Girl on Girls

Meeting the challenge of Valentine’s Day in a pandemic

This is going to be a really weird Valentine’s Day. I mean there’s lots to love: We have a president we can be proud of who loves us and respects us and wants to take care of and protect us. There are vaccines for COVID-19 that are slowly but surely being administered. And some days feel like spring already, one of the many benefits of living in Texas.

But it’s still going to be really weird.

There aren’t going to be fancy dinners in packed restaurants. No theaters with full houses. No romantic movies to be seen shoulder-to-shoulder with other couples.

We’re going to have to think differently this year. We’re going to have to opt for picnics and outdoor events. We’ll have to spend the holiday learning how to create new things in the kitchen or crafting pretty whatnots. We’ll have to go on hikes or kick around the soccer ball or go horseback riding with our person.

So here’s the thing: This is our moment.

Now’s our chance to do something that we don’t get to do every day in such a dramatic fashion. We have the chance to decide if we’re going to make the most of it or bemoan the worst of it. We can hold on to the expectations we’ve had from years passed, or we can do with this holiday what we’ve had to do with so many other things during the pandemic: turn things on their heads and make something entirely new out of it.

I mean, maybe it’s a good thing. Valentine’s Day is kind of a tough holiday, anyway. It’s a make-believe, card store day. But it’s almost impossible to not buy into it, to not want to create the perfect Valentine’s Day for your person and to not want the same done for you.

And if you don’t buy in, people think you’re some heart-broken curmudgeon. In other words, you can’t win for losing when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

This year though, we have no choice but to take on a new perspective. We can’t have the same expectations because those expectations literally cannot possibly be filled. I mean, they could, I suppose. But it would be foolish at best and dangerous at worst. In a way, Valentine’s Day this year is a forced lesson in managing our expectations.

What if instead of looking at Valentine’s Day as our chosen one’s one and only real chance to prove their love to us, we looked at it as a day where we put all of our focus, all of our intention on our love or like or fondness — whatever you want to call it — for that person.

Forget the idea of either of you proving a thing. Instead, this year, let’s celebrate the very existence of love. Let’s remember it and honor it and nurture it.

Let’s make our person their coffee that morning instead of them having to make it. Let’s say thank you — and mean it — when they do the most mundane things for no reason other than that they love us. Let’s be present. Let’s put down our phones and the remote and talk to one another. Let’s be grateful for someone to care for who cares for us. And let’s show that with our presence instead of some grand gesture.

It’s a day about all kinds of love. So whether you’re partnered or not, reach out to friends and tell them you love them and are grateful to have them in your life. Grant yourself some self-care — some real self-care — not just candles and a bubble bath, but the real deal.

Ask yourself what you really need right now: healthy food, a walk around the block, a long call with a close friend or family member, an appointment with a mental health provider.

Just like you would care for someone you love, Valentine’s Day is a great time to remember to love ourselves.

Holidays are full of pressure. But it’s pressure we put on ourselves from giving too much weight to all the outside noise. You don’t have to buy a card; you can make one. You don’t have to buy a fancy gift; you can skip it or craft it or even IOU it. You don’t have to plan an elaborate surprise; most of us want little more than our person’s full and undivided attention and to be reminded that we are indeed “the one.”

Do what you might generally forget to do or feel too busy or overwhelmed to do but know that you should do. Pretend like you’re courting again. Pay attention. Flirt. Cuddle. The whole nine yards.

This year is not just challenging. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge that we can choose to accept and not just make the best of the situation but instead make the day truly better than ever before.

Let’s make this Valentine’s Day the one where real love takes the front seat, and all the trimmings slip into the back. Let’s use it as a time to reassess and recommit to loving one another with gratefulness and without distraction.

The most romantic thing in the world you can do is make sure your Valentine feels seen. The rest is just window dressing.