Pity the Person Who Pities Single People on Valentine’s Day
As Valentine’s Day approaches each year, my inbox fills up with pitches from people trying to make some money by addressing the supposed woes of single people. Their pitches are presumptuous; they are sure that single people are distraught not to have sweetheart on February 14th and will desperately grab onto any source of solace dangled in front of them.
Their assumptions, though, say more about them than about the single people they are targeting. They are pitying single people, but maybe single people should be pitying them instead for their cluelessness and unselfconscious condescension.
One of the presumptuous emails came with the subject line, “This podcast will get you through Valentine’s Day.” Here’s what I found when I opened it:
“As Valentine’s Day approaches, it brings out a lot of emotions depending on how you’re planning to spend it. For some, this is a happy day filled with celebrating your significant other.. OR swiping right until you find the perfect candidate.. for next year.”
So those are my two choices? Either I’m happy because I have a “significant other” and I’m celebrating with that person, or I’m on the prowl so I can secure my place in the happily coupled group next year. And also, as per the subject line, this person is sure that Valentine’s Day is something I need help “getting through.”
Another email began this way:
February 14th, also known as “Single’s Awareness Day,” need not be a day of torture for anyone without a significant other this year.
So I am supposed to experience Valentine’s Day as a “day of torture” because I am single?
And by the way, single does not mean “without a significant other.” I have lots of significant people in my life. I don’t use the word “significant” in the extraordinarily narrow sense of just those people with whom I am (supposedly) having sex.
I responded to the person trying to promote stuff with her “day of torture” email, asking her:
Why do you think I would experience Valentine’s Day as “a day of torture”?
I do not think that. That was a bit of humor, something we sometimes forget exists when starting at a computer screen at work all day.
So describing Valentine’s Day as a “day of torture” for single people is just a bit of humor. Hmm. I thought about that and asked her this:
Just curious — would you send married people a “humorous” email saying that their wedding anniversary does not need to be a day of torture?
She never responded.
At the heart of my book, Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, are 10 myths about single people. I described Myth #2 as the “single-minded” myth. That’s the one that insists that if you are single, “you are interested in just one thing – getting coupled.”
I wrote that more than a decade ago, and my fervent desire was for that to change. I hoped that by now, people would know better than to assume that all single people want to get coupled, and they want that more than anything else. Yet here we are.
That’s the bad news. But there are some signs of hope.
In the email promoting the podcast that will “get me through” Valentine’s Day, the marketer eventually conceded that not everyone is going to spend the day celebrating with their sweetie or swiping right until they find a sweetie for next year. The podcast, I was told, “can help with any scenario, whether you need advice on how to spend it with your significant other, what dating apps to download before this romantic day hits, or how to spend it alone (or with girlfriends!).”
That’s an improvement – recognizing that some single people will spend Valentine’s Day alone or with girlfriends, and without adding any snarky or pitying comment about that. Too bad, though, that the marketer seems to think we single people would need help figuring out how to spend time alone or with girlfriends. (I was also a bit bemused that this person is offering to help me figure out how to spend a day alone when I wrote the book Alone: The badass psychology of people who like being alone.)
As for the “day of torture” marketer, I did not respond the first time she emailed me. Her follow-up e-mail skipped over the torture assumption and instead said this: “According to recent studies, more people are choosing the single life than ever before, and we might as well celebrate that this Valentine’s Day.” She then offered an upbeat list of books focusing “on the happiness and success many women found while living the single life.”
I said I was interested, especially since I have been writing about single people in positive ways for more than two decades. She never did send me her list. But I will still count this as a step forward.
In a way, Valentine’s Day really is Singles Awareness Day. It is a day of raising awareness across the land that for plenty of single people, living single is a joy. It is something we embrace. We are delighted to live at a time when it is possible to live a full, happy, healthy, and meaningful life as a single person. That’s our Happy Valentine’s Day.
DePaulo, B. (2018). Pity the Person Who Pities Single People on Valentine’s Day. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/single-at-heart/2018/02/pity-the-person-who-pities-single-people-on-valentines-day/