Why are you single? This question bugs me most acutely this time of year, the season of heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and teddy bears enslaved by ugly plastic balloons. Well, I'm probably single because I'm a mess. A hot mess, as in, super adorable.
I'm also going steady with my laptop and my HTC Evo. What can I say? I get love from my gadgets and my friends that live in them that I never got during the nightmare of online dating. But that can't be the only reason, can it? I know really crazy, high maintenance, ignorant as hell women who are married and coupled. Sure, they might be on the brink of divorce - but they still found somebody to marry their crazy selves.
Whenever Valentine's Day, followed, of course, by Singles Appreciation Day on the 15th (thanks, y'all!) rolls around, I wonder if it's not them, it's me. Not the gadgets - the former relationships.
I want to sing "All by myself" at the top of my lungs while doing that dance that makes it look like someone else is holding you from the front but really, those are just your arms and hands. I am not bitter about the trillions of dollars we spend on Valentine's Day so much as I remember that the best Valentine's Days I've had were the ones I spent alone.
I'm not including the ones where I woke up wanting to start eating right from a heart-shaped box, like Sissy Spacek's character in Crimes of the Heart, who took a bite out of every single piece of candy in the box. Or the ones where I tried to feign interest in the flowers and teddy bears delivered to my co-workers while wanting to set off a set of dynamite beneath their desks.
My anger and resentment started to ebb when I took the focus off the past and moved into the present. The year I started running and quit smoking for the eighth time, my quit date was Valentine's Day. I stayed home, lest I be the single black girl at a table full of couples, but I made myself a delicious healthy meal of greens with smoked turkey, roasted chicken and a light salad. There was red wine, true. But for once I did not drink the whole bottle.
And I did not eat an entire box of chocolates. Instead, I went to the gym, where I felt gifted by the nice eye candy of a couple of trainers and a few other lonely hearts who were all working out their frustration on the treadmill or in the weight room. It was a full day.
So was the Valentine's Day after that, when my writing professor, Frank, who has been married for decades to the love of his life, Holly, sent me his annual Valentine's Day card. My father was never a sentimental man, so we never established a tradition like this, but Frank knows how to make a woman feel special and loved.
The point of all this is not that I'm single even though I'm quirky; or that I hate Valentine's Day because I'm single and it's a Hallmark holiday made for couples.
What happens this time of year is just a manifestation of all the couple-focused things that happen year-round. Single women are left out of the narrative of romantic love, discarded like half-eaten chocolate. But we don't have to leave ourselves out of the story, and we don't have to internalize any of the bull that suggests that we are less than worthy just because we're not in relationships - either because it's not time yet, or we're not ready, or the ones we hope to find and love one day are not yet ready for us. It is always possible to write another story, another romantic narrative, one about loving yourself deeply and truly and in a way that only you can.
Who knows - maybe the one you want will see how much you model what love should look like for you and be drawn like a magnet to your side! In any event, this Valentine's Day, I'll be celebrating with some of my friends in Austin the publication of my book, Single & Happy. After over 30 years of finding it a confusing season and holiday, I am finally clear. I'm single because I want to be and I don't want to settle. If anything's a reason to toast to and bust out the chocolate and balloons that sure is.