Please sir, can I have some more?” Oliver Twist was just a small, blonde, English orphan with an empty metal bowl and a big dream. He ran out of gruel. He wanted more. So do I, and so, I postulate, do you. Allow me to explain.
Is it Thursday already? I’m having trouble keeping track of the days this week because I went into hibernation on Monday in a misguided attempt to avoid Valentine’s Day completely. I should have realized that this is impossible. No matter what your opinion is on Valentine’s Day, it cannot be ignored. It’s there, all red and pink and sickly sweet, sitting in the middle of your otherwise ordinary February week. You can love it, hate it, feign indifference to it, or refuse to celebrate it, but you have to acknowledge its existence. Even two days after Valentine’s Day, you’re bound to pick up a paper and see some schmuck still writing about this sorry excuse for a holiday.
Every year, Valentine’s Day leaves us with the lingering feeling that it is simply not okay to be alone. It makes us feel that there must be something missing from your life if you don’t have someone special in it; that being busy and happy and loving your friends and your family is not enough to fill the empty metal-bowl-shaped void — you need more. You need someone else to complete you.
This is my problem with Valentine’s Day. But obviously, as I am single, I am also bitter and jealous. There’s the Valentine’s Day trap, snapping shut around my ankles. You can’t say you hate it without seeming like a bitter spinster. You can’t admit you love it without seeming smug and loved-up. And you can’t insist you don’t care about it, really, not at all, because then it seems like you actually care quite a lot.
A few years ago, as I was recovering from a break-up, a friend of mine offered this comforting gem: “When you think about it,” he said, patting me soothingly on the shoulder, “ultimately, we’re all totally alone.” After I’d stopped sobbing and my friend found an icepack to press against the part of his face I had punched, I calmed down and realized that he might be right. We forge strong bonds with other people from birth and throughout our lives, but when it comes to the crunch, we have to fend for ourselves. We live in the center of our own small universes. We make our own decisions, create our own opportunities and plan our own parties. In many ways, we lead more isolated lives than any other generation before us, but as a society, we are still collectively obsessed with finding a partner. Why do we need the companionship of another person to make it all mean something? Surely it is totally possible to be happy all on your own?
Sadly, most heroes and heroines in the history of literature and cinema don’t seem to think so, and Valentine’s Day is just one more reminder that all the chocolate in the world won’t make the pain stop. I’ve tried to live a full and happy life without someone else by my side — really, I have, but sometimes I find it difficult to get out of bed in the mornings because there is no one there to share the experience, moment by sleepy, cranky moment. On Friday and Saturday nights, I like to stay at home and drink ferociously strong coffee while intermittently crying and working on my anthology of unrequited love poetry. (I’m going to call it “Hopeless Singles No Longer Wish to Mingle.”) I spent the 14th of February wandering distractedly around campus, cursing the blue California skies while wishing rain would fall to fill the gaping hole in my heart.
I often wonder: what’s it like out there in the big bad world when you have someone else beside you to guide you every step of the way? It’s really quite dangerous to be alone. I’m a rather clumsy person, and I dearly wish I had someone to catch me every time I fall over chairs or my own feet. I mean, one of these days I might hit my head and totally forget the last five years of my life, and I highly doubt Channing Tatum would bother to try and bring me back to the present.
As a child, I used to wear my nicest dress to the playground in the park on Valentine’s Day in the hope that a nice boy would ask me to marry him and that’d be the end of that. No more searching or yearning or any of the things we single people are supposed to do. These days, I know better than to try to pick up men in parks, and I refuse to let Valentine’s Day advertising tell me that there’s something missing in my life. I am happy and fulfilled just as I am. I refuse to believe that it is impossible to live happily ever after on your own. But in the end, my self affirmations are just not enough. Bah, humbug.
Like Oliver Twist, in the end, I still want more.