Do you think Feb. 14 should be just another day on the calendar? The annual onslaught of heart-shaped objects, cheap chocolates, and exploitatively priced diamonds can leave those who are recently or perennially single — or just don’t like Hallmark holidays — feeling left out.
Valentine’s Day is commonly associated with love, romance, and mushy stuff. But the holiday actually has some pretty gory and brutal origins, according to Smithsonian Magazine and NPR. That alone is enough to make some people skip it.
And newer traditions, like Singles Awareness Day and Galentine’s Day, have shifted the holiday’s focus from a celebration of romantic couples to a more general celebration of love and friendship.
Whether you want to celebrate Anti-Valentine’s Day, Singles Awareness Day, or Galentine’s Day (technically, Feb. 13), you have plenty of options for having fun without a significant other.
Anti-Valentine’s Day Party & Activity Ideas
Don’t wait around for Cupid this Valentine’s Day. Plan your own Anti-Valentine’s Day party or get together. You can invite your single friends, your best friend, or keep the guest list to a minimum and only invite yourself.
Just remember to keep your festivities COVID-19-friendly this year. That’s easy if you’re celebrating solo. But if you want to celebrate with friends, keep the events virtual or socially distanced (preferably outdoors) or limit the guest list to your pandemic pod.
1. Swap Bad Ex Stories
Even if you’re currently unattached, you may have an ex who was — to put it mildly — memorable.
First Person Arts, a Philadelphia-based organization dedicated to the art of storytelling, holds an annual Valentine’s Day story slam called “Ex-Files.” Members of the audience sign up for the opportunity to tell a story about an ex. At the end of the story slam, judges (also from the audience) choose a winner, who walks away with a cash prize and the opportunity to compete at the Grand Slam, where they crown Philly’s citywide storytelling champ.
You can put together your own ex-themed storytelling event by gathering a group of friends to come up with your own (true) stories. Use the word “ex” loosely here. Your story can be about a terrible first date or a longer-term relationship.
When asking people to participate, remind them that the goal is to be entertaining or compelling. You’re not just gathering to complain about your exes. You want to make people laugh or cry.
While you’ll be delivering the stories aloud, you can write and practice them beforehand. If you or your friends have never taken part in a story slam, share some helpful links about learning to tell a story, such as Udemy’s quick guide to storytelling.
If you can’t gather in person, a story slam is the perfect event to hold virtually.
2. Kick Back With a Book About the Joys of Being Single
When you think of single people, what sorts of images come to mind? Maybe you see sad and lonely Bridget Jones singing along to Celine Dion in her pajamas or remember the comic strip “Cathy” and its somewhat neurotic hero.
Single people aren’t usually shown in the best light, at least as far as pop culture goes. We’re all desperate for a partner, constantly wondering to ourselves why no one loves us and why we’re still on our own.
Reality is quite a bit different from most depictions of singletons. In a 2020 post summarizing several studies, Varsha Swamy, a graduate student at Colorado State University notes that single people have more financial freedom than coupled folks, tend to have better-quality relationships with other family members and friends, and are more likely to be in better physical health.
It can help to remind yourself of those things. What better way to do that than by spending Feb. 14 reading a book that celebrates singleness?
Some titles to check out:
- “Single on Purpose.” John Kim, aka The Angry Therapist, walks you through how to make your relationship with yourself the most important one you have, enabling you to feel fulfilled and complete.
- “How to Be Alone.” Don’t be fooled by the title. Former Cosmopolitan sex and relationships editor Lane Moore’s debut book isn’t a how-to guide. Instead, it’s a memoir that sees Moore reflect on and come to terms with solitude.
- “Year of Yes.” TV producer Shonda Rhimes (of “Bridgerton,” “Scandal,” and “Grey’s Anatomy” fame) spent a year challenging herself after her sister told her she never said yes to anything. The rest is history. While the book isn’t about singleness per se, it is an excellent reminder of the importance of getting out there and embracing life, whatever your current relationship status.
- “All the Single Ladies.” Rebecca Traister, an award-winning journalist for New York magazine does a deep dive into the economic and social role single women play in the United States. It’s a well-researched and thought-provoking read.
- “Sex From Scratch.” Bitch magazine editor Sarah Mirk’s advice isn’t specifically about singleness. But it’s a refreshing read for anyone who feels confined by societal expectations or wants to walk their own path, whether that means staying single or finding a partner (or partners).
- “Going Solo.” Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University, takes a close look at the relatively recent phenomenon of people living on their own and how solo living is changing society for the better.
- “The Unexpected Joys of Being Single.” Catherine Gray, who also wrote “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” and several other “Unexpected Joy” books, explores the benefits and joys of being on your own, interviewing psychologists and neuroscientists to unearth the reasons for our unhealthy obsession with coupling along the way. Notably, she notes the benefits of singledom compared to constantly tethering yourself to unhealthy relationships.
3. Watch Your Favorite Movies (No Rom-Coms Allowed!)
Put a somewhat different spin on “Netflix and chill” this Valentine’s Day by holding a movie marathon, either for an audience of one or for a group of friends.
The less romantic the movie, the better. Stick with horror films if you can stomach them, or go for raunchy comedies. Whatever you do, leave the sappy romantic comedies and romance dramas for another day.
4. Go for a Long Walk
Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise. It’s also a relaxing way to enjoy some quiet time to yourself.
If you find yourself alone, stressed or a little down on Valentine’s Day, take a walk. It doesn’t matter where you go.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started taking a daily walk, wandering up and down the narrow streets in the neighborhoods near my home. Some days, I’d start my walk with my fists clenched, full of tension and stress. After 30 minutes to an hour of walking, my body relaxed.
If you don’t live in a city designed with walkability in mind, try visiting a nearby park with paths or trails. Bundle up if it’s cold, keeping your core warm so you don’t give up on the walk too soon. You can also bring along a thermos of tea or hot chocolate to keep yourself toasty.
5. Host a Solo Dance Party
During the pandemic, clubs are closed, meaning an at-home DIY-DJ dance party is your only option. That’s probably for the best since the idea of heading out to a crowded club on Valentine’s Day fills a lot of people with dread.
Instead, hold a private dance party at home. No one will be there to judge your dance moves or hit on you. And you don’t have to worry about the DJ playing terrible songs.
While the joy of an Anti-Valentine’s Day solo dance party is getting to dance around your living room in your socks and PJs, you can invite others to join in. Set up a Zoom call or similar, share your playlist with your favorite people, and get ready to dance the night away.
6. Show the World How Handy You Are
Need a bit of a self-esteem boost this Valentine’s Day? Do something handy around your house. I recently hung a mailbox, and I can’t put into words how accomplished successfully drilling into brick made me feel. The same is true of hanging perfectly level shelves, building a custom deck chair, or fixing the tattered trim on your home’s exterior.
Tackle that home improvement project that’s been languishing on your to-do list, or start planning a new one just for Valentine’s Day. When the project is complete, snap a few pictures of the “after” and post them to your favorite social media sites or share them in your group chats to revel in the praise.
7. Bake Sweet Treats
You don’t need a special loved one to enjoy decadent desserts on Valentine’s Day. If you love sweets, get into the kitchen and bake some goodies for yourself. Some ideas to try:
- Red Velvet Cupcakes. With a delicate crumb and tangy cream cheese frosting to complement the intense red-tinged chocolate, Ina Garten’s red velvet cupcakes are truly decadent. The recipe makes 15, so you’ll have plenty to share or freeze for later. Get the full recipe on Food Network.
- S’mores Nutella Crepes. If you love the roasty flavor of Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread, combine it with buttery crepes and fluffy marshmallows for a grown-up version of a kid-friendly campfire classic. Get the full recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction.
- Flourless Chocolate Cake. Even those with a gluten allergy can indulge in chocolate cake. This flourless chocolate cake is super-rich and gluten-free. If you’re a chocoholic, it’s pretty much heaven on a plate. Get the full recipe from King Arthur Baking Company.
- Conversation Heart Cookies. Iced cut-out cookies aren’t just for Christmas. Break out the heart-shaped cookie cutters and your piping bag and make some conversation heart cookies to celebrate Anti-Valentine’s Day. Get the full recipe from Martha Stewart. But instead of just icing them, think of Anti-Valentine’s Day words or phrases to write on the cookies, such as, “No, Thanks,” “Anti-Love,” or “Love Stinks.” Pipe the phrases on after the icing is fully dry.
- Brownies and Ice Cream. You want a sweet treat, but your baking skills are lacking and Mr. or Ms. Right (probably) isn’t about to show up at your door with some pastries or cake. No problem. Buy a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix and prepare it according to the package directions (to avoid overbaking, take the brownies out when they’re set on the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with batter on it). Let them cool, then slice and top with your favorite ice cream, such as chocolate fudge ripple, mint chocolate chip, or strawberry.
8. Plan an Amazing Solo Getaway
This Feb. 14, show your love for yourself by planning a trip to take on your own. It doesn’t matter whether you really end up taking the trip. The point of the project is to get yourself thinking about what you want and what you enjoy.
When planning your solo travel adventure, hammer out the same details you would if it were a trip with a group of friends:
- Where to Go. Dream big! Where would you go if money and travel restrictions were no object? It could be a backpacking trip across Europe, a stay at a beachside resort, or a trip to a rainforest in South America.
- What to Do. Do you see yourself walking across England or the Coastal Path in Wales? Maybe you want to visit as many American museums or Japanese temples as possible. Perhaps your goal is to climb Everest or another challenging summit.
- When to Go. When would you like to make this trip? Depending on the vacation’s scope, it might be something that requires years of planning and saving or a months-long hiatus from work.
- Why You Want to Go. Why this trip? What about it appeals to you? Assessing why you want to go can spur you to action. It could inspire you to start looking up airfares or researching travel rules and requirements after you’ve sketched out a basic plan.
9. Visit a Museum
You don’t need a date to visit a museum. You might actually get more enjoyment from your visit — or at least a better appreciation of the art or artifacts you see — if you go alone.
Pick a favorite museum in your area, or virtually visit one in a farther-flung location on Valentine’s Day. Ignore any canoodling couples you see and focus on the work around you. Unless you really need it, skip the audio tour so you can zero in on what you see. The National Endowment for the Humanities questions the value of the placards next to the artifacts too. Just look at the art or artifacts.
Another benefit of visiting a museum solo is that you can decide when to leave and what you look at. If you’re going to a museum you’ve been to frequently, you can stick to the “greatest hits,” looking at the exhibitions that spoke to you on previous visits.
10. Throw a Used Dates Party
In an episode from season 3 of “Sex and the City,” Charlotte throws a “used dates” party. She asks guests to bring someone they used to date to the party in the hopes sparks would fly between other guests.
If you and your circle of single friends have exes you’re on good terms with, a used dates party can be a somewhat cynical but fun way to un-celebrate Valentine’s Day. Just make sure everyone attending the party knows the premise so no one ends up getting hurt or thinking their “date” wants to go out with them again.
Depending on circumstances, the party can be in person or over Zoom. If you’re doing a virtual version, be sure to give everyone a chance to introduce themselves or introduce their date. Set up breakout rooms so people can mix and mingle in smaller groups, just as they would at an in-person get-together.
11. Hold an Ex Bonfire
Do you have old Valentine’s Day gifts or Valentine’s Day cards from an ex lying around? To borrow another idea from late-1990s TV, throw an ex bonfire and burn those mementos.
You can have the bonfire on your own or invite other friends to join in. Just keep a few fire-safety rules in mind. Don’t burn the items inside your house. Instead, set up a fire pit outdoors at a safe distance from your home or any other flammable structures.
Also, don’t burn anything that could produce fumes, such as plastic objects or that mix CD your high school boyfriend made for you.
If the idea of an ex bonfire appeals to you, but you don’t have the means of safely lighting anything on fire, try destroying old mementos in other ways:
- Shred an old greeting card or two.
- Take a hammer to old gifts, such as vases or pottery.
- Break an old mix CD or cassette in half.
- Cut up an old T-shirt your ex gave you.
- Paste a picture of their face to a piñata and smash away.
- Fill a deli container with their gifts, dig a hole in the garden, and bury the past.
12. Enjoy a Solo ‘Romantic’ Dinner
Romance yourself this Valentine’s Day by making or ordering foods you don’t usually get to enjoy. Think lobster, wagyu beef, and caviar. It’s a chance to open the quality bottle of wine you’ve been saving or enjoy an indulgent dessert.
Go all out with your table setting. Put candles on the table, use a place mat and cloth napkin, and eat off real plates using real flatware. Also, dim the lights and put on your favorite music to set the mood.
While eating, tuck away your phone and other screens and focus on the food in front of you. Keep a journal or notepad beside you to write down thoughts on the food or ideas that come to mind as you eat. You can also set up a Zoom dinner date with another single friend or two if you prefer.
13. Get Artsy
Tap into your creative side on Valentine’s Day and get crafting. Depending on your skill level and confidence, you can:
- Make Anti-Valentine’s Day cards for your friends.
- Do silly kids Valentine’s Day crafts to remind you of a simpler time.
- Embroider a Valentine’s Day (or Anti-Valentine’s Day) sampler.
- Do a simple woodworking project.
- Download free printable adult coloring pages to relax with.
- Learn pottery (if you’re a beginner, kids pottery kits are inexpensive).
- Start a paint-by-numbers project.
- Do an adult Mod Podge craft.
- Make friendship bracelets to give to your favorite people.
For more simple adult-friendly art projects, go to Ann Arbor Art Center.
14. Enjoy a Solo Spa Day
Even if you’re not stressed about being single, 2020 was a long year, and we’re not out of the woods yet. Set up an at-home spa day to help yourself relax.
For a DIY mani-pedi, fill a portable basin with water and dissolve Epsom salts to soak your feet in. The Epsom will soothe and soften tired feet. You can also soak your fingertips in the Epsom salt solution, then give yourself a home manicure to tidy up your nails. For a little added fun, buy a flashy nail art kit and give your hands a blingy makeover.
If your skin needs some TLC, try an at-home facial. The Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mask softens dry, flaky winter skin. If your pores need a bit of a detox, try Origins Clear Improvement active charcoal mask.
To set the mood for your spa day, dim the lights, light some scented candles, and turn on your favorite quiet music.
Valentine’s Day is often a time for romance and a celebration of coupledom. But it doesn’t have to be. Whether you say you’re anti-Valentine’s Day or are celebrating Singles Awareness Day, you’re free to celebrate your awesomeness as a single person on Feb. 14.
Spend the day commiserating with friends about your dating history or nonexistent love life, or dedicate a few hours to focusing on yourself and what you want to get out of life. Whatever you do, remember that, at the end of the day, it’ll be Feb. 15, and Valentine’s Day will be behind you for another year.