Dumb stupid Valentine's Day is here, meaning a bunch of dumb jerks who are in relationships — whether they're married, engaged, dating, or just giggling and gooing at each other in the first throes of puppy love — are going to spend the whole miserable day flaunting their companionship and validation in front of us sadsack sorry-faced singletons. Flowers delivered to offices, couples crowding up restaurants, hand-holding everywhere. It's going to be a nightmare. So how can you, forever alone dynamo that you are, survive the year's most heartbreaking day? Here are some suggestions.
1. Avoid Facebook. This should be a no-brainer. Facebook is where a particular kind of jerk posts photos of various nice things their partner has done for them on Valentine's Day. This Thursday your news feed could be littered with pictures of roses and chocolates and other cute things, then by nighttime it will be nothing but fancy plates of food at cozy or meaningful restaurants, maybe some hideous Instagram (avoid that, too, and probably Twitter also) of two hands holding each other, taken through a glass of champagne. You know, all that stuff that's already annoying the other 364 days of the year, but really takes on another dimension of misery once declarations of coupledom become the institutionalized theme of the day. You already spend enough time dejectedly looking at people's Facebook photos, sighing at their nice vacations and trimmer waistlines and beautiful friends. So why torture yourself even more by reliving their special day of romance while you sit at your computer in your underpants? Get off Facebook for the day. No Instagram, no Twitter, no nothing. You are an island on the 14th. There is only you.
2. Phone a friend. Well, OK, so it's not only you. You must have an equally single friend or two lingering out there in the ether, right? Well, call them up and make a plan. You can spend the day distracting each other from the crushing loneliness that fills your daily life like Stephen King's mist, or you can say f-ck it and wallow together, commiserating about how you're sick of sleeping diagonal in your bed and finally worrying out loud that you're not even sure "it" works anymore. Hole yourself up at some quiet bar (oh, yeah, you've called out sick, duh) and spend too much money getting day-drunk, reminding yourselves why you're friends in the first place. When you part ways in the evening you'll both be gloriously hammered and can just go home and pass out, ending a bad day suddenly content in the knowledge that you're pretty sure at least one person will come to your funeral. Or, don't part ways. Put a hand on a knee. Don't move when they put theirs on yours. Suddenly remember a bottle of wine you have back at your place. Say yes, you'd love to come over and see their new sofa. Go home together. Why not? Keep each other company for the night, do each other that friendly favor, and then, eh, sort it out in the mornings and nights to come. You'll be fine. This happened that one time before, remember, back in college, after that party, you remember the one. You guys bounced back fine after that. You can do it again. You'll be great. This is a terrific idea. Just go for it.
3. Hit the road. If you want to be solitary and pensive for the day, maybe you could just get in your car and go for a drive. (Some of us will be stuck riding the subway, but oh well.) You know, get on the highway and go flying for a bit. Safely, of course. And you should probably have some goal in mind, lest you go too far in any one direction and then get stuck having to get a motel for the night or something. Really the point is to get out of your house, out of the office; put some distance between you and the weary little world you shamble around in every day. Put on some upliftingly sad or sadly uplifting songs — think Fleetwood, think Annie Lennox, hell, think fun. — and look at the big sky there in the windshield and remember that, all things considered, you're free. You really are. You can go any place, any time you want. Who needs some loving companion tying them down? This is the life, fancy free and on the wind. You pack light, you move to the rhythms of your own heart. Of course you are currently driving an '01 Accord 55 mph down the Mass Pike with the windows cracked open because of a window fogging problem, and you are due back at State Street Bank in the morning because if you get fired then it's right back to your parents' house and god knows you don't need that. Yeah, that might be what your "freedom" looks like, it might not be that poetic or cinematic or anything — oh, god, you just remembered you still haven't called the super about the hot water — but it's yours. Nobody else's but yours. Beats spending too much money at some crummy old restaurant, anyway. Who needs that when you've got the McDonald's rest stop coming up? Tray for one, please.
4. Do good? I mean, you could always, like, volunteer or something. I don't know, like go work at a soup kitchen or read things to blind dogs or help clean a highway median? Y'know, charity stuff. Do-gooder things. Didn't Dr. Sarah tell you last week that sometimes feeling good means doing good? You know, like how you're supposed to exercise to release stephendorffmans or whatever they're called? Look, you don't have anything else to do on Valentine's Day, god knows Glenn isn't going to just show up out of the blue and say he was wrong and baby do you want to go to Antigua with me right now. He lives in Florida now with... that other one... and that is that. And you're tired of spending all your post-Glenn V-Days swaddled in a Slanket of your own self-pity, so throw that heavy thing off, put on some shoes, well wait actually put on some pants first and then put on some shoes, and go march yourself to a place where you can help. The Boys & Girls Club maybe, or the Y? Hmm, you do have wild hair and kinda smell from the whole not showering thing, oh, and if you're honest you are a little drunk, so maybe working with easily frightened children isn't really where you're at right now. You know what, go back home, collect a bunch of old clothes, and deliver it all to Goodwill or something. You've got piles and piles of old stuff you don't wear anymore — who needs fancy stuff when you don't go anywhere fancy? Fill a big garbage bag up to the brim, and then drag that thing to whatever local group will take them. (Housing Works maybe?) You'll feel good about having helped other people, you won't be on the couch, and you'll be rid of that T-shirt Glenn brought you back from Universal Studios when he went to Florida that first time to visit... the other one... who he said at the time was just a friend from college. But, hey, don't think about that! Just enjoy your good deed and, I dunno, take a walk around the neighborhood. Maybe it's just good to be outside.
5. Remember that Valentine's Day is stupid. You know it is. Everyone knows it is. Even the saps and the dopes and the OK-you-have-to-admit-it-pretty-cute couples, even they know that the whole thing is a silly sham. And that's OK. Let them have their sham. You can know for yourself as you go about your day like a regular adult person that you're not really missing out on anything. You can still go to dinner, you can buy yourself chocolate and flowers, hell it's the '90s, you can even get lucky with yourself at the end of the night. You've been you for a long, long time, after all. (Not that long! You're still young! There's still hope!) And you're pretty good at it. Don't let one dumb day make you forget that. So suck it up, go get a drink with a friend after work and have a laugh, and then go home and, what the hell, finally set up that OK Cupid profile. Find a decent picture, make some cute jokes, click the "submit" button, and, with as much hope as a dark February night can muster, wait for things to change.