Will you be your Valentine?

Valentine who?

If you look up Valentine’s Day, the mid-February recurrence where people traditionally exchange cards, chocolate or flowers with their “special someone,” you will find that its Ancient Roman and Christian origins are rather ambiguous.

Some say that it was named after Saint Valentine, a priest who lived in third century Rome, where Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers. Valentine chose to defy him and married young couples in secret, becoming a true champion of love (albeit a tragic one… Claudius caught and executed him). Others tell of a Rome-anticised case of Stockholm’s Syndrome, featuring a prisoner – Valentine – who fell for his jailer’s daughter and sent her love letters until the day he was put to death.

There are several other versions of the story, and no way of telling which one is true, but there is a clear common thread: Valentine’s Day celebrates fighting for and exalting romantic love between two people.

Relationship status: Self-partnered.

Due to the way many of our social structures function, this has often translated into couples cooing and gushing over pulsing pink hearts and cheeky cherubs, while singles are pitied and pressured to pair up in time for next year’s Valentine’s Day.

But, over the last few years, there has been an evident counter-movement to this take on love and relationships. From celebrities to science, happy singlehood is on the rise: a number of social studies have explored and quantified the emotional, physical and monetary benefits of single life (including being less selfish, having a more healthy and active lifestyle, and progressing further in your career). Very much in line with this, in the December issue of Vogue, actress Emma Watson gained praise and support for declaring, “It took me a long time, but I’m very happy [being single]. I call it being self-partnered.”

Many brands have rallied behind this change, offering gifts and experiences that celebrate other types of equally meaningful and gratifying relationships, such as those between good friends and, of course, self-love. For example, TV show Parks and Recreation popularised Galentine’s Day – when ladies celebrate their love for their gal friends – and brands like Goop have compiled special gift selections to match. And men are in no way excluded: a number of pampering products and rituals are being promoted as a golden #JOMO* opportunity for the lads, such as Jaxon Lane’s Bro Mask.

Going solo, further.

But what about those activities that are normally done as a couple (on and beyond Valentine’s Day) and, for practical and emotional reasons, are simply more inaccessible to the self-partnered? Like going out for a nice meal, travelling to discover new places and, of course, sex.

Once again, we find brands that have spotted and started to fill this gap. Last year, Danish premium supermarket Irma launched a selection of single-portion meals. To promote the range, it also opened a pop-up, one-table restaurant – called Restaurant 1:1 ­– staffed by one chef, one waiter, and serving one diner at a time.

To tackle the logistical and mental challenges of travelling alone, services like Much Better Adventures help to bring together small groups of like-minded single travellers for carefully curated and organised holidays.

On the sex front, Dame Products is the brand behind an extensive range of unconventional adult toys that help and encourage users to explore their own bodies and find pleasure. They do this through a welcoming online community whose members support and educate each other, and by designing innovative tools that are considered and convenient, including even an on-the-go kit. For more trends and brands helping people to find and express their sexuality, take a look at our Map edition on The Future of Sex.

There is nothing wrong with the message at the heart of Valentine’s Day: celebrating love is positive and should be uplifting for all. And, as the idea behind being self-partnered is actually about self-awareness, acceptance and improvement, there is essentially a strong synergy between the two: loving yourself puts you in a better place to love someone else if or when the time comes to get coupled up.


* JOMO stands for Joy Of Missing Out, and describes the pleasure of taking a break from social activity to enjoy personal time.


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