You may have noticed something unusual about the title of this post: the apostrophe comes after the s, when it normally comes before. Don’t worry if you missed it, it’s subtle. But the difference between the two is enormous. Valentine’s day is a holiday, typically attributed to St. Valentine – thus: the day of St. Valentine. However, Valentines’ day has a different meaning. Valentines’ day is the day of Valentines. It’s for them, of them, and about them. And today I’m going to talk about the rest of us.
There are plenty of us in the world for whom Valentines’ day is a bit of a waste. It crops up once a year as slightly painful reminder to those of us without “Valentines” that we’re alone, once again, during Valentins’ day. Before you get the wrong idea, this post is not about how to make heartache go away. This post is about how to deal with heartache.
The problem with heartache is that it kicks you when you’re down. I’ve always found that the absolute worst time for heartache is after 12am. You’re lying in bed, trying to go to sleep, and suddenly it hits you – you’re alone. The empty space next to you in bed feels so empty, and there’s nothing you can do to fill it. For a headache you can take Ibuprofen, for indigestion you can take ant-acids, for exhaustion you sleep, for hunger you eat, for thirst you drink, and for miscellaneous physical pain you go to the doctor – but this isn’t any normal kind of pain. It’s a pain that can’t be cured or even influenced by anything you can do immediately, and that’s what’s so difficult about it.
I’ll admit that I don’t have very much experience dealing with this issue successfully. My love life hasn’t been particularly remarkable for someone my age, in that it has been largely empty. So I’m not going to claim any sort of authority on the matter of finding a mate, but I’ll throw out some of the things that I’ve learned about how to deal with heartache.
Dealing with Heartache
The best thing to do is not to think about it. If you ask most people, they will tell you the exact same thing: love hits you when you least expect it. So the only logical thing to do is to stop looking. Love is one of the few things you find most easily by not looking for it. Whether this is due to the fact that you don’t notice how lonely you feel when you’re not thinking about it, or because you behave differently, or because that’s just how it happens, I’m not sure. But if you can stop searching, do it. You’ll feel better.
Now if you’re a teenager like me, you’ll probably find this difficult to do. In fact, from what I’ve learned from others, this difficulty usually continues on into your mid twenties. Personally I’m hoping that I lose at least 50% of the angst when I turn 20 361.24 days from now, but I suspect it doesn’t work that way. The best thing for heartache or frustration in general, especially when you’re a teen, is sleep. Seriously: close your computer and go to sleep. Right now. You can finish this in the morning.
The second bit of advice is to write about it. It’s weird when you first start writing down how you feel and what you’ve done, but once you start you’ll find that it makes you feel a lot better. Drawing helps too. Anything creative will make you feel better. Making your frustration into prose or visual art feels really good. Reading is also very beneficial. Specifically for this problem, I recommend John Green’s book “Paper Towns.” (Though it’s just a good book in general – not a “self help book,” but a novel)
The last thing I can tell you is that being single is an opportunity for self improvement. Use the free time that you would like to reserve for dating to learn skills and improve yourself. Take classes outside of school, read, practice an instrument or a skill that you’ve let slide for a while – make sure that when you do find someone, you’ll be the best that you can be for that person. These things will also make you feel better and keep your mind off things that make you feel down.
And if you’re trying to sleep and your mind won’t give you a break, give up trying to sleep and do something you like to do. Read, peruse YouTube, or whatever. If you’re not going to sleep anyway then you might as well burn off a little energy and do something fun while you’re at it.
Finding a Mate
Before I delve into this touchy subject, let’s make a distinction. There are two sorts of relationships that I’m going to talk about here: short term and long term. Short term relationships are what most teens have these days. They go out with someone for a few weeks or months, and then break up. Long term relationships are what most of you are probably looking for – a relationship where both parties love each other and care about each other, and are open to the relationship lasting as long as it will endure. Personally I’m partial to the latter, which is why I’m willing to wait a little longer to find someone. Long term relationships are harder to find, but I think they’re worth the effort. If you’re looking for a short term relationship, chances are you know how to find one already.
The most important advice I can offer you is Wheaton’s Law: Don’t be a dick. No one likes a jerk. There is a bizarre phenomenon in high schools and CEGEPs where large quantities of girls hang out around the biggest jack-asses in the school – a phenomenon I still don’t understand – but as far as normal human beings go, it doesn’t pay to be an ass.
Next, pay attention to body language. I recommend Barbara and Allen Pease’s The Definitive Book of Body Language. It’s an interesting book, but keep in mind that the signals are NOT definitive at all. For example, if a girl messes with her hair, tilts her head to the side, and looks up at you, all you can say is that the likelihood that she is flirting with you has just increased significantly, but you can’t definitively say that she wants your body and she wants it now. Just as a general pointer, girls are supposedly the ones who initiate flirting, and they do it with glances/stares/eye-contact, playing with their hair, and that sort of thing. Men tend to flirt in more obvious ways like making excuses to be around you, making an effort to look and smell good when they see you, and a few other painfully obvious things that you’re very unlikely to miss if you pay attention. The trick for men and women, boys and girls, is to pay attention to body language and think about it a bit. Whether you’ve read about it or not, your brain is designed to understand these things, so you should be able to catch on pretty quickly. (Please note that there are mental disorders like autism that cause people to lack certain basic social abilities. Chances are that if you have one of these conditions, you know it already.)
Make an effort to look and smell good at all times. Also, make an effort to keep your dwellings looking and smelling clean at all times – if you happen to stop there with someone you fancy on your way to wherever, you want to make a good impression. Don’t freak out about looking perfectly clean, neat, and tidy, but make it look like you care.
Skinny is not attractive. Some people are naturally skinny – they are attractive if they don’t push it, but if your bone structure and DNA don’t want you to be skinny, for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t push it too far. I’m man enough to admit that I’ve got a little bit of fat to burn, but I’m a human being, not an action figure, and I want members of the opposite sex to know that (because that’s who I’m into – if you’re into the same sex or both, go for it.) If your significant other wants you to lose weight, get plastic surgery, or otherwise modify your body just because “you love them and should want to make them happy,” they’re not worth the air they breath. Dump them. Right now. We’ll wait… Finished? Good. Onward.
Be brave. Don’t let him or her get away if you know you’ll regret it. I’ve been there – it sucks. The worst that will happen is you’ll go out on a super-awkward date, but even after that you might become better friends with that person than ever before. I’ve also been in that position before, and it’s pretty cool.
So in conclusion, Valentines’ day can be a little painful, but it’s only one day of the year. Yes, it’s the day when those of us who are currently unattached sulk around the house trying to keep ourselves occupied and not thinking about it, but in the words of David’s father, “it’s not forever.” (That was a reference to the “David after dentist” video on YouTube, if you didn’t catch it…) So Happy Valentine’s day to all of you, and may your singleness last only as long as you want it to. And if you’re not single, enjoy it a little more for those of us who are.