Whether you’re happily solo or desperately seeking solace, there’s no holiday like Valentine’s Day to make singles feel like pariahs. Even if you avoid the obvious — romantic restaurants, jewelry stores, Jumbotrons with cheesy proposals plastered across them for thousands of slavering sports fans to see — you can’t dodge the storefront displays and media-blitz ads making you feel that somehow, if you’re alone on February 14, you’re defective.
Not everyone wants to be coupled up, and there are plenty of people for whom February 14 is a day to celebrate their freedom. But if you do find yourself solo and sad about it on V-Day, here are a few ideas to celebrate the spirit of the holiday — love — without the depressing downside.
1. Phone a friend
You know that crappy no-one-loves-me feeling the sappy Hallmark holiday of February 14 can ignite in even the happiest singleton’s chest? Yeah, you’re not alone in feeling that. Chances are you have at least one single friend who’s suffering from PTVDS — post-traumatic Valentine’s Day stress.
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Misery shared is misery halved — why not take someone out on a friend date?
Don’t make it worse by heading to the places catering to lovers with fancy prix fixe meals or Valentine’s Day specials — hit that great dive bar you’ve been meaning to try, that new food truck or the Mexican place with the impressive four-page list of imported tequilas.
If you don’t want to run the risk at all of seeing scads of sickeningly happy couples out on the town, grab a pizza or Chinese and head over to a friend’s place for an actual Netflix and chill. (Sharing an intimate evening with someone you care about doesn’t always have to mean a happy ending.)
2. If you know lots of singles, make an occasion of it
Have a “Single and Sexy” party, with penis straws and Blow Me balloons and a cake with a hot male stripper inside. Or throw an “Ex-Bashing Bash,” and burn photos and letters and belongings from everyone’s crappy exes. How about some “Pin the Prick on the Douchebag” (or Pin the Junk on the Hunk)? You can use it as a chance to mingle and meet new people. Either way, you’ll spend the evening celebrating and socializing, instead of sitting home alone and unhappy.
3. Get to a safe place
That means nowhere with pink heart balloons or red roses or gaudy displays of diamond rings. Head to a nice, quiet bookstore or that amazeballs 24-hour coffee shop that’s usually too packed with hipsters taking up all the Wi-Fi bandwidth, or sign up for that spin class that’s always too full to get into and enjoy the lack of crowds once V-Day thins the usual ranks.
Buy tickets to that horror flick you’ve been dying to see. Go sing karaoke. Grab some pals and plenty of wine, and spend the evening exploring your creativity at a paint-your-own-pottery place.
None of these choices are likely to throw annoying Valentine’s PDAs in your face.
4. Be a hater
Want to feel great about not being coupled up? Head to a divorce chat room and lurk. Watch movies that make you oh so happy that you aren’t shackled to some jerk or crazy — like Fatal Attraction, Heartburn, The First Wives Club, War of the Roses or Gaslight. Read about bad breakups. Nothing can make you more grateful not to be in a relationship than seeing the screwed-up side of love.
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5. Go where you’re guaranteed unconditional love
You know who loves you all the time, no matter what? No, not your mother — your dog. If you’re feeling sad and lonely, go down to a local animal shelter and volunteer to help walk, exercise or just visit with the canines — or felines, if that’s more your jam. It’s impossible to feel unlovable when big brown puppy eyes are gazing at you in adoration or when a soft little kitty is curled up purring in your lap.
6. Broaden your horizons
Valentine’s Day is a great time to learn something new or tick something off your bucket list. Challenge your mind with a class in cupping, glass blowing or learning a new language. Mastering a new skill forges new pathways in the brain — in other words, it makes you smarter.
Challenge your body by trying pole dancing, aerial silks or a trapeze class. Plus, when you do meet someone you’re interested in, you can wow them with the freakish strength of your inner thighs.
There’s no quicker way to put the V-Day blues into perspective than to be among people with much bigger problems. Go work in the kitchen at a food bank, sit with terminal patients in hospice or volunteer as a baby cuddler in your local hospital’s NICU to help with premature babies’ recovery and development.
If you like kids, volunteer as a reader or classroom helper on Valentine’s Day. You’ll stop thinking about your own broken heart the second you comfort a rebuffed third grader crying over his.
8. Put yourself out there
If you’ve been thinking about trying online dating, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to finally take the time to shop different sites and apps and pick the one you like, create a really thoughtful in-depth profile and go through your pics to find the ones that show you at your best.
Who knows? Maybe this time next year you’ll be celebrating with the person you met online tonight.
9. Be your own Valentine
Bottom line: Even the most perfect partner can’t love you more than you love yourself (at least not in a healthy relationship that lasts). If you’re alone on V-Day, why not go all out celebrating the one person who will always be with you—you?
Buy yourself a spectacular array of flowers, or splurge on that high-end artisanal chocolate you’ve been dying to try. Treat yourself to a spa day, massage or mani-pedi.
If you don’t want to drop a wad (because you understand money doesn’t buy your love), draw yourself a soothing hot bath and sprinkle it with fragrant rose petals. Then light some candles and bring yourself a glass of red wine (and — why not? — your waterproof Magic Wand) and simply enjoy a quiet, relaxing, sexy evening with the one person who knows exactly what you like best.
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Phoebe Fox is the author of the Breakup Doctor series (Henery Press). Her latest book, Heart Conditions, comes out February 9. You can find her at www.phoebefoxauthor.com or on Twitter @PhoebeFoxAuthor.
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