I have many amazing friends who agonize over what they will do with their single selves on this Hallmark-created holiday. People who are in a panic because they have never been single before, or feel they have been single too long.
They are feeling unloved and insecure. I sometimes feel this way, so I have a message for everyone from my experience as a bachelorette.
I have been more or less happily single for the last five years, and aside from two or three serious relationships, I have been single mostly forever. The past five years I have had a few short-term relationships of varying degrees of reciprocity, but none of them felt like something we were both willing to commit to becoming a major center of our lives.
Despite my desire to have a partner, I simply could not find one who clicked.
During those five years, I have become braver and more whole within myself. I pushed myself to leave comfortable things for challenging things and discovered rewards - both physical and intangible.
I have discovered and developed deeply devoted friendships, and I have learned how to overcome a zillion obstacles, from being broke to breaking my wrist, I have been able to, with community support, fix it and learn from it.
I have travelled alone and enjoyed it. I experienced the dark forest of loneliness and actually explored it. I have travelled with others and felt surprised to often miss my solitude.
I have looked at my own attitudes and opinions, and learned about things that made me initially uncomfortable, some as big as my role in white supremacy or as small as confronting the invisible-to-me things about myself that might hold me back and work on them.
I have tried to create safe spaces for others who are struggling through my work around sexual assault.
I did all of this without "a man." In fact, I did much of this because I was not distracted by a man. Sometimes I had a man and I had to drop him because he got in my way, usually by trying to assert his power over me and trying to control me.
The times I really want to be in a relationship, it's often because I feel left out. That desire has encouraged me to choose men who have mistreated me because I just wanted to be a part of it. But I (and my friends) can never put up with it for very long.
I am lucky to live in New York City in an activist community of mostly progressive, solid women who support and love each other, to whom men are secondary to their personal missions.
Our culture does not celebrate the woman who stands on her own. We are shamed in a multitude of ways, mostly subtle but always deeply felt. In some circles if you can't talk about your partner, your marriage or your children, people don't really know what to say to you.
They don't know how to engage with your independence and they get tired of hearing about your work or your opinions. That's a cultural problem that we have, and it's got nothing to do with single people.
If you've never been single and have the chance, I encourage you to try it. If you are in a committed relationship, I encourage you to carve out time to get to know yourself outside of your relationship.
My Valentine's Day gift to you is the encouragement to know yourself alone. It's a gift no one else will ever have, it's there for you and only you. And if you practice it, you can get better at loving yourself than anyone else ever could love you. And therefore it's the most special gift of all.
Happy Valentine's Day.