Valentine’s Day — the plans, the hype, the flowers — is a holiday that focuses on women, so much so that it’s annoyingly referred to sometimes as the Super Bowl for women. Certainly, women seem to be more aware of their relationship status on Valentine’s Day, whether it’s because of the annual flower delivery Olympics in our offices, the thousands of diamond commercials aimed at us all the way from November through February or the endless messages we receive throughout our lives about how a woman’s worth is measured by her ability to find a man and have his children.
You know what?
It’s probably all of the above.
Whatever the reasons, women are clearly expected to care more about Valentine’s Day than men, and there are plenty of rituals around female celebrations of Single Awareness Day (originally a term used to describe the sadness of a Valentine’s Day spent alone, but now in some cases an official celebration of singleness). I know in my various friend circles, single women who are into Valentine’s Day tend to congregate together, whether for the stereotypical ice cream and romantic comedy-fest (the eat-your-heart-out model), a night on the town or just an evening of not being alone when you don’t want to be.
But is any of the same true for men? How much does the day really register for dudes if they aren’t partnered? Do they make plans with their fellow single buddies? Secretly binge-watch rom-coms with only their six-pack of beer the wiser? Scramble for a last-minute date? Or do they just, like, not even notice that it’s Valentine’s Day?
Here’s what I learned by talking to single male friends, and to dozens of dudes on Bumble.
First of all, there really are lots of men who only pay attention to Valentine’s Day if they’re in a relationship. Matthew, 35, owns restaurants and wine bars, including Good Measure in Los Angeles, so his primary Valentine’s Day responsibility is “deflecting and making others happy — I’d only not be working if I had a girlfriend,” he says. Mike, 37, likewise only cares about Valentine’s Day, “if I’m in a relationship and my partner wants to participate in it.” Tony, 27, sees it “like any other day — nothing special.”
Other men, meanwhile, will make plans on their own or with their buddies. Rishi, 39, thinks Valentine’s Day is “contrived” and plans to go for a motorcycle ride today. Michael, 28, doesn’t feel a lot of social pressure to have a date, but is still glad to have “a few close friends who are single, so [I’ll probably] chill with them on the couch and BBQ.” Patrick, 31, feels mostly the same way, planning to “skateboard with the homies” because “I’m single and I love skateboarding. That’s what single guys do on Valentine’s Day — they do what they like to do. [The] majority of us are definitely not crying about being single on the 14th of February every year.”
But there are also plenty of hopeful romantics among the single men I talked to. Phil, 30, sees Valentine’s Day as “a day to appreciate women,” whether it’s romantic or otherwise. “If I’m single, I pretend like it’s every other day,” he says, but he also calls his mother and his close female friends and sometimes sends them flowers, “especially if they don’t have a valentine, because I want them to feel special.”
Sam, 33, is actively looking for a partner and hopes every year will be different. As a queer man, he feels pressure to have plans on Valentine’s Day because the “feminization of romance,” as he puts it, means that gay men are expected to be romantically involved — or at least more emotionally open — in public. “One friend has already posted sadness about Valentine’s Day on Facebook,” Sam says, and he expects others will spend the evening “trolling the gay bars” in search of companionship. Josh, 37, might either “try to make up with [my] most recent ex, try to pull off a romantic first date or cry myself to sleep” (though he hopes not). “A Valentine’s Day date would be a lot for the first time going out,” he admits, but he remains an optimist. “That could make for an awesome date and a great story, or at least company if there’s no spark,” he says.
For other men — those who are dating but not quite at the relationship stage — the day is something of a minefield, and many will avoid a Valentine’s Day date so they don’t send the wrong message. Mateen, 36, would rather go to a singles event than go on a date on Valentine’s Day if he’s dating someone new, because he doesn’t want to “set a precedent [he] might not be ready for” relationship-wise. Kenny, 27, feels that trying to make plans at this point to take someone to dinner “might come off more desperate than it seems — I plan to either stay in with my dog or go out with some friends to dinner and a bar, where maybe some like-minded single women will have the same idea.”
If Valentine’s Day is just another day to you, hey, happy Hump Day! Tomorrow’s Thursday and then it’s Friday and then it’s blessed, blessed Saturday. But if you’re single and you are feeling it this Valentine’s Day, the good news is you’re not alone. Check in with your other single buddies (especially if they’ve recently gone through a breakup); try your luck at a singles event (look, I even googled it for you); or what the hell, grab a pint of Cherry Garcia and put on When Harry Met Sally if you feel like it.
After all, tomorrow’s another day, and a much better one since all the candy will be half-price.