In case you’ve missed it, Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Again.
Between the chocolate bunnies and massive easter eggs that have popped up in stores the day after Christmas, a flood of pink is looming. Hearts, flowers, cheesy quotes. Ads demanding that you get your partner some chocolates, flowers, a card, balloons, a larger gift. Why not go all the way and book a short romantic getaway? Don’t forget to book a restaurant table in time!
The sarcasm probably creates the impression that I am a romance-hater, that I’m bitter or something. But that’s not actually the case. I live for small gestures of affection, whether they are romantically or platonically motivated. But as someone who identifies as asexual and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum, I struggle with our culture’s idea that single must equal sad and lonely, that I can only find fulfilment in a romantic or sexual relationship. Add to this with the constant questions from family and parents’ friends about whether I have a boyfriend, and Valentine’s Day is just too much.
Even before I realised I was asexual, I was never a fan of that day – why make such a big thing out of it? Shouldn’t you show your care and love for each other every day? Since realising I’m asexual, these feelings have become more intense. While I’ve joked with friends about how ‘sad’ it is that we don’t have a Valentine’s date, in reality I’m still single because relationships as most people understand them are not for me.
I’m comfortable with my identity and live a generally happy life, but now and again when I’m reminded of my singleness, and see how oh-so-happy people are in relationships, a sadness creeps over me. The romance and sexual relationship imperative is everywhere. Subtly, in the subtext of advertising, or more directly when people insist that you just haven’t met the right person. In German, my native language, we even have a proverb, which translates to: “Every pot has a lid.”
Valentine’s Day just is the cherry on top of the idea of romance and sexuality as normal and expected. It drills into us the idea of a single person being sad and lonely, desperately searching for a relationship to be happy. It becomes so intense that even someone like me, who isn’t looking for romance, starts to feel this way. The doom of eternal loneliness hanging over me, damning me to sadness and unfulfilment forever. It makes me feel like something is wrong with me. Maybe I’ve been lying to myself the entire time? Maybe I’m destined to find someone eventually?
But no. My identity is valid, I’m normal. I’m human. There’s nothing wrong with me.
I’m not arguing that advertisers, commercial venues and even friends and family are actively trying to hurt asexual or aromantic people – they’re just trying to make a profit off the idea of romance. But they likely didn’t even think of us, or didn’t even know about us. I also know that Valentine’s Day isn’t going anywhere, and so instead of hating on it, how about we reframe it?
Human experiences of love are so broad and all are valid, and yes, love deserves to be celebrated. So why not make Valentine’s Day a celebration of inclusive love, celebrating partners, best friends, queer-platonic partners, or found family? Reach out to your ace friends and check in with them and make them feel special. Plan a dinner night with your housemates like I am this year to celebrate your friendship and/or chosen family. Go for a walk or a coffee with your favourite people and make it a special day for all kinds of relationships. Valentine’s Day is the day of love – for all kinds of love.
Carden is an ambassador for Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity – sign up for their newsletter.