It’s not that I’m dreading Valentine’s Day, but I have to admit that it’s on my mind.
It’s not a big thing. I know it’s not a big thing. Sure, if you’re in a relationship of some kind, there’s a probably a bit of pressure to make some sort of romantic gesture or at least spend a bit of quality time together. But I’m single – none of those rules apply to me, right?
Yet, here we are – what, a week away from 14 February? I have to admit, Valentine’s Day is on my mind.
I’ve been single on Valentine’s Day before. I was single last Valentine’s Day as well. This isn’t something new. I’m good with being single – no one is throwing me a pity-party.
However, for some reason, I can’t shake the feeling that I need to be doing something on Valentine’s Day.
I’m not saying that I need to have met someone and fallen in love and be in a committed relationship within the next week, but I feel strongly that I don’t want to be sitting at home on a cold Tuesday night, eating take-away for one, and trying my best to avoid social media’s endless barrage of loved-up couples living their best lives.
The obvious thing to do would be to organise a catch up with some friends who are also single. The trouble is, I don’t have any. Sure, I’ve got friends that are single, but they don’t live in London. Everyone I know in London is in a relationship. Everyone. Trust me, I’ve written a list and cross-checked to be sure. Everyone is loved up. Cheers to that.
One of my lovable traits or annoying faults – it depends on your perspective – is that I like to plan ahead. I guess it’s a way of trying to wrangle some sense of control around an increasingly unpredictable and unforgiving world. Sure, there’s always some room for spontaneity, but I like my days structured, I like to be working towards milestones, I like plans to be made.
There’s nothing in my diary for Tuesday, 14th February. Valentine’s Day. It’s blank. I have no plans.
Obviously, there’s lots of Tuesday nights where I don’t have plans. It’s the middle of winter – it’s dark, it’s cold. Staying in on a Tuesday night and doing not much is my go-to option. But on Valentine’s Day? Shouldn’t I be making a bit of an attempt to seize some fragments of joy from the occasion?
Valentine’s Day isn’t a new thing. It began as a feast day for a martyred saint – the Feast of Saint Valentine was formally adopted into the calendar of the Christian church in AD 496, about 200 years after Saint Valentine of Rome had met his untimely end.
While there are references to romance and relationships in connection with Saint Valentine in the years that followed, it was the dilettantes of 18th-century England that most clearly articulated the romantic aspects of the Feast of Saint Valentine. Wealthy people with time on their hands sent flowers and gifts to the objects of their affections.
Sure, we can blame capitalism for making us hyper-aware of the Hollywood version of what winning at Valentine’s Day looks like, but the reality is that – once again – the blame lies with the English.
While I can’t find any primary sources to back this up, I’d like to think that one of the tools of oppression that our queer forefathers were fighting against in the early days of gay liberation was Valentine’s Day. Sure, the men of the Mattachine Society were looking for assimilation, but the queer counter-culture movements of the 1970s must have seen Valentine’s Day for the heteronormative nonsense that it clearly is.
How am I, a grown gay man, in 2023, even remotely concerned about a random night in February which is primarily about ensuring the continued supply of sufficient consumers to keep the GDP growing?
Cut to me, typing out a list of options of things that I could do on Valentine’s Day. Did all those people die at Stonewall for nothing?
I’m still at the brainstorming stage. Maybe I’ll go see a movie, or a play. Maybe I’ll practice making dumplings. Maybe I’ll take the overnight train to Inverness. Maybe I’ll hit the bathhouse. Maybe I’ll crack open a bottle of cheap bourbon and re-read Giovanni’s Room, longing wistfully for a problematic boyfriend who could never make me happy.
Maybe I’ll be sitting at home on a cold Tuesday night, eating take-away for one, and trying my best to avoid social media’s endless barrage of loved-up couples living their best lives.
Valentine’s Day. It’s on my mind.