Singletons should not try to ignore Valentine’s Day, but try to claim back what was once OUR DAY. Anyone born after about 1980 probably doesn’t know that Valentine’s Day was specifically devised so that singletons could hook up. It was the custom on14 February each year for anyone without a partner to shyly, and often secretly, declare their love for another, through the gift of a card. This was in the hope that the recipient would identify the sender and make known their love in return. And if that didn’t work, another old custom intended to encourage the unwed into matrimony came along every four years: in a Leap Year, on 29 February a woman can propose to a man.
But as Dolly Alderton @dollyalderton writes in her Sunday Times Style column, Valentine’s Day is “.….now a day that is solely associated with the coupled-up; a day that is often used to make anyone who finds themselves on their own feel isolated or as if they have failed.” The old Valentine’s Day tradition has changed in my lifetime. I can remember in my single teens, twenties and thirties both the anxiety of giving a card to someone, and the anticipation of perhaps receiving one myself. We single girls made light of the occasion, joking that we would need to pin a sack under the letterbox to hold the mountain of cards we expected. Or how embarrassed we would be to get a card from an anonymous suitor! Of course, everyone hoped to receive at least one card. And, if you were in a relationship, it had already become customary for partners to give each other a Valentine’s card to reinforce their commitment to each other. In those days a card sufficed.
Nowadays, for anyone without a partner, Valentine’s Day can feel like the worst day of the year. But what about the pressure on every individual and couple in a relationship? Whether they’ve been together two weeks, two years, or more than two decades, they must conform to the stereotypical Valentine’s Day rules of behaviour. In this over-commercialised fake festival of the ‘romantic’, love is not just “all-around”, but right in your face for weeks: cards bearing symbolic red hearts, cupids and butterflies. Plus limited-edition gifts of chocolates in heart-shaped boxes; cellophane-wrapped bottles of bubbly all costing two quid more because they’re ‘Valentine-branded.’ I reckon many couples would gladly get rid of this tawdry sales-fest and hand the day back to the singletons for whom it was created!!
But if singletons reclaimed the day, would we want to revert back to the old custom? Wouldn’t we rather celebrate our single status, our successful solo lives and lifestyles, in which we are managing to live very well on our own, at least for now? In the last few years, the idea of a Singles Awareness/Appreciation Day or National Singles Day in the US, has gained support to be celebrated annually on 15 February. It encourage single get-togethers to share the common theme of recognising love, and a love for life in all its forms: one that isn’t dependent on a partner-relationship status. Gifts for other single friends/family or for oneself are also encouraged.
However, for all of us single ladies, the Valentine’s Day alternative we should be organising or grabbing an invitation to is the Galantine’s Day celebration. And as the prefix ‘gal’ implies, the sisters have started doing it for themselves all over again! Unbelievably, Galantine’s Day is a fictional, fake celebration, created by a male writer for the US sitcom Parks and Recreation. In an episode written by Michael Schur, co-creator of the award winning sitcom, the lead character Leslie (played by Amy Poehler) holds her annual ‘Galantine’s Day’ girlfriend brunch on 13 February, for ‘ladies to celebrate ladies’ and exchange gifts. The episode was aired on US TV in February 2010 and the fake celebration has taken off year on year, and become a reality – even crossing the pond to be celebrated in the UK.
Interestingly, the original Galantine’s celebration in the TV show was for Leslie’s female friends, apparently all in relationships, as she explained they could “leave their husbands and boyfriends at home.” And the date of her event was the 13th of February, because presumably they would be celebrating as usual on the 14th with their husbands and boyfriends.
Somehow the referential but crazily offbeat title has been adopted, but the concept has been transformed over the last nine years into a celebration by and for single women. Maybe this is just in the UK, but whatever, it seems more in tune with the zeitgeist or current trends: the increasing power of women, the toppling of totems, recognition of equality and diversity in relationships…..or even (whisper who dares) relationship status? Guidelines for celebrations are that they should include gifts and food, but otherwise can be just about anything you fancy, according to you and your friends’ tastes: eating out or in; an activity; volunteering; a task or a trip at home or abroad. Basically, a Galantine’s Day celebration is another reason for a girls’ night/day/ weekend at home or away. What’s not to like??!!
And the date? All I know is that my internet search on Galantine’s Day told me that celebrations can be organised on any day preferably on or close to Valentine’s Day – well natch! The one I’m going to is hosted by my divorced friend Trudy, who will be excellent at bringing together a group of women, some of whom don’t know each other but have their single status in common. It is on the 14th, as a statement antidote to all the Valentine’s malarkey and hype. I suspect that I will enjoy being in the company of a lot of interesting single women, on an evening that I hope will become a diary ‘must do’. Let’s check in on this next year!