By Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan for Youth Ki Awaaz:
These past two weeks, I’ve shuttled between three cities like a crazy ping pong ball, which has given me a lot of thinking time to get down to this fortnight’s question. Let’s get started.P asked:
This Valentine’s Day, as a single woman, how do I practise self-love?
Too many years ago to even mention, one of my dearest friends and I decided to go on an Anti-Valentine’s Day crusade in college. We were first years, both English Literature students, at a women’s college known already for its feminist messages, and we figured our fellow students would benefit from our rant, which we carefully wrote down, photocopied and placed on select bulletin boards. This was not a case of sour grapes, I was newly single, and not ready to meet anyone, she was in a happy relationship. We put down a list of reasons Valentine’s Day was bullshit, and added a “Down With Cupid” on top of the whole list. I may or may not have illustrated it with a little picture of a flying man X-ed out. The students were amused, the staff raised eyebrows, but really, our little revolution did nothing to dispel any illusions. Anyone bound to celebrate Valentine’s Day still did, the ones who didn’t, didn’t, and it had nothing to do with our little flyer.
Several years later, I check the date and realise that Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and maybe I should get a token of appreciation for my partner. I like to celebrate things, I realise. I’m all about the birthday, the anniversary, Christmas, Diwali. I like to give presents almost as much as I like to receive them. Two hours and an Amazon time suck later, I’m disappointed and frustrated. Nothing seems nice enough, and we have so many things already, why add to the clutter in the house?
None of those two things had or have anything to do with love, you’ll notice. We protested it in college as an archaic form of consumerism, making some people feel validated for presents, others less worthy because they didn’t get anything. Just two years before that in school, we’d leave our school bags unattended at our desks so that “admirers” could slip something into it. Just one year before, I met a boy who showered me with shiny Archie’s greeting cards, one so big, I couldn’t do anything with it, the edges of the envelopes so sharp that they cut my fingers. That and an expensive perfume, because even at 17, we were learning it was what you got that counted, not the thought at all.
So, dear P, you ask how you practise self-love on Valentine’s Day? I say, begin with putting February 14 safely out of your mind. It’ll be hard to do when the whole world is—to use Kipling– “losing their heads and blaming it on you.”
Relax with some television (I recommend “Riverdale”, currently on Netflix, just three episodes, or that amazing sitcom “Mom”, out on Amazon Prime.) Go to your local grocer, and pick up the ingredients for your favourite guilty pleasure snack—chilli cheese toast, or Maggi noodles, or just bags and bags of chips with a dip you can throw together easily. Get out of your bra and your skinny jeans that are biting into your waist, put on comfortable track pants (or shorts, if you’re in a warm part of the country), prepare a tray, a nice tray with everything you need laid out on it, prop up your laptop and binge-watch your way through something.
Go to bed early. Drink lots of water. Stay up late and Skype your bestie who moved to another time zone. Take a walk in the evening and marvel at the sunset in your city. Buy yourself some small indulgent item—crazy patterned socks, a new coffee mug, fancy green tea. Take a long hot shower with that new soap you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Brush your dog. Put coconut oil in your hair like your mother used to do for you, and spend time working out the knots with your fingers. Pick up that one “difficult” book on your to-be-read shelf and begin to read it. Pick up a murder mystery and read that. Get an adult colouring book and work your way through a whole page. Do not believe that you are alone and neglected. Believe that you are loved.
Remember—and you’ve heard this before—it’s not the day that matters, it’s how you love.