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As a wise woman once said: it is a truth universally acknowledged, that single people must be lonely, unhappy and destined to spend Valentine’s Day in bitter sorrow – or something along those lines.

Even the ancient Greeks agreed: there’s this myth that says that all humans were originally created with two heads, four arms and four legs. But these extra-limbed humans then got a little too big for their boots, and tried to attack the Greek gods. Zeus decided that the best thing to do, naturally, was to split these beings in half, giving them a bit of a scare and forcing them to spend the rest of their lives looking for their missing ‘other halves’ instead. Cute, right?

Not so much. The message is clear – if you’re single, you’re doing something wrong.

I mean, I get it: sometimes being single is just not the way to go. Why have a single-scoop of ice cream, a single bed or single cream when you could have a double­-scoop of ice cream, a double bed or double cream instead?

It’s not quite the same when it comes to being single, of course. The problem is, now more than ever, unless you’re willing to enter the terrifying world of Zoom dating or Tinder, being single has turned into something of a long-term affliction. And no matter how you feel about being single for the other 364 days of the year, on Valentine’s Day it is – somehow – even worse (despite the fact that it means you do not have to share that double-scoop of ice cream with anyone).  

This year, asking someone what they are planning to do for Valentine’s Day is a bit like asking them ‘What did you do today?’ – the answer will probably be absolutely nothing, and you’ll just get a disgusted look thrown at you for reminding them of it. Even the shops (the ones that are open) don’t really seem to have got behind it this year. I stumbled upon the ‘Valentine’s Day’ section in Tesco the other day: a few shelves filled with somewhat sad-looking teddy bears holding ‘Be My Valentine’ placards and low-GSM notebooks with pages waiting to be filled with sub-par sonnets. Frankly, I was quite ready to shut my eyes, cover my ears and wait for singleness to stop seeming devastating and go back to just being a mildly inconvenient fact.

Then, as I was walking back from Tesco eating an ice cream (as you do), I passed a woman and a little boy on the other side of the pavement. In the way that only children can, the boy’s wide eyes locked on first to my ice cream and then to the contented expression on my face, as if to confirm that the ice cream was in fact as wonderful as it looked. You can imagine what happened next. All I could do was look across apologetically as the woman was bombarded with pleas of: ‘Mummy, I want an ice cream!’

It made me think back to a time when we were that young and when being single was the last thing we were worried about. The idea of dating was hilarious. We used to sing songs about people ‘K-I-S-S-I-N-G’ in trees to tease them. Having a crush on someone was an embarrassing little secret that you only told your five best friends (‘you have to promise not to tell anyone else’) and then wondered the next day how the whole year group had found out. And Valentine’s Day was just another excuse to waste five minutes of a lesson by handing out chocolates to everyone in your class.

Lockdown is certainly making expert singletons out of a lot of us, but it is also reminding us of something that we used to know as children, but tend to forget now that we are ‘adults’: life is so much more than a journey to finding a soulmate, whatever the Greeks might have said about it. What we are missing right now is not the company of a soulmate so much as the company of all our mates.    

Being single and being alone are not the same thing. If anything, Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to remember that you are not the only single person in the world – far from it. Whatever your plans are for Sunday, remember that being single does not mean you cannot be whole.

And if you still can’t get behind the annual lovefest, take consolation in the fact that Pancake Day – the real celebration of love – is just around the corner. As for me, come Valentine’s Day, you’ll find me in bed with my rainbow fairy lights on, a list of rom-coms queued up on Netflix and a freezer full of ice-cream tubs.

What’s more, I’ll be enjoying every single minute of it.

Image source: Unsplash

Uma Gurav

Uma is a columnist for The Oxford Blue. She is in her second year studying History and English at Wadham College. Her column "Your 'How-to' guide to Hilary Term" was inspired by the film 'How to Lose a...