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In Living Commentary

You don't have to be "in love" to celebrate love on Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day survival guide

A year ago, I was single on Valentine's Day. I went to dinner with a friend, to a Marquette basketball game, out for a drink and then home to watch Sex and the City reruns and eat leftovers. It could have been any other weekend night aside from the frustration of not being able to get a decent dinner reservation and a few extra lovey-dovey couples around.

If you're single on Valentine's Day, you are supposed to spend the day in Bridget Jones fashion: being sad, feeling inadequate, eating delivery Chinese food at home and passing out after a bottle and a half of cheap wine. The pressure to be a part of a couple on Valentine's Day is overwhelming and if the month of sappy commercials leading up to it isn't enough, spending the day listening to squeals of excitement from coworkers when yet another one of them receives a huge bouquet of roses is nearly intolerable.

There's plenty of pressure for those that are part of a couple as well. In fact Hallmark, jewelers and flower shops are banking on the high expectations of this magical day set up by romantic comedies. Men definitely get screwed on Valentine's Day -- and not in the good way, either (although I wish you the best of luck in that endeavor). Trying to top last year's gifts, trying to best all your girlfriend's friends or wife's friends. It's a no win situation because you guys are set up for failure. Sort of like the depression people experience around Christmas because they set the bar so high only to be disappointed.

Valentine's Day may have been best celebrated in elementary school when your parents would buy you an entire pack of matching cards and you gave and received one from each kid in your class. Then you would all spend the day getting sugar highs from all the chocolate and chalky hearts. Back then, the day wasn't about how much you spent or how much you got; it was about friendship, giving and sweets.

When you stop to think about what Valentine's Day is really supposed to be about you'll quickly start to realize that the theme of this special day is a manufactured hype. No, I'm not that cynical; I like getting flowers and gifts and feeling adored just as much as the next girl, but the true meaning of Valentine's Day isn't expensive meals or gifts, it's love. A feeling you can't wrap or buy. Actually 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' would be a great Valentine's Day flick because it's a simple reminder that what we're supposed to be celebrating isn't available online or in a mall. ("It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages boxes, or bags!") Romance doesn't have to be expensive. If you stop and think back I bet you'll find that many of the more romantic moments of your life/relationship haven't been expensive or possibly not material at all.

In between the roses, the dinner, the gifts and the cards, remember why we celebrate Valentine's Day in the first place: because we want to say 'I love you', not 'I want to buy your love.' Do something fun, memorable, relaxing, low-stress. Even if you're single, find someone you love (doesn't have to be 'in love') and do something to remind them how much they mean to you.

I received an email just this morning about the seven things you shouldn't do on Valentine's Day and one of them was go on a first date. The reason was supposedly your expectations will be too high that this guy might really be 'the one.' Uh, what? If you go on a first date any day of the year and have the expectation that you'll know he's 'the one' you need to stop dating all together and get some help. Of course you're going to be let down! I say go on that Valentine's Day first date, have reasonable expectations and enjoy yourself. If it works out, super, but even if it doesn't, at least you weren't at home alone watching "Sleepless in Seattle" over and over, feeling sorry for yourself.

I'm not yet sure how I'll be spending this Valentine's Day. We may go out and do it up big or maybe we'll spend the day in our pajamas, watching The Soup and eating cold pancakes. Either way, what matters to me is that we spend the day together. Hershey's Kisses are damn good, but they'll never replace the real thing. Again, if you're single, spend the day with a good friend, your sister, brother, someone important in your life. If you're in a couple, try not to get caught up in the hype, be realistic about the day and most importantly don't forget what it's really about.

The Beatles seemed to know a thing or two about love, "it's all you need" and you can't buy it, either.

No matter how you celebrate, have a very Happy Valentine's Day!


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