The other day I was strolling through my favourite bookstore in town when I came across this gaudy monstrosity – a sparkly display of assorted candy hearts, cuddle bears, and candles in unoriginal shades of pink, red and fuchsia.
I was getting thrown enough to look around for context when it dawned on me. It’s February; the month of global celebration of love owing to that one day in the middle.
I am not very big on Valentine’s Day. I see red every time I see a red foam heart blocking an otherwise perfectly agreeable storefront. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of having a day dedicated to “love”. But the foam hearts are not just decoration. They are an invitation into a world of fetid romance and Cinderella-endings and it’s not inclusive. Most of these pastel shindigs are meant for the eyes of couples only.
Fighting with these annual assaults of love by myself, I have started to notice a pattern in the way single people like myself deal with Valentine’s Day and it’s exactly like the five stages of grief. I like to call it the 5 Stages of Forever Alone. If you, like me, are facing yet another solo Valentine, this is your Bible.
Start with denial. You can just say that you don’t buy into the “concept of Valentine’s Day”. A few good arguments to support you in this stage are, “Valentine’s Day is for suckers”, or “It’s just another way for big corporations to suck money out of misguided people”. And, of course, the classic “I hate the thought of having just a single day dedicated to love. I love ‘love’ everyday”. You reject the pastel pinks and make no plans for the 14th as it’s just another day, right? Why make plans? You consider yourself better off at having saved yourself all that money and even manage to feel a bit superior to all those depraved love bunnies hopping around making dinner reservations or planning surprise gifts. But as the day nears, these learned disputations soon give way to a more concrete feeling.
You can’t deny it anymore. It’s out there, spelled out in the form of ‘couple discounts’ on the doors of every restaurant and bar that you hit. The newspapers are full of it too as they scream “The perfect gift for your Valentine,” selling you watches in pairs and offering great deals on movie tickets, diamonds and other things considered valuable by sundry lovebirds. Your couple friends are buzzing with plans and many of the singles have jumped ship to find an emergency date. Flower shops have gone on hyper-drive mode and the smell of roses and FOMO is unbearable. You act out, accusing roadside decorations of causing traffic jams. You rant on social media against corporates misusing the day to sell jewelry and check out online entry-forms of right-wing organisations that campaign against Western corruption of Indian culture. You temporarily block all your couple friends to prevent getting triggered into a hopeless state of paranoia and vow to be single for life.
As the Valentine’s week begins, all bets are off. You give in to the mush-fest – You are one of them now. You try desperately to patch together a last-minute plan with that friend’s friend you had been eyeing for so long but never asked out. Turns out they already have plans and you curse yourself for waiting till the last minute (and also cry a little in the bathroom because hey, rejection is hard and that’s alright). You look for listicles on things single people can do on Valentine’s Day and decide to make this year all about self-love. Some shops make some money as you end up doing some pity shopping to lift up your drowning spirits, only to realise that you ended up giving in to corporate propaganda even without celebrating V day. You plan a Lonely Hearts party with all your single friends and tell them you want to read angry feminist prose to smash the patriarchy. You bookmark an article about someone in the UK marrying themselves to fight the overbearing pressure of finding love. Maybe next year. Or maybe, Tinder?
It’s one day to V Day and you’ve hit rock bottom with your socks on. Your will to live is DOA at best and binge-watching Mary Kondo cleaning the cluttered houses of messed up people on Netflix is all that’s keeping you going. With the internet flooding with #love and #togetherforever, social media offers no respite. The memes cut like knives. The quick check-up on the ex who is flying to Mauritius with their new fancy probably doesn’t help but at least you have closure (there, there, you’ll get there). This is probably a good time to call your family and tell them you love them because well, Maa sab samajhti hai. And Bollywood has a rich repertoire of heartache-heartbreak songs to choose from so you can probably redeem those expensive speakers that you bought on your birthday and really feel the depth of your loneliness at full volume. Zomato is better than Tinder, you conclude.
And like every year, the day arrives. And you survive it. You feel bittersweet as you buy yourself that rose from the shop outside work (Yeah, you still have to go to work on V Day, thank God and Bollywood ensured you associate St Valentine with roses). You call up some friends, the ones who don’t have plans anyway and cook up a scene. Or you find a whodunit potboiler of a series to binge-watch. It’s also a good time to catch-up with your grandma or that paternal-uncle who always insists he wants ‘to hang’. Treat yourself to some good food or maybe cook yourself a fancy meal? Maybe go to a homeless shelter and donate some old clothes. File your taxes, finish that blog you were meaning to write. Once you accept that it’s Valentine’s Day and you’re single and okay with it, the possibilities open up fairly wide. It doesn’t HAVE to be a humiliating experience, you know. It doesn’t HAVE to be about two people. The beauty of love is that it can be found in anything. Walk down your gully listening to songs of Gully Boy, judiciously releasing on 14th, and find some litter to cuddle. If you get bit, the hospital is probably the only place with no Valentine’s Day decorations so it’s a win-win!
As the day ends, hope dawns again. Remember, whatever doesn’t kill you, only makes you forget about it till the next time.
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