By Kyle Poluyko

“It’s never too soon to start thinking about Valentine’s Day.”

That sentiment poured through my TV speakers on December 23 as I struggled to peel dog hairs from the last centimetre of Scotch tape, desperate to seal the final corner of a gift. The celebrating world had yet to breach Christmas Eve and the barrage of marketing for February’s love fest had already begun. I shuddered and grit my teeth. I bit my tongue, and soon love’s rouge was dripping from the corner of my mouth. I had no intention of even pondering Valentine’s Day but, suddenly, there it was.

I prefer to ignore Valentine’s Day. I’m certainly not a holiday holdover of the humbug persuasion. I know many who plot well in advance to express romantic love for another. Certainly, one can send a valentine to a platonic friend, a sibling, parent, or co-worker. I’ve done it. I even gave a kid named Joey a Super Mario card in the sixth grade and I couldn’t stand that guy. Though my young heart belonged to a raven-haired girl named Jennifer, that card I gave to Joey sparked years of schoolyard torment about my sexuality. Jesus! I was 10 and IT WAS SUPER MARIO!

Truth be told, I am a content and confident single man, not buying into the hoopla. After all, history—depending on the version to which one subscribes—notes that Valentine’s Day was originally a festal celebration of a martyred priest. Its connection to romantic love was not firmly established until the 14th century in the writings of Chaucer. I do, however, struggle with the commercial campaign of the “holiday” when it comes to its exclusionary nature.

Our society has grown and matured in extraordinary ways in terms of acceptance and welcoming, but we’re still hard-pressed to spot a Zale’s commercial acknowledging the love in a gay or lesbian relationship. Fred can present Ginger with something from Jane Seymour’s Open Hearts collection but I’m still not seeing Ginger going to Jared to get diamonds for Jeannie. The marketing doesn’t show Joe excitedly setting a candlelit dinner for Jeff. Despite our advances in societal norms, parameters are still placed on what love looks like. That bothers me.

Couples aside, Valentine’s Day can be another smack of loneliness upside one’s head right on the heels of Christmas. Many like myself who aren’t concerned with or weighed down by the day inevitably find themselves face to face with pity. An unnecessary sympathetic head-tilt accompanied by “Hey. You okay?” followed by an enthusiastic “Don’t worry. Someone’s waiting for you.” I usually respond with, “Well, she better pull up a chair. She’s gonna be waiting a while.” As the Jann Arden song “The Sound Of” goes, “I am not lonely, I swear to God. I’m just alone.”

Bottom line: I don’t begrudge any lovers their joy. Celebrate the day as you choose, if you choose. But love, however it fills you, needn’t be dictated by a commercial nor a garish aisle of red at the grocery store. And if you’re single and feeling left out, join me and raise a glass to what I prefer to acknowledge: Singles Awareness Day.