A lot of people don't like Valentine's Day. I can kind of take it or leave it, myself; you know, there are objections and crass consumerism, and I'm really against taking it too seriously, but there are certain things I really like. My family always takes the time to be affectionate on Valentine's Day, and on a personal level I like being reminded to appreciate the good people in my life. And it's a reminder to me to be good to myself, and take care of myself.
One thing that annoys me is the stigma attached to "taking care of myself" on Valentine's Day. You know, I've taken myself out to dinner and to the movies (hell, I've taken myself to a weekend in Paris), so maybe myself and I just have a bizarre relationship. But one of the tricky things to me about having an adult outlook is the apparent dichotomy between taking responsibility for a variety of things -- i.e., not being a slacker -- and saying no to overcommitment and putting one's health, including mental health, first. I struggle with this, and I know others do too.
So I like that there's a day when I'm reminded to not be hard on myself, and to appreciate the work that I put in to making myself happy. And yes, I agree with those who argue that you should remember to do that every day, instead of a greeting-card-mandated holiday. And I try. But there's nothing wrong with a special occasion, and there are only a few days a year when I make the extra effort to have that attitude.
Some of the ways I take care of myself are High Minded and Intellectual. Some aren't. I wish there weren't so much stigma surrounding the second kind.
I don't have a significant other right now, and I haven't for quite awhile. One of the ways I respond to Valentine's Day is by wearing one of my favorite T-shirts, the one that says "Explain to me again why I need a boyfriend." But that doesn't mean I don't like and appreciate romantic love, and if there isn't any in my life (and there's no rule that there should be) I can appreciate it in fiction. (Well, I appreciate it on behalf of my friends who have it, but there's a creepy line there.) So I like certain kinds of romantic entertainment; there's a lot I don't like but I enjoy the occasional romance novel or rom-com, and you know I'm all up in Castle and Beckett's personal lives.
Which brings me to the stigma thing. I'm allergic to cats, but otherwise I fit a lot of the "pathetic single lady" stereotypes. That T-shirt, that I love -- a character in a movie wearing that t-shirt can be assumed to be a man-hater (or maybe a lesbian, which is awesome, but which I'm not), or someone deep in denial about needing a romantic partner, or both. The Jennifer Crusie novel on my bedside table would signify being shy, awkward, and in need of a makeover. The amount of enjoyment I take from certain TV shows or movies -- well, that's a geek who will never interact normally in the world. And don't get me started on the fact that I knit.
I don't think those stereotypes apply to me. But the fact that they spring to mind immediately with a lot of the activities that give me pleasure -- and in hyper relief on this particular day, as opposed to any other day -- means I have spend some time defending my own fun even to myself. And that is un-fun.
I've been reading a lot about gender (and racial) stereotyping recently -- go nab yourself a copy of Fine's Delusions of Gender; it knocked my socks off -- and one thing that I find interesting is that the more mental energy you spend suppressing your worries that you may fit a certain negative stereotype, the more likely you are to fit it inadvertently, because you're uncomfortable and prone to mistakes. (In studies, men and women were given the same math test in two groups. One group was merely given the test. The second group was told that women often do worse on math tests than men, but that this test was specifically designed to compensate and women scored just as well as men. The tests were the same, but the scores of women in the second group were significantly higher. Interesting, no? While you're up, grab yourself a copy of Steele's Whistling Vivaldi.)
So I love that I'm reminded to take time for myself on this day, and I love that I am reminded to tell the people close to me that I love them and that they're special. And I love that I have really supportive people in my life, who do the same for me. And I don't like that as I take care of myself, the things I do to make myself happy stereotype me in nasty ways, and on this day of all days, I have to fight doubly hard to not let those stereotypes bog me down.
I fight it by taking care of myself anyway, and it teaches me a lot about owning the things that make me happy. And I can be happy about that, too.
(Of course, fighting it by ignoring the day all together is another solid strategy.)