Art by Brooke Muschott
Valentine’s Day always seems to separate people into two camps: sappy lovers and bitter singles. By now we’ve heard the joke about Singles Awareness Day (S.A.D.) so often that it’s not funny anymore — but was it ever? Why have we collectively agreed that being single and aware of it is sad? I advocate for the creation of a third camp: those who are single and can still enjoy Valentine’s Day. The best way to do that is to appreciate the value of other kinds of love.
We live in a culture that overvalues romantic love. Everywhere you look — in the books we read and the movies we watch — romance is central. Eventually, living in a culture over-saturated with romance makes people feel that they are somehow inadequate or not normal if they have not found a significant other. They are “incomplete.” However, this overemphasis on eros — romantic, physical love based on attraction — can make us forget the value of the other types of love as defined by the ancient Greeks: agape, which is selfless, unconditional love often used in a spiritual sense; storge, which is natural, familial love; and philia, a mentally based love for friends.
The point is, in this culture, romance sells, so we are inundated with depictions of romance to the point where we undervalue other loves. If we focus only on achieving romantic love, our priorities are unbalanced, and we are left unsatisfied.
Diversity contributes to a rich and fulfilling experience. A happy life is a balanced life that gives adequate attention to each form of love. Perhaps, then, it is not too much of a stretch to say that a happy Valentine’s Day is also balanced and embraces a more diverse interpretation of love. We’ll be happier if we use Valentine’s Day to honor “bromance” as well as romance.
Even the history of Valentine’s Day suggests we start celebrating the other aspects of love. The exact identity of the St. Valentine for whom the day is named is foggy at best. Believe it or not, there were multiple Valentines executed by Emperor Claudius II around Feb. 14. Whoever St. Valentine was, it’s possible that he was martyred for his belief in Christianity rather than, as popular legends tell, for marrying young couples when marriage was forbidden. It’s most likely, then, that St. Valentine didn’t die for eros, but agape.
Additionally, the Roman pagan festival whose date Valentine’s Day took over, Lupercalia, was an arguably misogynistic celebration of fertility. As ambitious college students, fertility most likely isn’t something we’re striving for yet. So if you have no one to spend Lupercalia … I mean, Valentine’s Day … with, maybe that’s not so bad after all.
If you still wish you had someone to buy gifts for on Valentine’s day, instead of wallowing in S.A.D.ness, let your loved ones know how special they are to you. Send flowers to your parents, give chocolates to your friends, buy jewelry for your grandma and spend the evening hanging out with your unattached friends. If everyone else has plans, then celebrate self-esteem by taking yourself on a date and doing something you love and enjoy.
Being single doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to loneliness. It means you don’t have to worry about finding reservations for a candlelit dinner on the same day as everyone else. Make Valentine’s Day about celebrating the people you care about in a way that makes it special to you, and you won’t miss the romance too much.
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As published in the Feb. 13 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.