ON A WALKING TOUR IN GERMANY LAST YEAR, our guide led us through a cozy outdoor enclosure with ivy running up the stone walls, and bistro tables in the center. She pointed out that this pavilion had a romantic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, as a place where lovers often rendezvoused, picnicked, and got engaged. A Bulgarian woman in the tour group leaned over to me and whispered, “This is offensive.”
I asked her why.
“They make you think that’s the right thing to do. The best thing to do. To be in love. But what if you’re not? What if you don’t want to? I don’t know. It is discrimination.”
At first, I laughed it off as the cynical perspective of an eccentric stranger. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized the woman might be onto something. While “discrimination” isn’t strictly accurate, singles are certainly marginalized in 21st-century society — especially around Valentine’s Day. Restaurants offer a romantic ambiance and couples specials. Shops thrust chocolate and flowers in our faces. All year round, Hollywood lauds the concept of the romantic ideal and suggests we’re falling behind if we haven’t achieved it. The message here is pretty clear: if you’re single, you’re doing something wrong.
Well, don’t worry — you’re not. You don’t need a partner to treat yourself to something special, and you certainly don’t need one to enjoy Valentine’s Day 2022. Here are a few anti-Valentine’s Day activities for the singles out there.
1. Go to a bar solo
To some, going to a bar solo might sound more paralyzingly terrifying than being the subject of a true crime podcast. Going to a bar alone, however, can actually be the perfect way to fly in the face of convention, and have a better time than you might expect.
Consider the demographics of a bar on a typical night. You survey the room, make mental notes of those you find attractive, and then immediately temper your expectations because they “probably have a boyfriend (or girlfriend).” Well, on Valentine’s Day 2022, unless you go out to a Michelin-starred restaurant, chances are most of the people there are like-minded singles looking to make connections. Meeting other people is also much easier (and more necessary) when you’re out solo, without the safety net of your friends to fall back on. Going out by yourself might feel anxiety-inducing, but it’s also an empowering opportunity to do something you’ve probably never done before, and feel more comfortable in your own skin.
2. Have a spa day
Traditionally, this one might sound strictly like a suggestion for the girls. But as the recent recipient of my first-ever massage, I can tell you that a spa day should definitely be on guys’ radars too. First of all — and this should go without saying — it’s incredibly relaxing, and whatever tenseness you’re feeling about being single on Valentine’s Day will vanish along with all the knots in your back. Second, people go to the spa alone all the time, so a solo trip there is totally within the realm of normalcy. Third, you’re not alone. You’ll be with a masseuse, or acupuncturist, or whatever they call the people who give pedicures. That’s an easy, built-in person for you to talk to. And if you don’t want to chat, that’s normal too.
3. Plan a guys (or girls) weekend
In a strictly technical sense, “single” means solo. But it doesn’t have to. Chances are, you’re not the only single person you know. Even if your group of single friends more resembles the Suicide Squad than the Avengers, rally the crew for a weekend getaway. It could be a ski weekend, casino trip, spa weekend, big city adventure — doesn’t matter.
While not exactly launching anti-Valentine’s Day campaigns, plenty of venues are offering Valentine’s Day experiences that are geared toward everyone. In Jersey City, for example, there’s a comedy jam on February 11, 2022, featuring world-class comedians, DJs, and food trucks. In Encinitas, California, hit Moonlight State Beach on February 13 for a special “Galentine’s Day” yoga session and picnic. Similar events, designed for groups of singles, are happening all over the country, so check out what’s going on in your area.
4. Visit a museums or gallery
Bars, restaurants, casinos — basically, anything with alcohol — are natural first resorts for singles on Valentine’s Day 2022. Equally rewarding, if not quite as intoxicating, are those experiences you’ve wanted to do for a while, but likely kept putting off. Half-day excursions like visiting a local museum, or checking out an art gallery or immersive exhibit, can be perfect ways to spend Valentine’s Day and deepen your cultural understanding at the same time.
Museums are a classic standby. No matter what city you live in, you probably live within 10 minutes of a museum you’ve never been to. I’ve lived in a small town my entire life, within minutes of two full-fledged museums and about six historical homes (which offer tours), and I’ve only ever visited them on elementary school field trips. Take advantage of the holiday, when many of your friends might be busy, to explore a local museum, aquarium, climbing gym, art gallery — whatever you’ve been “meaning to check out” for years but never do.
For those whose eyes glaze over at the mention of museums, maybe an immersive art exhibit is more your speed. Meow Wolf, an immersive art installation that’s skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, has locations in Denver, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas. The Van Gogh Experience, a traveling, full-immersion art exhibit may also be coming to a city near you.
5. Hit the apps
Sitting at home and Tindering might sound like the antithesis of an uplifting Valentine’s Day, but it’s actually the ultimate exercise in productivity. If you’re lamenting your singlehood and don’t feel like going to the bar by yourself, throw on some cozy pajamas, plug in your phone charger, and start swiping.
Dating apps often feel like a necessary evil, a burden on our time and mental energy. We glance at messages with every intention of responding, only to forget forever. We open Hinge thinking “OK, today’s the day I send a batch of well thought-out, clever messages to my potential soulmates. Then life distracts us. Like anything else, to be successful on dating apps requires time and focus. Sit down, read the profiles, and make tactful swiping decisions. If you’re on an app like Hinge that allows you to send a message before matching, don’t just fire off “hey” a dozen times.
Take your time, find conversation starters in their photos or bio, and write a solid, individualized opener. If you’ve got 100 unread messages in your Tinder queue (looking at you, girls), pick your favorite 10-20 and actually respond. Sure, 90 percent of those guys will probably be cliche weirdos holding a huge striper, but all it takes is one meaningful conversation to make your V-day swipe sesh worth it. After all, what else are you doing?
6. Do some trip planning
“Why spend money on a Swiss watch when you can go to Switzerland?” the saying goes. Okay, maybe it’s not a saying, but it should be.
Dropping money on a trip, after all, is a much more solid long-term investment than dropping money on an outrageously expensive Valentine’s Day meal. Set the whole day aside and plan that epic trip you’ve always wanted to take, whether by yourself or with friends. Choose a dream destination, look up possible excursions, bars, restaurants, hikes, and get thoroughly stoked for what lies ahead.
While everyone else you know is mired in a three-course meal with a significant other they should have broken up with three months ago, you’ll be looking forward to the future instead of dwelling on the present. And hey, if you’re impatient for Valentine’s Day 2022 to be in the rearview mirror — nothing makes time fly quicker than planning your dream vacation (except maybe the vacation itself).