Valentine’s Day is almost here, and yet there seems to be more stress and viral particles in the air than love.
There’s been ice in Texas and barely a lick of snow in the Northeast (apparently Buffalo, New York, took it all). We learned that China cares about Montana and Madonna is getting old — which is actually just a reminder that we are all getting old.
And no matter how many times we think the ills of the world can be solved, they stubbornly aren’t. (OK, some things do change, but that’s for another day.) Perhaps carpal tunnel is starting to set in on the finger used to swipe left or your partner said the triggering thing for the thousandth time.
Here is your official permission to embrace your inner Grinch this Valentine’s Day. It feels decidedly more like a sit on the couch in one’s underwear and eat Rocky Road out of the pint with a fork kind of Valentine’s Day. No need to share.
Down with love — or at least commercial love — and up with laziness!
Need more evidence from the past year? The so-called tripledemic sucked the fun out of so many people’s December holidays. Family gatherings were trimmed back, respiratory infections gathered around the tree with Aunt Betty. Your kid has back-to-back snotty somethings, and you know more than you ever cared to about the distinctions between RSV, the flu and Covid-19.
We went from quiet quitting to “resenteeism” at work, feeling stuck by a potential economic downturn and rising layoffs. Red and pink heart-shaped boxes have been tickling our consumer sensibilities since December 26, yet there is something that feels decidedly dreadful about having to conjure the energy to think creatively about Valentine’s Day presents or plans.
The charm and romanticism have been ripped out of the season for many. Can we just skip it this year and work on getting jazzed for Flag Day?
“There are a lot of things weighing on people’s hearts and minds these days,” said Damon L. Jacobs, a New York City-based licensed marriage and family therapist. “A chronic pandemic, record-breaking cold weather, threats to democracy, regular exposure to violent deaths on the news — all can lend themselves to a sense of restlessness, uncertainty, and grumpiness that romantic warmth and fuzzies cannot alleviate.”
Over the past two Valentine’s Days, we were traumatized, then left languishing. We had one summer of love, but the hype outweighed the actual heat. It’s not back to normal, but we ran out of words to describe where we are. This Valentine’s Day, take permission to forgo the red hearts pomp and circumstance and do whatever your grumpy heart desires.
The price of flowers is up, and inflation is eating into our heating and restaurant bills. No need to wine and dine or wistfully research tropical vacations you may never take. It’s a “name a cockroach after an ex” kind of Valentine’s Day. A “scoff at the erectile dysfunction ads” kind of Valentine’s Day. A “no pressure to buy the most thoughtful and unique gift because otherwise it won’t be clear the love is real” kind of Valentine’s Day.
Go ahead and give in to the inner grump this Valentine’s Day. Who cares if you’re married or dating or engaged or pressured to swipe right or invited to liquid brunch with the girls. You do you! Or better yet, do nothing at all!
“You absolutely have permission to feel whatever you need to feel — remember, the holiday will be over tomorrow,” said Tami Zak, a Tucson, Arizona-based licensed marriage and family therapist. “If you need to wallow tonight, it’s all good.”
Buy a box of Russell Stover chocolates at the drugstore and eat them all yourself. Forgo the scavenger hunt love notes that lead to an elaborate home-cooked meal followed by hourlong foot massages and giving in to watching the show your significant other would rather watch.
“You certainly don’t need anyone’s permission to experience pleasure,” Jacobs said via email. “If you wait for permission, you’ll miss out on a lot. But yes, you have a right to break from ‘shoulds’ and create a holiday filled with kindness, gentleness, and pleasure. You are not doing anything wrong by taking care of yourself and having fun on your own terms.”
Watch that favorite show that your partner loathes! Buy yourself a battery-powered foot massager! Eat the rest of the Cheetos and lick every finger and don’t feel guilty!
“There’s no right or wrong way to spend Valentine’s Day,” said Dr. Jennifer Guttman, a New York-based clinical psychologist. “Pick a tradition that feels right to you!”
If you feel extra grumpy, lonely or heartbroken, staying off social media on Valentine’s Day can help, according to Guttman.
“People posting on social media are going to romanticize the day and if you’re already struggling, this will only exacerbate your frustration,” Guttman said via email. “I counsel my clients not to ‘interview for pain’ by swiping through social media making up romantic movies to go along with the posts. Instead, unplug for the night and do something nice for yourself.”
Getting out in nature can help ease the grumps if wallowing isn’t your jam, according to Zak.
Rodney Luster, a licensed professional counselor, educator and researcher in Leander, Texas, offers that people can simply “lean in to here the now” and not try to force any particular feelings, plans or outcomes.
“Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness,” said Luster, citing the ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou.
Rather than setting expectations around Valentine’s Day or other big holidays, Luster recommends focusing on acknowledging that all days can contain good and bad, so just make it your day.
So, choose the bah humbug, selfish, resigned, anti-Valentine’s Day and stew (or scoop ice cream) to your heart’s delight.
Allison Hope is a writer whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate and elsewhere.