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Single on yet another Valentine's Day

Illustration by Josh Ferrin, Deseret News

Valentine's Day stands before us — the dreaded day set aside so lovers can express their love. The traditional day that we, as LDS "singles," feel even more sensitive than usual about our singlehood.

So how do we survive it? Not just the day itself, but also an entire January of red-and-hot-pink promotion and half of February's countdown.

Perhaps we need to take a step back from the huge neon spotlight shining on our relationship statuses — especially in a Facebook world.

President Gordon B. Hinckley once expressed concern over labeling ourselves or others, saying, "Somehow we have put a badge on a very important group in the church. It reads 'Singles.' I wish we would not do that. You are individuals, men and women, sons and daughters of God, not a mass of 'look-alikes' or 'do-alikes.'"

Yet, despite encouragement from our former and beloved prophet, it's very easy to become cynical. Valentine's Day makes most people painfully self-conscious of labels: single, dating, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife.

The chorus from the opening song of the musical "Hello, Dolly!" goes a little something like this: "Just name that kind of man your sister wants, and she'll snatch them up. Don't forget to bring your maiden aunts and she'll match 'em up. Call on Dolly if your eldest daughter needs a friend. Call on Dolly!"

If your eldest daughter needs a "friend"? Matchmaker, matchmaker...

We're certain a few of our mothers would love to "call on Dolly" for us — be you a daughter or son — if they could.

After all, they think, "Who wants to sit alone on Valentine's Day, pretending you're enjoying that intimate dinner for one? Wouldn't you rather be out with a nice young man? A sweet young lady?"

Consequently, it's easy to go in the opposite direction and resist all social engagements that might suggest you, to any degree, subscribe to the tradition of cherubs in loincloths with a knack for archery.

"No, Mom, I don't want you to call your friend 200 miles to the north, whom you haven't talked to in five years but who may have a single nephew relatively close to my age living somewhere in the city."

Really. Couples will stress over the social graces of the holiday, over the extent to which they have to demonstrate their affection in tune with commercialism, but that's more desirable than being lined up on a date — a first date! — on Valentine's Day.

Awkward.

But instead of shuddering at the thought of navigating the strange expectations of a Valentine's Day line-up, take a deep breath and remember that we all have unique situations. Whether we've been single for a while, or recently suffered a break-up, it's important to remember that "single-ness" is not our defining characteristic.

President James E. Faust counseled, "Please remember that we have all been single, are now single, or at some time may again be single; so being single in the church is not extraordinary."

And by "not extraordinary," President Faust doesn't mean "not special" or "not important" — he means not alone, not the only ones experiencing feelings of loneliness or apathy or self-doubt.

Remember feelings of contentment and love are not just for couples. Love, in President Hinckley's words, is "the very essence of life."

If we're supposed to be celebrating love on Valentine's Day, we can do that in multiple ways. Spend time with your family; plan an activity with other single friends or ward members. Show a little love to someone who could really use it, someone who's really feeling the sting of the season due to recent loss or discouragement and may just need a sympathetic ear.

Think about the pluses of skipping formal Valentine's' rituals: You save money; you don't have to live up to any strange expectations. You don't have to dress up and venture out into the cold if you don't want to.

But if you stay in, it's probably a good idea to not flip on the TV and get sucked into a sugary line-up of idealistic romantic comedies. If you're not sobbing by the second commercial break, you'll at least be wondering, "Why can't that happen to me?"

Do something that will actually make you laugh. Saint Valentine would want that. He was a priest in Rome, minding his own business, assisting Christians who would later become martyrs, only to be executed on Feb. 14 in the year 270.

Later, when the Romans invaded Britain, they used the names of Christian saints to re-title pagan celebrations. Lupercalia, essentially a mating celebration, was renamed in honor of poor Saint Valentine. The guy really had no say in the matter — he, like us, was a single person trying to lend a hand and somehow got "punished" for it.

So don't let it get you down. Just remember: Valentine's Day was actually outlawed in France for a time in 1776 because the French parliament found it to be a dangerous affair. Party like it's 1776 France (pre-Reign of Terror — excellent!) and go do some good without worrying about the trappings.

e-mail: eschmuhl@desnews.com