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Sex + Relationships

Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Have To Suck If You Are Single

Gosh, if I see another Instagram photo of my ex-crush and his new girlfriend, I am going to lose my mind. Yes, I realize that I sound like the snobby, jealous, wilted ex but give me the benefit of the doubt. But this isn’t that story. I have grown (somewhat). A year ago, the old me would have dreaded the upcoming cupid-Hallmark fest wanting to drown myself in chocolate. Don’t blame me…I was heartbroken and wanted to scream that this is a cheesy-commercialized holiday based on a Pagan holiday. That was the old Zoë. The new Zoë has shed that skeptical and grumpy skin to embrace the single.

When you are a kid, Valentine’s Day is fun. You get to pass out cute cards with red heart-shaped lollipops to the people you care about. Then high school hits, and you have to live up to society’s expectations of not being alone. If you are alone, you are shunned to your room to drown in your tears the entire weekend. Or, you have to deal with “sympathetic” couples saying things, like “I’m sure you’ll find someone next year!”. Puh-lease. I can read through that bullsh*t. Sorry.

It wasn’t until I realized that this holiday is for everyone that you love. In my sophomore year of high school, my Youth and Government delegation would take a trip to our final conference of the year to Sacramento during this magical weekend. The entire trip, we would debate bills, be lawyers in a courtroom, and walk in the freaking capital of California! It was truly the greatest thing that I have ever done. Instead of spending the whole weekend worrying about dates, and who I would be kissing at midnight, I was doing something good for once. I would look around at my delegation (shout out to my West Valley family!), and a sense of joy would grow in my chest. I didn’t just have one date, I had fifty. It turned my stone-cold heart into a new and glowing red one. Valentine’s Day became the best day of the year for me. That is until I got my heart broken. 

It always comes back to here. The year that I got my heart torn in two, I didn’t believe in love like I used to. All the magic I had felt about Valentine’s Day had disappeared the second he left me stranded. I basically lived through my rom-coms and romance books, and should have seen the red flags early on, but I didn’t. Sometimes, I blame myself for what happened, for not walking away sooner.

The thing that I regret most is letting him take that magic from me. I need to stop apologizing and blaming myself for mistakes that I hadn’t even made in the first place. Now, I know I sound like a broken clock repeating this story over and over again. I had to recognize that the pain doesn’t just go away instantly — it takes time and patience.

When I sat down with my therapist, I told her that I kept having this underlying feeling “that I was never good enough.” Granted, this has been a feeling that has been with me since I was a child, but this experience highlighted that feeling even more. Half the time, I would stop myself from crying because it made me the weaker one. As a strong woman, I had to wake up and stare into the face of the problem: that as much as people will try to gaslight my pain, I am allowed to be upset. This revelation helped with my ultimate growth.

The thing that I recently realized is that this story is what led me to make certain mistakes that I didn’t want to make. It even might have led me to break someone else’s heart I never wanted to break. I accidentally hit it off the wall, and it shattered to pieces. That’s the difference between him and I. I own up to every heart that I break and every wound that I fix. It’s the thing that gave me that magic back. Well, that and a few pounds of ice cream.

This Valentine’s Day, I am no longer a hater. I will be hanging out with my best friends and eating as much chocolate as I want, to celebrate the amazing people that I have in my life. I will not shame any part of me, whether it’s my body, mind, or soul. I will smile when seeing the cute couples posting on social media and be happy for them. Finally, I will remember that even though I was knocked down, it is more important that I got back up again. So to all my friends, family, and even ex’s, I love you! You taught me how to grow and show the best emotion of all: love.

Zoë Howes

UC Irvine '25

Hi, my name is Zoë! I am currently a first-year journalism student at UCI and I love to write about rom-coms, my messy love life, politics, and more! Hope you enjoy! :) insta: @zoepascale_
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