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(Photo: Giphy)

What’s sticky sweet, has Hallmark written all over it and just around the corner? If you guessed Valentine’s Day, you are correct. Even for those of us who don’t buy into the massive consumerism of this holiday can be guilty of getting caught up in the hype. After all, what girl doesn’t love some flowers? Can we get a shout out for milk chocolates in a red satin box? We wouldn’t be human if these symbols of amore didn’t pull at our heartstrings even a little bit. Especially if you’re single. This holiday seems to shout: “You are so ALONE!” even louder than your own mother.

But what do you do if you’re not exactly in a celebratory mood? What else is there besides hiding under your sheets and hibernating until the 15th? The goal is to not get bitter and turn into a Valentine’s Day scrooge. This is easier said than done, for sure. Sometimes ignorance breeds contempt,  but like with all things, the more you know, the less threatening it is… so let’s get to know this little winter holiday a bit better.

(Related: The Biggest Valentine’s Day Disaster is a Terrible Gift)

The History of (Pagan) Love

Valentine’s Day originated as a pagan celebration 800 years before St. Valentine even came into the picture. The Romans would hold a ceremony in mid-February commemorating young men’s rites of passage to the god Lupercus. This celebration featured a lottery in which young men would draw the names of women from a box. The woman whose name was picked became their sexual companion for the year- whether she wanted to or not- so basically, it’s kinda rape-y. Talk about luck of the draw! Yikes.

During the 5th century, the Romans transformed this ceremony into a celebration honoring St. Valentine who was actually a bishop. Emperor Claudius had outlawed marriage because he thought married men made poor soldiers. St. Valentine, being a romantic and a good Christian would secretly marry lovers despite Claudius’ edict. This resulted in the imprisonment, stoning, beheading and ultimate demise of St. Valentine. It seems that unlike Cher, Claudius didn’t believe in life after love.

My last long term relationship was only over for three months and it was my first V-day flying solo in a while. Last year on the big red holiday I found myself in the living room eating ice cream with my two old boyfriends, Ben and Jerry. Halfway through watching “The Way We Were”, the tenant I took in to help out with the rent breathlessly burst out of her room in sexy lingerie and asked me if I could “…please attach her garters in the back? Thanks.” I went out and bought earplugs so I wouldn’t have to hear her have massive amounts of sex all night.

I thought I was going to wither away with shame, which is crazy, because I never made a big deal about Valentine’s Day when I was with someone. All of a sudden it was like the world was shouting at me “you’re all alone- what’s WRONG with you?!!” Maybe that was really my mother’s voice, but either way I was so surprised at how strongly it affected me.

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(Photo: Giphy)

V-Day Gone South scenarios are enough to make even the most secure of us jump off the deep end. So what happens when it’s Valentine’s Day and you’re putting the key in the door to crazy and about to turn the lock? Believe it or not, there are choices other than cursing happy couples, wallowing in self-pity, and/or ripping up store bought Valentines and using them to stoke your fireplace.

A clinical psychologist, Mary Herzog in New York City says that, “Love is about feeling good and living in the moment. Having expectations, especially for the holidays and celebrations are hard to avoid. Try your best to put aside what you think this day should be about, or what it was about for you in the past and recreate it for who you are today.”

So what can you do if you want to still have love in your heart and not turn into a bitter wench on V-Day? Here are some ideas.

Ya Gotta Have Heart

Volunteering makes us feel good and more often than not, we get back so much more than we give, especially when it’s done from a genuine place. With the major holiday season over it’s a lot more challenging for soup kitchens, shelters and all kinds of charitable organizations to acquire volunteers. People are in the spirit of the holiday and then they get back to their lives in mid January. Lots of places  are inundated with volunteers right before Christmas and then *poof* a lot of people disappear in the New Year. Volunteering is a great way to get out of your head and into your heart. When you give your time to others who are less fortunate than you it’s a wonderful reminder to be grateful for all the abundance you have in your life.

Party On

Get that pink-feathered boa out of the back of your closet and celebrate your life by throwing a shindig with a theme. The party shouldn’t be an “Anti-Valentine’s Day Celebration” since you want to concentrate on abundance and positive attitudes, not lack and negativity. Invite all single people and tell each person to bring a platonic member of the opposite sex. This way there’s no concern while straining across the room to see if the hottie in the green sweater is wearing a wedding ring.

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(Photo: Giphy)

It’s also fantastic excuse to make red Jell-o shots, put out some decadent chocolates and fun candy hearts.  Be cheeky and serve only red drinks and play spin the bottle. Make it a time to get to know new people and turn the whole Valentine’s Day = Romance formula upside down.

I went to a party like this after a breakup. I didn’t meet any guys, but I did meet a woman who became one of my closest friends and confidantes. She was also going through a separation and we bonded and had so much fun checking out the single guys. Today my friend and I throw this kind of party annually and it’s become a kind of tradition. As long as we’re both unattached, we figure if we can’t beat ‘em we might as well join ‘em.

May I Have This Dance?

Have you always wanted to learn to Tango? How about trying out the Samba or Belly Dancing? Take yourself and a girlfriend to a dance class of the seductive variety. Dance is a great way to revive your body and get reconnected to your sensuality. Maybe you’ll uncover a passion you never knew you had?

Maria Torres of Broadway Dance Center in New York City says, “The Latin dances and especially the Tango are filed with seduction and romance. It’s all about connecting to your partner and having a great time! It’s fun to see all these people who in the beginning of class are so nervous about how the look, and are all concerned about whether or not they are they doing it right. Even the most nervous students by the end of the two hours are smiling and laughing. A few of the beginners even stick with it and become really good! It’s a fun hobby and a fantastic way to meet and relate with people. The best part is you don’t even have to say a word!”

Other Alternative Valentine’s Day Ideas

1. Treat yourself to a massage or a mani/pedi.
2. See a fun movie with a friend.
3. Write a gratitude letter on pretty stationary to a special girlfriend and actually send it in the mail! Yes, the actual mail.
4. Go hear some live music or go to a comedy show- you could use a laugh.
5. Buy yourself some flowers – you deserve them!
6. Write down your feelings about your ex and burn it- let that shit go.
7. Go through all the stuff that reminds you of your former relationship: old love letters or emails, gifts from exes, etc… donate it or toss it.
8. Buy yourself a new vibrator.
9. Volunteer at an animal shelter- puppy love is way better than anything.
10. Stay at home, crack open a good bottle of wine and re-read Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being. Cue Vibrator.