Or, How I Learned to Stop Being a Scrooge and Love Valentine’s Day (and Myself)
Everyone knows the story of A Christmas Carol. A grumpy old miser who hates Christmas and all it stands for is visited by three ghosts who show him the light, and come Christmas morning, Ebenezer Scrooge is the most festive gentleman you could ever hope to meet.
I am the Ebenezer Scrooge of Valentine’s Day, only instead of three ghosts, I got a space ship, some knitting needles, and a very tiny dinosaur.
I have never not been single on Valentine’s Day. The closest I’ve come was in fourth grade, when a boy in my class gave me a valentine that said that my crush—his best friend—loved me. I reacted as any lovesick 10-year-old would: by chasing him around the playground for embarrassing me.
In high school, while I appreciated the opportunity to dress up in festive outfits, I sometimes chose instead to recognize National Ferris Wheel Day or, mostly-jokingly, Singles Awareness Day. By college, I had dropped even that. I had meetings to go to and midterms to study for. Valentine’s Day had no place in my plans.
It’s important to note here that my freshman year of college was, simply put, crap. I was 2400 miles away from my family and most of my friends. My high school sweetheart and I had broken up in August, and the getting-over-it period lasted longer than the relationship itself. My natural shyness and disdain for all things popular meant that I had made only a few new friends, and my Facebook feed was empty of the drunken selfies that seemed to signify happiness and college success. On the academic side of things, the excellence that had seemed so easy all my life was suddenly a struggle, and I was thrown by having to actually work for my grades. By the time February rolled around, I had stopped eating and starting going to the gym, figuring that if I couldn’t be perfect, well, at least I could be thin.
On February 14, I took the first step in getting back to some sort of normal and went in for an intake interview at my university’s counseling center. If my life were a novel or some angsty teen drama, the date would have been symbolic. My life is neither of those things, so I chose it simply because it happened to fit into my schedule.
I went because I was afraid—likely with good reason—that if I waited any longer, the habits I was passing off as minor obsessions would blossom into a full-blown eating disorder. It was something I knew I needed to do, but I still came out of the counseling center unsure as to whether or not I was really doing the right thing. Whether I wanted help. Whether I deserved help.
When I came back to my room that night, I finally had the time to open the box that had arrived from my family that afternoon. As is my mother’s habit, it was decorated with holiday-themed stickers and filled with a mix of trinkets from Target and assorted candy. I pulled each item out of the box carefully, knowing that she’d picked each one because she wanted me to feel at home.
A bag of Butterfinger hearts (my favorite candies), plus the mini Twix bars she likes to use as packing material.
A space-themed mailbox, with the words “out of this world” printed on it.
A package of heart-shaped gel clings to stick to my mirror.
A pair of knitting needles, pink and shiny, that she knew I wanted.
A bag of pink and red bouncy balls, which would sit appreciated but unused until I threw them out of my 7th-floor window at the end of the semester on a glorious whim.
An apron she had made for me in my favorite color but hadn’t finished in time for Christmas.
A glue-and-yarn heart and a picture of a dinosaur from a family friend and her young daughter. “That’s dinosaur for ‘you’re awesome!'”
A valentine from my mom, complete with a smiling alien: “I’ve got my eye on you, Valentine.”
A box full of little things to say, in the simplest way possible: We miss you. We love you.
And there, alone in my room, surrounded by fun-sized chocolates and mass-produced toys sold just for the Hallmark holiday everyone loves to hate, I started to cry because I was just so damn happy. Because I knew that in spite of all my struggles, my flaws, my imperfections, I had this. I had people who loved me, and the fact that they were related to me didn’t make it any less real.
It’s easy to hate Valentine’s Day. I get that; I really do. The whole day is sticky-sweet and over-marketed, an explosion of pink glitter and greeting-card romance in the middle of a cold, gray month. Couples feel obliged to make the day meaningful; everyone else is left to drink wine alone on their couch. (Which, in fairness, is what most of us do every other day. We’re just expected to feel worse about it on Valentine’s Day.)
And yet here I am, the post-haunting Scrooge of Valentine’s Day, come bearing flowers and sparkly hearts to say this: Today is a day to remember that you matter. Maybe you don’t have someone who wants to wine and dine you tonight. Maybe you don’t even have someone who wants to spend all of recess chasing your best friend in circles because of you. That’s okay. Because I know that right now, in this moment, you have someone who loves you. Maybe it’s your mom, or your brother, or your best friend. Maybe it’s just a stranger on the internet who doesn’t even know you but knows that you are a wonderful goddamn creature, and that you are worthy of love.
It doesn’t matter who it is. What matters is that someone, somewhere, loves you. And that’s something worth celebrating.