In our yearly tradition, our matchmaker Danielle Selber updates her blog on why Valentine’s Day is simply terrible for everyone. This year, Danielle & the team are pleased to be offering excellent Valentine’s week alternatives for every kind of human: virtual volunteering, a queer mini golf mixer, and an ax-throwing social.
I am a matchmaker and, somewhat ironically, a total grinch about Valentine’s Day. I think this Hallmark holiday is bad for absolutely everyone: the unattached, casual daters, early relationships, couples, throuples and everyone in between.
I don’t need to explain how Valentine’s Day can be brutal for someone who is single, whether by choice or circumstance. While identifiers like “fat” and “queer” have been reclaimed and worn with pride, the word ‘single’ is still thrown around like a four letter word. For single folks, Valentine’s Day involves dodging condescending puppy dog eyes, being surrounded by pink, or hearing potentially well-meaning but honestly just mean reassurances of “you’ll find someone someday!” It seems to me that singleness is viewed as a temporary, unwanted state of being by society at large. This ignores the fact that singledom can be a conscious choice, an identity all its own. I meet people like this all the time, who have chosen to hop off the relationship escalator and fly solo. It would be rather offensive if when people told me that, I questioned their choices, or worst yet, tried to set them up with someone. A matchmaker’s job is to be a champion of all dating choices and see them all as valid, and I think that responsibility extends to everyone.
Valentine’s Day is also varying levels of terrible for couples at any stage. Budding romance? Here’s your first big test about how serious you are, but careful not to come off as clingy and desperate or cheap and unavailable! Engaged or newlyweds? Prove yourself worthy of my endless love with an over-the-top grand gesture that I will judge you against for the next decade! Married for 50 years? Don’t you dare recycle old ideas or give a gift that is purely sentimental — am I worth that little to you?? You see how this can make your head spin. In a couple, Valentine’s Day is less of a holiday and more a field of abandoned landmines. The best way to combat this is simply through communication. If you want flowers, say you want them, instead of making your partner/s guess and then punishing them for not guessing. If you want to save many dollars and celebrate on February 12th instead, bring it up and make a plan.
People in relationships that fall outside of conventional binaries have to navigate even more complexity. For people who have chosen ethical non-monogamy or polyamory, this season is ripe with “table for two” assumptions. For those who identify as asexual (having little or no desire for sexual activity) or aromantic (lacking the feeling of romantic attraction), the typical trappings of Valentine’s Day might be irrelevant or downright offensive. These folks still have to endure water-cooler conversations about what people are doing for V Day, plus the ever-present churn of consumer messaging (diamond ads during the Super Bowl come to mind). The message is clear: if I experience attraction or romance differently, I am still subject to the unwritten, arbitrary rules of Valentine’s Day.
Like with other made up holidays (…really IHOP, National Pancake Day?), the only way to win the game is not to play at all. Regardless of who you are or who you date, consider this an invitation to opt out of all things Valentine’s: spending money, giving gifts, planning surprises, booking trips, fancy dinners. No is a complete sentence!
And listen… if you are a lifelong worshipper of Valentine’s Day with family traditions or fond memories attached to it, I get it. I won’t ruin the February version of santa for you. As long as YOU are the one deciding whether or how you celebrate, all choices are excellent choices.
Danielle Selber is one of the in-house matchmakers at Tribe 12, connecting young professionals who are dating in Philadelphia’s Jewish community with each other and the community at large. To view our calendar of Valentine’s-adjacent events or meet with a matchmaker, visit tribe12.org/matchmaking.