I don't want to brag, but I'm kind of an expert at being single on Valentine's Day. Of the nine I've experienced since dating my first boyfriend at age 14, I've spent all but two of them single — though not necessarily "alone."
This year is no exception. I'm casually dating someone …
... but I don't intend on spending Valentine's Day with him, or getting him a gift.
Am I heartless? Indecisive? Stingy?
No, I'm single.
The few times I've been involved in an undefined relationship with a guy around Valentine's Day, I have still considered myself to be single, and acted accordingly. I've never felt a need to get someone I'm casually dating a gift, or expected one from him. It wasn't because I didn't like him, or didn't see the potential for a future relationship, but simply because it wasn't something I'd do any other day of the year.
Even a gift as small as a box of candy hearts seems unnecessary to me. Not bad, not wrong, just unnecessary.
The average person spends $96.63 on a Valentine's Day gift for a significant other or spouse. When I was in a relationship, I never spent that much. And now that I'm single, I'm ready to mingle ... with all the nice items I could get myself for that chunk of change.
I could buy some peace of mind by putting a dent in my student loans, or treat myself to an Edible Arrangement. (Flowers are nice and all, but you can't eat them.) I could indulge in buying myself a single's massage, or pick out some non-heart-shaped jewelry that I won't have to pretend to like and only wear in my gentleman caller's presence.
One of the main perks of being single on Valentine's Day is not having to subject myself to the special kind of masochism of picking out a gift for another person.
Especially when there's no guarantee that gift will be reciprocated.
If I give the other person in an undefined relationship a Valentine's Day gift (no matter how small), it can have unintended consequences. If he didn't give me one, I'd feel hurt and foolish. Even if he did, there's still a risk that one of our gifts will be more thoughtful or expensive than the other's, which would imbalance our seemingly equal levels of detached affection.
It's hard enough to get the perfect Valentine's Day gift for your significant other in a clearly defined relationship. When you're not defined, the uncertainty is daunting. Even in the best case scenario, where both people receive nice gifts of equal value, this act can still add unnecessary complications and put unwanted pressure on a casual romance.
Now that we've shown our mutual affection through physical objects, what are we? Are we still just casually dating or is it something more? Do either of us have an answer to this question?
Isn’t the whole point of casually dating someone that it’s supposed to be fun and simple? Or, at the very least, simpler than a relationship?
I get stressed out enough getting presents for my immediate family who I've known longer and better than anyone else. Now I'm supposed to find the perfect gift that says, "I like you, but not that much. Don't freak out," for someone I've only known for a few months? I have no idea what kind of present can accomplish that feat, except maybe a pillow with that exact phrase cross-stitched on it.
But I do have another idea: intangible gifts.
If I really want to show (a moderate amount of) affection for someone I'm casually dating, I'd much rather do something nice for him. I think the best gifts we could give each other are intangible ones like responding to each other's texts when we actually read them, taking turns having uncontested control of the evening's Netflix selection,or letting the overnight guest stay as long as they want instead of until the host wants to be alone.
Then, we can take whatever money we would've spent on a physical Valentine's Day gift on the only person we really need to love: ourselves.
Cover image via Unsplash/Ian Schneider