyone or why I’m still single and they or I will explain what I’ve already explained. And they’ll nod, and they might say “That’s good,” but I can see in their eyes that they think it’s strange that I’m not focused on getting into a relationship right now.
Now, I don’t want it to come across that I despise being asked about my relationship status. It can be annoying, but I get it. And I understand people asking, especially couples, because they have found their own happiness with someone and want me to do the same. And I understand that as a completely kind and caring statement, and I am very grateful for the people who want me to be happy. I just wonder why I have to find happiness through someone else, why I can’t find happiness with myself first and find another side of happiness later.
Sometimes it seems like getting into a relationship is a person’s (mainly women) biggest accomplishment in life. Earlier this year, my sister filmed some background work for some television shows, and when she wanted to tell a coworker about her time on set the coworker was only interested in talking about my sister’s boyfriend, because they had recently had a date. My sister wanted to talk about her background work first, since it has to do with her career, and when she attempted to do so the coworker thought that that had meant something was wrong in the relationship, so my sister had to first talk about her date and her career second.
So much of our media (especially media targeted toward’s women) contains romance in some way. Whether it’s a t.v. show or movie that (whether a romance or not) usually has the protagonist falling in love or ending up with someone in the end, and so many songs that contain love or relationships or romance in some way, it’s hard not to become obsessed with finding love for ourselves, and being disappointed and concerned if it doesn’t come our way immediately. I don’t have a definite reason as to why this common theme is unconsciously present around us, but I think it has to do with being lonely our fear of it.
Someone I know was recently broken up with, a week before Valentine’s Day which made it harder, and when explaining about how upset they were, they said that “[i]t had been nice to belong to someone” and that now that the relationship was over they would be alone again, and they didn’t think they could be alone.
And both of those things terrified me! I never want to be in a relationship where someone feels like they belong to me or I belong to them, it just sounds so possessive. Belonging together and belonging to someone are two completely different things.
And I just can’t get over the idea of getting into a relationship just because you’re lonely. I hate the idea of love being about not being lonely when I’ve always imagined it being so much more than that. I imagine falling in love with someone to be about finding that person that clicks with you in ways you couldn’t imagine, someone who you can both talk with for hours on end and sit in comfortable silence with, someone who completes and compliments you in every perfect way. If love is just about not wanting to be lonely, I don’t know if I want any part of it.
It’s taken me a long time to stop asking myself what was wrong with me for being single, and I won’t lie and say that I’m fully out of it. Sometimes it likes to sneak inside my head and nag me, and try to make me feel bad. Like when I notice that I’m the odd numbered person in my paired group of friends, wishing I could even out the numbers. Like when the conversation turns to dates and hookups, to engagements and children, and I sit silent because I have nothing to add. Like hearing Perfect by Ed Sheeran ten times a day on the radio and thinking that it would be a nice song to dance to, if you had someone to dance with.
But again, love appears when those doubts threaten to circle. Like when I was waiting for the slow song to end at a wedding and my friends came and and brought me to slow dance. Love is all around me, around us, I just don’t think we focus on platonic love enough.
It’s just a whisper now, that doubt, that self-loathing, almost begging me to revert to what I was. To go back to questioning and hating and being so incredibly insecure about myself. But I refuse to stop loving myself, after it took me far too long to do so, just because there is still an expectation that women should get in a relationship and marry young. My clock is not reaching midnight, I am not too late. I have all the time in the world if I want.
I think back to what my dad said about his Great Aunt Nan who didn’t get married until she was nearly forty. When asked why she had waited so long, she answered, “I wanted it to be perfect, and it was.”
And I know it will be for me too.
(Don’t let the skunk valentine header worry you! I just really liked that it was drawn so cartoony and cute while being so dark at the same time that I had to use it as the image for today’s post. For more racially insensitive and disturbing vintage valentine’s, click here.)