Several years ago, my then-husband and I separated right before Valentine's Day. I was living deep in the heart of Stepford Wife country at the time and some of my neighbours decided to take up a collection to buy me a huge bouquet of pity roses. Salt, meet wound. I know they were just trying to be nice, but everyone knows that the only appropriate gift for a newly single gal on Valentine's Day is a fifth of bourbon and boxing gloves.
Since this is the time of year when the world conspires to tell you that there is something wrong with you if you are not happily paired, it may be tough to keep your spirits high. If you find yourself less-than-happily single, here are ten ways you can make Valentine's Day a little better this year:
- Avoid the newly in love. This may sound harsh, but if your best pal has just met the love of her life, avoid her like the plague. As a couple, they are still in that stage where they don't know each other's flaws and you don't need to get caught up in their afterglow. If you must hang out with couples, make sure they have grown tired of one another. Newlyweds are not a bad bet: they've just spent the better part of a year fighting over taffeta and passed hor d'oevres and have probably come back from a less-than-perfect honeymoon to a $50,000 credit card bill. They may very well be envious of you.
- Seek out the dysfunctionally partnered. Everyone knows a couple who cannot get through a single evening without having a big blowout fight where someone storms out of the room in tears. Make plans to see them close to Valentine's Day to remind you what you are not missing.
- Listen to Pema Chödrön. Yup, I'm going to keep saying it: she's amazing. Before becoming a Buddhist nun, Chödrön was married twice and has been through two divorces. She is very open about how hard it was during that time, and explains why she now views those experiences as a gift. Her books are all terrific but I particularly love her audio books since she has such a lovely voice: Unconditional Confidence offers a great place to start.
- Read The Hell with Love: Poems to Mend a Broken Heart. I first stumbled upon this collection of poems compiled by Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Vélez years ago and now give this gem to friends going through heartache. The book is filled with terrific verse, but my personal favourite is Somewhere a Seed, by Michael Fried. Trust me, it's great.
- Get yourself a little gift. Cheap lingerie, sugary chocolates, a bunch of little diamonds stuck together to look like a big one: let's face it, these are crap gifts. Do you really want to have to look pleasantly surprised when handed a scrap of red itchy lace? I didn't think so. But why should you have to go without a treat simply because you are single? If you can afford it, buy yourself a tiny something to celebrate surviving the day. Get yourself a fancy coffee or one of those spendy European fashion magazines or some decent chocolate from a chocolatier. I'm a big fan of books as gifts: Marjorie Hillis's Live Alone and Like It: The Classic Guide for the Single Woman would make an excellent gift from you to you.
- Remember that there are worse things than being alone. One might think that the Valentine's Day with the pity roses was my worst Valentine's Day ever, but it wasn't. My worst Valentine's Day came much later, when I spent it with someone filled with promise, who turned out to be a monster. There were times in that relationship when I would have traded anything to be single and unfettered.
- Spend the day doing something you love. Go skiing, go for a hike, head to a bookstore, or get a massage. Or stay in and watch an entire season of The Bachelor and thank your lucky stars that you are not stuck on some set battling a gaggle of women for the heart of some insipid dude. Whatever you like to do, do it. This is not the day to schedule a root canal.
- Get yourself a single girl playlist. Adele, Taylor Swift, Alanis Morissette: these fierce ladies share your pain. But instead of crying over some guy, they put their energies into something creative and monetized their misery. Let them inspire you to paint, write, run, dance, formulate your business plan, or just take a drive in the country singing Beyoncé's Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) at the top of your lungs.
- Celebrate Galentine's Day. Amy Poehler's Parks and Recreation character invented the concept of Galentine's Day, a girls-only breakfast held on February 13th. As she puts it, "It's like Lilith fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas." It's an ideal time of year to celebrate all of the great relationships in your life. Start a new tradition.
- Remember that things will change. Seasons of darkness are not permanent. International speaker and radio host, Melinda Estabrooks, uses the beautiful expression, "Today is not your forever." It can be a helpful mantra when things look bleak. I thought I'd be forever single (at first reluctantly and later by choice) but I'm getting married to a great guy later this year. We've both had horrible days that are now behind us and have very bright days ahead. And those terrible times have made both of us appreciate the great ones even more.
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