When I tell people Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday, they expect me to be a hopeless romantic, or to say some bullshit like, “I just love my friends so much!” No. I love Valentine’s Day because I love myself. I think everyone should be a little more self-obsessed, and Valentine’s Day offers the perfect opportunity to celebrate that obsession. But I didn’t always feel this way.
In 2009, as a chronically single college freshman, I had a Valentine’s Day date with fanfiction.net. I told myself I was feeling pathetic and lonely, because that’s how you’re supposed to feel on Singles Awareness Day, right? But as I clicked on the next Remus/Sirius fic in the queue and took a sip of my cafeteria Diet Coke, I realized that actually this was exactly what I wanted to be doing.
I only felt sorry for myself because that’s the way the holiday had always been presented to me. Suddenly that cultural narrative didn’t make sense. I grew up watching shows and reading books that told me I was incomplete if I wasn’t in love with someone. I thought loving myself too much was indulgent or narcissistic. But those two things aren’t the same thing at all.
I asked myself: What would switch Valentine’s Day into something that made me feel good, instead of something that filled me with dread? So I ordered a Conor Oberst T-shirt on the Internet (peak 2009 energy). A simple shift—but one that would change the holiday for the rest of my life.
A decade later, I adhere to two strict Valentine’s rules. Number one: I buy myself a luxurious coffee. I don’t hold back. Quad shot? Raspberry syrup? Extra whip? Caramel drizzle? Why not! Happy Valentine’s Day, baby girl! Number two: I order myself a gift on the Internet. I’m not allowed to decide until the day of. It must be something I wouldn’t let myself buy any other day of the year. No responsible purchases! (Crock-pots or vacuums are not allowed.)
Buying gifts for myself is the best. I am never disappointed. I don’t need a gift receipt. And these items stay spread through my apartment like totems—reminders that I can treat myself with the same active kindness I’d show anyone I love. The novelty shot glasses from 2013. The out-of-print Lynda Barry book from 2015. A photo from the trip to Seattle I booked in 2018. The bizarre bootleg Moomin T-shirt I bought last year, which seems to be Finnish translated to Japanese translated to English; every time I pull it on, I think, Aw, what a nice gift this was.
At the same time, I don’t want to use Valentine’s Day to side-eye romance. Falling for someone is fun as hell! But whether or not I’m smooching a cutie, I am always my own sweetheart. And yeah, that’s cheesy, but there’s a real power in it, too. Has anyone ever gotten any real satisfaction from ironic detachment?
Loving myself is a long-term commitment: to make my bed and buy Trader Joe’s flowers and call myself “darling” and throw out expired yogurt and pay an unbelievable fee for my marketplace health insurance. Sometimes it’s glamorous, but mostly it’s boring. It’s something I do every single day. And it’s nice to pause and really celebrate that.
So every February 14, I wake up in a good mood, and I think about the importance of building rituals that fill my days with joy. Because I have a third, unspoken rule of Valentine’s Day: I treat myself with extraordinary kindness.
This Friday, I’ll wake up and decide where to get my decadent coffee. I’m not sure what I’ll do from there. Maybe I’ll draw comics in a cafe, or journal by the river. I’ll decipher what I most want, and then I’ll do it. In the evening I’ll put on sweatpants and click around the Internet for a token of my affection. I’ll know it when I see it. Then maybe I’ll order takeout or go to a drag show or crash a karaoke party or just drink a Diet Coke in the bathtub. Whatever happens, I know I’ll have a dreamy day all on my own. v