Today is St. Valentine’s Day. This weird holiday is awkward in at least a few respects. It’s particularly unnerving for people who are not married or engaged.
This frequently misunderstood holiday honors a Roman Catholic martyr whose demise was quite grisly. According to one legend, around the year 270 CE, Roman Emperor Claudius the Cruel was frustrated because his military recruitment efforts were failing. Claudius believed his campaign was being hampered because men were not willing to go off to war due to their strong attachments to their wives and sweethearts. So, Claudius decreed engagements and marriages to be banned.
The Christian priest, Valentinius defied the official order by secretly performing marriages. When the priest’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that Valentinius be executed. The prefect sentenced him to be beaten to death with clubs and then beheaded. The sentence was carried out on February 14th.
One legend claims that two centuries later, Pope Gelasius decided to end the ancient Feast of Lupercalia and declared February 14th be celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day. Eventually, the church’s holy day evolved into the secular observance we know, today.
So, now we have this obligatory, holiday based upon a gruesome martyrdom that is celebrated by the giving of flowers, chocolates, and candlelight dinners. The greeting card industry has a heyday with the day, as well.
This highly commercialized celebration of romantic pairing feels very alienating to unmarried and unengaged singles. Ever since last June’s landmark marriage equality ruling by the US Supreme Court, people have asked when I will tie the knot. My BF and I have no plans to become engaged, so we qualify as singles. That means I am single by definition or purposely alone. My resolve to remain purposely single wavers each Valentine’s Day. This status can be thought of as the “no man’s land” between freedom and possibility or partnering and solitude.
Oddly enough, I am in solidarity with thousands of other purposely single people. More of us are becoming vocal about their wishes to remain single over dating for the sake of being part of a couple. Many singles say they enjoy the solitary lifestyle even though they’re not opposed to the possibility of being in a relationship. More singles claim they have found happiness within themselves, and this state of mind is all they need.
I’d say that I feel this fulfilling sense of happiness around 80-percent of the time. To be honest, the remaining 20-percent is dissatisfaction with being single. There’s a feeling of wanting to share and expand that 80-percent happiness into a committed relationship.
Those of us in this ambiguous state of mind, are actually romantics. At our cores, is the inablility to settle down. We hold our relationships to impossibly high standards. We have witnessed the stormy breakups and divorces of our peers and those of famous celebrities. To sacrifice the joy of being single to the risk of discord feels like too high of a price to pay.
Many of us, who are purposely alone, know that our choices are based on liberation. We’re quite comfortable spending a lot of time in solitude. We also enjoy spending special moments with friends. Being purposely alone is the freedom from the status quo and socially mandated coupling. We are quite comfortable in our aloneness and solitude. We also realize that this satisfaction is a personal asset that we can bring into a possible, future marriage.
So, are we a collection of introverts and loners? While it’s true that many singles lean more towards introversion, many of us are extroverts. Regardless of where we are in the introversion-extroversion scale, we value friendship and camaraderie highly. It’s just that we seem to have a greater need for solitude. Aloneness empowers our creativity and philosophical meanderings.
In my case, purposely being alone is not about endless bachelorhood, even though that might actually occur. It’s more about not compromising my “true” self in order to shoehorn myself into a socially acceptable relationship. I’m happy being with friends but slightly more happy being alone. There is a feeling of confidence that comes with the status of purposely single.
I’ve been “dating” someone for the past 16 years. Some people might classify the situation as “going steady”. We don’t, because neither of us feels ready to declare our engagement. Also, we have very different mindsets and attitudes about life.
We don’t travel the same “path”. You might say we’re on parallel roads. For the time being, those roads lead to different destinations. He and I journey upon our roads alone. Sometimes our roads intersect for awhile. Who knows whether those roads will periodically intersect, diverge for good, or if they will merge?
I’m OK with this ambiguity. Yet, because this is Valentine’s Day, maybe not so much, today.