As London decks itself out for yet another Valentine’s Day, Ifan Llewelyn muses on why being single is by FAR the better option.
Dear Lord, what a sad little life Saint Valentine. Just when an ice-cold winter hasn’t been depressing enough, you trot out and spread your tacky flowers across town, hell-bent on getting us single folks to feel bad about ourselves. Straight folks who’ve spent the best part of their year bitching about the “ball and chain” are suddenly swept up in a surge of rose-tinted adoration. Karen from accounts gets to lord it over you with her husband’s surprise plans to take her to see The Book of Mormon that evening. It’s time for us queers to come together and say enough is enough. Let’s start a Queers Against Valentines Alliance. Who’s with me?
It’s hard to be critical of the annual celebration without sounding like a Bitter Betty. That’s probably why it’s still such a thing. Dare speak out against V Day and all you’ll ever be met with is “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll find someone soon.” The more you protest that you’re not looking for “someone”, the sadder they perceive you to be. All of a sudden Karen is offering you one of her chocolates and patting you on the back, which you’re sure is an HR violation. What she’ll never appreciate is that not everyone wants to be saddled with an ageing, emotionally illiterate oaf and three ugly kids. Some of us enjoy being out there untethered and free to do whatever we chose to. “Dipping and doing it”, you might say.
There’s one word that rarely has to slip into the single man’s vocabulary: compromise. When you’re committed to someone, every decision is a collaboration between two different people, with two different sets of likes or dislikes, and who at any given time could be in two wildly different moods. The crappy TV show you’ve been craving to binge-watch all day is suddenly out of the question when your other half is feeling intellectual. The Real Housewives get swapped out with the finest works of Ingmar Bergman. You have to sit there watching a man play a game of chess with death when you’d much rather be watching wafer-thin women getting drunk and fighting on a Mexican holiday.
But reality stars aside, the freedom to do whatever you want to of an evening is invaluable. One minute you can be out drinking, decide to catch a movie and then spend the night nestling up to a handsome stranger, all this without spending half an hour debating the next move. If you’re feeling like having some man action, a quick scroll through the, shall we say, Orange Facebook and five minutes later you’re shacking up with a semi-pro rugby player. One minute you’re at a bar listening to a drag queen bark out an ABBA cover, the next you’re in an Uber to Walthamstow.
Having said that, one of the things about being a gay man is that even in a committed relationship, you don’t have that trade-off between a varied and active sex life, and being with someone. Almost half of gay men have been in non-monogamous relationships, and that’s something to be celebrated, especially on a day like Valentine’s when it’s all about reinforcing the idea that you should only have one man in your life. But even in the ever-present “open relationship”, there presumably is still a conversation around when you can and can’t play around. Certain times of day, certain locations and certain mailmen become off-limits. When you’re single, those unavoidably awkward conversations never happen and no piece of fruit is forbidden.
After all, isn’t variety the zest of life? If not the zest, it’s at least the thing that keeps it interesting, like a drunk, sexually frustrated in-law at a family wedding. Perhaps the responsible message for single folks on Valentines Day is to preach a message of self-love, but hey. Jameela Jamil has left the group chat, and even though affirming “you are enough” feels good, sometimes you just aren’t. Sometimes being alone sucks, and there’s nothing you want more than someone to brush your hair and tell you that you look pretty. No amount of Lizzo bangers can get you out of your loveless slump. So what do you do in those moments?
In those moments, it’s important to remember why this is so much better than the alternative. Imagine all the not-your-family funerals you didn’t have to go to. Imagine those drawn-out arguments about the stupid stuff you won’t have to have. Imagine all the hot sex you never would’ve had. Nothing will cheer you up like the thought of not having to go to a boyfriend’s house party, talking to all of his straight friends who won’t stop telling you how “cute you are together”. What is it with straight people and calling gay couples cute? You look Aileen Wournos and Tyrua Moor in the eye and call them cute. When you’re with someone, you have twice the number of those arbitrary but obligatory social occasions. One set of weddings of school friends you no longer talk to is more than enough.
So on the big day, what should you do to celebrate your romantic freedom? By doing absolutely whatever you want to. There’s no need to get bogged down in tragic “Galentine’s day” plans with your friends. Don’t panic and plan another date with that guy who you really weren’t feeling and for god’s sake, DON’T spend it drunk texting your exes. You’re better than that. You’re a liberated queer that has unyoked yourself from all this love-heart heteronormative bullshit. It might be Valentine’s day but, even more importantly, it’s a FRIDAY so throw on a spangled dress and get dancing.