This article is the first in our weeklong series for Valentine’s Day, called 💘”Better Together” 💘
Whenever I read a self-help article that advises women to “put yourself first,” or “cultivate self-love,” I want to throw my laptop out my fourth floor apartment window in despair. (I don’t actually do it, of course, because laptops are expensive.)
Often, these seemingly empowering pieces of advice come with subtle directives about what we should think, be, and do. Love yourself [because that’s how you can get a man to love you]. Spend time doing something nice for yourself [like exercising so you can lose weight so men will love you]. But the truth is, loving ourselves in a world that is constantly judging us—for our bodies and our bank accounts, our relationships and our sex lives—is hard.
Few other occasions present a greater challenge to self-love than Valentine’s Day. A holiday characterized by a toxic cocktail of commercialism, mixed messages about gender, and high-key pressure to couple up, Valentine’s Day can be grating for anyone. If you find yourself unwillingly single, wish you had more romantic intimacy in your life, or are feeling pressure to date or marry, the heart-studded holiday can feel even worse.
Whether you’re contentedly single, or are still cry-liking your ex’s Instagram posts while wondering whether you will ever love again (spoiler alert: you will!), we’ve got you covered for Valentine’s Day plans. Here are five ways to cultivate some genuine self-love this year.
Yup: I said mope. This may sound counterintuitive, but hear me out. Part of loving yourself is feeling your feelings, no matter what they are. If you’re still mourning a breakup, recovering from some kind of sexual or intimate trauma, or are just feeling lonely and want to indulge your own misery for a while, go for it.
Binge-watch The Sopranos, wear comfy clothes, eat something tasty, light some incense. Heck, you can even go through your ex’s old text messages and cry. You don’t have to mask your hurt in a layer of irony or put on a brave face and go party with your girlfriends. If you’re in pain, you’re in pain. Sometimes, you just gotta feel it to get beyond it. If your vibe this Valentine’s Day is sad, you have my full permission to commit.
Invest in Yourself
If your vibe this Valentine’s Day is luxurious, however, there is another way. Money cannot buy happiness, but a well-thought-out splurge on a delightful product or service can go far to soothe a battered heart and titillate an eager clitoris. While your friends are spending money buying gifts for their significant others, why not buy a gift for yourself?
I’m not talking about getting yourself roses—though by all means, do that, too. I am talking glamor. What is that thing you’ve been wanting to buy, that skill you’ve been wanting to grow, that experience you’ve been wanting to have, that sex toy you’ve been wanting to play with? Take some time, save up a bit of money, and invest in it. Sign up for a salsa class, make an appointment for some reiki, buy a luxury vibrator, or finally pay a visit to an erotic massage therapist.
What effort would you put into preparing yourself for a hot sex session with a partner? Put that level of love and attention into this solo sesh.
This isn’t just something to do because no one else is available or because you don’t have a partner. It’s because you are a grown-ass human and can spend your own damn money to make yourself feel good. Your pleasure is worth the investment.
Get outta town
Running away is a totally valid way to deal with not wanting to be around your newly coupled-up friends (or loudly coupling roommate) on Valentine’s Day. Going on an impromptu solo trip will give you perspective, fill you with new food, and imbue you with a deeper sense of self-reliance. Also, it’s a great way to not booty call your ex.
If you really want to be fancy, and you’ve got some money in the bank, make it a whole weekend. Snuggle up in a beach motel on the off season. Take the cheapest flight you can buy on short notice to a random city and book a charming bed and breakfast. If you’re less ambitious or trying to conserve funds, ride a local train line to the end of the route, or hitch a rideshare to a cute nearby town. It doesn’t matter where you go, it just matters that you’re moving.
Party it up
I mean a sex party, specifically. If you’re horny but bored of your own hands and frustrated with hooking up with randos from dating apps, an evening of intentional sex play could be just what the doctor ordered. And by that I mean the sexy roleplay doctor, whom you will encounter at your fetish party.
There are sex parties for every stripe of folk on this wide earth, whatever your kink, sexual orientation, or boundaries. Do some research to find out what’s going on in your area. Talk to your super sex-positive friend, browse your local queer rag, or consult Ye Olde Google. If you can’t find a sex party specifically on Valentine’s Day, at least find something happening in February so you can pour all your Valentine’s sexual energy into a new experience.
If you’ve never been to a sex party before, this is your chance to explore your kinks, boundaries, and desires. Bring a buddy if you’ve got one who’s interested, do some soul-searching about what you think you may or may not be open to before going, follow the rules of the particular party, and always ask first!
Two words: Epic masturbation
Masturbation is a no-brainer for the single Valentine. But I’m not talking “Monday-night, squeeze out a little sneeze-level orgasm with your vibrator before you fall asleep” masturbation. I’m talking full-on, committed, mindful, top-of-the-line, luxury masturbation. The kind of masturbation you plan for days and fantasize about at work the next week.
What effort would you put into preparing yourself for a hotter-than-Houston-pavement-in-July sex session with a partner? Put that level of love and attention into this solo sesh.
Get yourself that bells-and-whistles sex toy you couldn’t ever justify spending money on. Pay for some quality, worker-led porn. For goodness’ sake, use lube. If you have a healthy pleasure relationship with substances, go ahead and have a couple of glasses of wine (or roll a big joint). Then sink into the pleasure of your own body like a vintage Hollywood star sinks into a bath.
Self-Love Starts With Loving Actions
Yes, it can suck to be single when you just want some intimacy and everyone around you seems to be living on a steady diet of champagne and cunnilingus. But being single is, I swear, a genuine opportunity to cultivate more love, pleasure, and sexiness in your relationship with yourself. And that is the longest, the most difficult, and most passionate relationship you will ever have.
Reina Gattuso is a feminist journalist covering food, sex, and politics.