Chocolate candies packaged in elaborate heart-shaped boxes and a candlelight dinner. Sentimental cards and blossoming bouquets. Valentine’s Day is touted as the yearly climax of romantic endeavors. The stores explode with red and pink (albeit, a little early… It started pouring into stores around Christmas). For those not caught up in the hype, it can be dreadfully unsatisfying.

The commercial expectations surrounding something that should be personal and intimate can be frustrating. While it isn’t inherently “evil” to dedicate a day to pampering the one closest to your heart, the fact that it has become expected leaves something to be desired. And really, should we let gifts, whether it’s a five dollar box of chocolates or a diamond bracelet, be the ultimate declaration of affection, especially if it’s done with a sense of obligation? It’s the topic of more than one comic strip and television sitcom; a husband has to rush around on the evening of Valentine’s Day because he forgot to get the wife a gift. He pays an obscene price for the last bunch of roses or resorts to visiting the local convenience store in hopes of finding a card, lest he feel her wrath. (Anniversaries are different. That’s a day special to the couple that isn’t heralded in by television commercials and newspaper ads.) This isn’t romantic from either angle.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for love and romance, but it just feels contrived when you add this edge of “do or die”. It shouldn’t be a “get out of jail free” card for people who act like their relationship doesn’t exist the rest of the year. It really is the little things that matter, like cooking a favorite meal as a surprise or just making time for one another. If you do these things the rest of the year, there’s no harm in giving into the hype and doing something special to acknowledge your relationship on Valentine’s Day. Have dinner at a pricey restaurant you’ve both been wanting to try or pick up some of your partner’s favorite candy with a card if it’s better suited to your budget. If you’re totally broke, breakfast in bed or a home cooked dinner can be just as romantic with a few touches like candles or a playlist of special songs that have personal meaning to the two of you.

So, what about those who are single during the month of love (by choice or not)? Over the last couple years, this has started to become a thing. The commercial world is acknowledging that there are people out there they can’t catch with their “couples” this and “lovers” that. They’re doing what the cooperate world does best and cashing in on it. The best example, which popped up last year, has to be from Dairy Queen. (There doesn’t appear to be a repeat performance.) Marketed as: Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples. Celebrate singledom and treat yourself with the Singles Blizzard® treat from DQ! A perfect blend of Salted Caramel Truffles, Reese Peanut Butter Cups, Rich Cocoa Fudge & Peanut Butter.

Not going to lie, this sounds amazing, but it’s also the start of something. Spend money to make yourself feel better about being single or to celebrate your single status. It’s an awesome idea, but shouldn’t you always be nice to yourself? You can look at this the same way as the rest of the Valentine’s Day onslaught. If you want to pamper yourself, go for it. Get yourself a box of your favorite candy or one of those Blizzards. Make a playlist of your favorite songs and cook your favorite dinner. Stay in bed a little longer or light some scented candles. But, remember, you can do this any time of the year, and you should. Often.

Love exists beyond February 14th. Celebrate it on the 4th… the 15th… the 28th but also celebrate it on all the other days of all the other months. Just because the stores aren’t oozing red and pink, adorned with shiny boxes of chocolate, doesn’t mean it’s out of season.

Or, you can be like me and honor the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which may or may not have some stake in the evolution of our modern Valentine’s Day. Opinions are mixed, but hey, it’s an option.

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