We’re nearing Valentine’s Day, and despite all the heart and flowers you see everywhere, and the nonstop commercials, I am writing this to let you know that you do not need to be on-board with this holiday if you’re not feeling it. Sure, those cute little Valentine’s Day cards that you exchange with your classmates are fun, and who doesn’t love chocolate? But I hope you realize your self-worth doesn’t depend on whether or not you get noticed on this day.
I know that schools now tend to enforce the “give one to everyone or none at all” policy when it comes to cards, which is great. But believe me, baby, there are still ways that this day is not always going to feel fair, or equal — and that’s OK.
I remember in high school, on Valentine’s Day, we were able to send someone a rose during the school day. One of the seniors would knock on the door of the classroom and distribute those long-stemmed beauties to a select group of girls — and somehow it was always the ones with the perfect amount of hairspray to hold up their “claw” and the ability to look hot in Z. Cavaricci’s. I’d pick my head up from my desk — where I had been writing my own love letter to the British actor Richard E. Grant — with my braces gleaming in the sunlight and a glimmer of hope that there’d finally be a rose for me.
Looking back, this was clearly some fucked up predecessor to The Bachelor playing out in the halls of my Long Island high school. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself: Girl, you don’t need a rose from anyone to know that you are fabulous. (I’d also possibly advise against trying to initiate correspondence with handsome, yet age-inappropriate English celebrities).
My little girl, I want you to know that on V-Day, loving yourself is the best possible gift. I don’t mean the self-love that comes in the form of beauty products or spa treatments or other stuff they now call self-care. While those things are fun, none of them are going to really, truly make you feel good about yourself. That only comes from trying new things, taking risks, and showing yourself that you can do so much more than you ever realized. Yeah, I’m talking about building self-confidence.
Each year, on Valentine’s Day, my mom would send me flowers or a big box of Godiva chocolates. And although these gestures were well-intentioned, in a way they sometimes served to highlight the fact that I didn’t have romantic love in my life on those V-Days. I was alone. But here’s the thing: I did have love in my life! The love of your family is one of the most valuable things. And baby girl, you’ve definitely got that.
There might be years when you don’t receive anything on Valentine’s Day — and that’s OK. And then there may be years when you get something from someone you don’t feel the same way about. Those years, be graceful. There will also probably be a few times when you get something so meaningful and heartfelt from someone you love that you’ll feel like your heart can’t contain it. Enjoy that.
And then, if you’re lucky enough to find a life partner whom you love, there still may be some years when they may forget. In that case, get yourself some flowers. Because that’s what this is really about, this Valentine’s Day business: you.
Find a good group of people who will be your friends for life and go out and have the best Galentine’s/Palentine’s celebration imaginable. Wear red if you feel like it. Or all black if you don’t. Or just stay home and hate-watch 27 Dresses. It’s all good.
A recent study revealed that Gen Z (I guess that’s you!) isn’t into Valentine’s Day, or at least not celebrating it with the traditional life-size teddy bears or by slowly unwrapping and eating a piece of Ferrero Rocher. I get it. But, little girl, don’t take my advice as a reason to hate this holiday. I just want you to make sure you’ve got the self-love to know that if it doesn’t always turn out the way you dreamed it would, you’ll still be OK.
And don’t be annoyed if I send you some flowers or a box of Godiva. Like Lizzo said: It’s cuz I love you. Just be sure to save me that one with the lion on it and the caramel inside. I’ll be right over in my red heart sweater to celebrate.
A version of this article was originally published February 2020.
Share your love with a gift of protection with these face masks for teens.