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Making through Valentine's alone is an art form

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Catherine W. Idzerda
February 13, 2010
— Sunday is Valentine's Day.

Ooo, how exciting, a chance for people to show how much they love one another with stuffed bears and average chocolates.


For single people, the day feels like an in-your-face display of their aloneness, singularity and isolation.


It doesn't have to be like that.


Having raised being single to an art form (I didn't get married until I was 40), I'm an expert on surviving the holiday.


Of course, now that I'm married, I'm guaranteed a Valentine's Day card every year. I'm also guaranteed that every night, for the rest of my life, I'll be picking up the pair of dirty black socks left next to the recliner.


But I digress.


Here are some tools to help you, a single person, to get through this most ridiculous of all holidays.


-- First, remember its history.


St. Valentine is a bit of a mystery.


Actually, it'd be more accurate to say saints—plural—Valentines.


Reputable Catholic sources note there were three St. Valentines and each is only vaguely connected to romantic love.


"Back in the day, the way people became saints was kind of spotty. Today, it's quite the procedure," said the Rev. Stephen J. Umhoefer of Nativity of Mary Parish, Janesville.


There are legends about one of those Valentines interceding for lovers, Umhoefer said.


It's more likely that Feb. 14, the date of St. Valentine's beheading, was imbued with romantic significance by later writers … because really, there's nothing that says, "I love you," like a beheading.


-- Then, understand what it's become.


Of all the Hallmark holidays, Valentine's Day is the worst of all.


A "Hallmark holiday" is the practice of taking a modest commemorative day and turning it into a money-making spectacular complete with required practices—the giant box of candy, holiday-themed clothing, special decorations and elevated expectations.


"It's a manufactured holiday," said Autumn Behringer, assistant professor of sociology at UW-Rock County.


Manufactured to do what?


"To pour more money into the economy, to sell cards and chocolate and to fill restaurants," Behringer answered promptly.


Telling your loved ones that you care is a noble sentiment, but Valentine's has become about competition, judgment and evaluation, she said.


We've all felt it in the workplace, that unspoken, "Her husband/boyfriend sent her flowers at work. Why doesn't mine feel that way about me?" or "I wish somebody would care enough about me to send me flowers."


But here's a tip from Behringer—and from me, too—flowers don't equate to intimacy. They don't necessarily mean everlasting love.


"Valentine's is used as a barometer for relationships," Behringer said. "It always makes me feel sad when people feel they have to spend money to show someone they love them,"


The message for single people?


Remember this is a manufactured holiday.


Remember the quality of a relationship—romantic or otherwise—is not determined by the amount of money spent on the other person.


-- Take care of yourself


Those last two bits of advice were for your head.


Here's some advice for your heart from Dr. Carrie Kaiser, a naturopathic doctor at the Naturopathic Family Clinic, Janesville.


Naturopathic medicine treats the whole person: body, mind and spirit.


Her advice for singles on Valentine's?


Treat yourself well by focusing on all of your senses.


"Surround yourself with beautiful things," Kaiser said.


Essential oils such as jasmine and rose diffused through the atmosphere can be very uplifting. The essential oil of fir is great for people who like the outdoors.


Essential oils can be found at stores such as Basics Cooperative.


Aroma can have a strong impact on mood, she said.


So can food.


But stay away from that package of Oreo cookies—you'll only regret it. If you want something sweet, get some real chocolate, something with 70 percent cocoa, Kaiser said.


"You'll find it far more satisfying," Kaiser said.


Another way to satisfy your senses is by cooking yourself a nice meal. Go shopping for the ingredients and savor the details such as cutting up the vegetables and arranging the food on the plate.


Other ideas?


Get a massage, take a soapy bath or get a hair cut at a salon that will give you a marvelous head and neck massage.


"Make it a really beautiful day," Kaiser said.



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