Batten down the hatches for Valentine's Day

According to the calendar, it's time to start cultivating wildly unrealistic expectations. After all, Feb. 14 is just around the corner.

Valentine's Day is not inherently evil. It's supposed to be a day to celebrate love and happiness, a day when two people in love reaffirm their feelings, or new romances bloom.

But it's not, and everyone knows it.

Knowing and accepting are two entirely different things, and it is difficult at best to mesh them. It is hard to accept that you might be without a Significant Other on this particular winter day, when it seems the whole world is jubilantly celebrating love and its many splendors just without you.

You're not alone, and no sappy card with a couple arm in arm, padding through sea-foamy beach, glistening in the sunlight should have the power to make you feel pathetic and lonely.

Chances are that glowing illustration of the finest human emotion probably have shredded feet from broken sea shells, will be sunburned to a crisp by the end of the day and both probably have bad breath and forgot to use deodorant.

Valentine's Day imposes false expectations on who don't have partners, through choice or circumstance, along with the expectations of couples hopes that no mortal could meet. For instance, I'm sure there are people out there wondering and sneakily hoping that their partner will "pop the question" on Feb. 14, and an equal number of people hoping their partner isn't even thinking in that vein.

If there was one day, besides holidays with the family, designed to wreck people's self-confidence and relationships, it's Valentine's Day. No matter how grand the plans, how much you like your life, this one day and its expectations can put a dent in it.

It's time to think beyond the obvious. If Valentine's Day is about love, then why limit it to lovers in the traditional sense? You don't need a love interest to be a caring person.

I've said it before, but I know that I'm damn lucky. I love a talented, wonderful man with everything I am, and I know that he loves me.

But I know love isn't limited to people "in love," and neither should a day designated to celebrate love. When I was growing up I had a picture by my bed that said "You are loved, awake or dreaming, you are loved." It had a picture of a bird and a sun on it. I still have it, because I know that wherever I put that up, I'll be at home.

That's the kind of love Valentine's Day should be about. The kind of love that makes you feel secure from friendship, family, the warm feeling from looking into a dog's eyes, the happiness in a cat's stretch and yawn, a kid's smile. This simple, albeit mushy, stuff makes up our emotional foundation.

The point is to appreciate what you have, and work for more.

It does Valentine's Day a disservice to assume that the only love worth celebrating comes in a boy-girl, boy-boy or girl-girl package. Romantic love is not the only valid, or even the best, form of emotion toward someone. Friends, who are often more constant than relationships, deserve recognition on Feb. 14, as do family, pets and anyone or anything else that brings you happiness and security.

Valentine's Day is not supposed to make you feel like crap, it's supposed to be a day where you can tell someone you care about them without feeling like a big dork. But of course we've been conditioned by impossible expectations to want the perfect day, the kind of holiday soap opera characters have with mountain cabins, roaring fires, food that appears out of nowhere, and a high standard of living without no visible means of revenue.

Of course the average person isn't going to be whisked away on a romantic vacation this Tuesday by their ideal, and no one should feel depressed because their dinner that night costs less than $250. Love doesn't start in those situations, and doesn't need it to survive.

If you need those things to affirm someone's love for you, or your love for them, then you're probably not in love in the first place.

Sarah Garrecht is the Wildcat's editor in chief and a journalism senior.

This is essentially the grade school "you have to give everyone a Valentine" principle distilled. I'm not urging some sort of love-in to solve our social ills, and I don't love everybody. But I think that most people at least deserve consideration.

That's why it is important to set aside unrealistic expectations, from yourself or partner. Just realize that someone loves you, and you love someone too.

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