Q. I hate Valentine’s Day. I once loved it. Before this year when I heard other people complain about it, I didn’t understand, but I always had a Valentine until now. At least I don’t go to a high school where they sell flowers and candy during lunch and everyone watches to see how many Valentines you get.
When I was a kid I loved Valentine’s Day. I’d spend hours preparing a card for each of my classmates, but teachers made sure we gave something to everyone. I don’t know when the holiday became so complicated. So many people are left out. I wish I had empathy for others before. Why do we torture ourselves with this stupid holiday?
I think I’m too young to have a real relationship anyway. Or am I just angry because this year I’m alone?
Mary Jo’s Response: I believe deep thinking and introspection is a sign of maturity. Your concerns do show empathy. I also hear your confusion and your anger. Things change as we grow. Valentine’s Day is a symbol of that change for you.
Your comments about relationships are worthy of discussion. How old should we be when we form one? Relationships are unique and complicated and fun and time consuming.
We each have many types.
Our first relationships are with family – those relationships help us define connection with others and model how we will act as we grow older. We form friend relationships early if we’re fortunate. Friendships help us learn the give and take of sharing and compromise. Relationships with our teachers, coaches, faith youth leaders, scout troop leaders and other trusted adults build our ability to interact and communicate.
The type of relationship you call a “real” relationship sounds like a romantic one. How does one define the maturity needed to enter into one?
My first romantic relationship was in first grade. It lasted two days. A little boy gave me a pencil with a heart eraser and my mother made me return it. She said I was too young to take presents from boys. I’m pretty old now and I still remember it.
Was that a real relationship?
It depends on one’s definition. I think young relationships, especially high school ones, help us decide what we want in a serious relationship. They give us a chance to make mistakes and learn from them. In today’s world, they are often surrounded by social media drama. Maturity is needed to survive a relationship where comments are made in cyberspace.
One of my goals as a teacher is to empower young people with the awareness they do not need to be in a relationship to be complete. You can stand alone without another person and do well. Valentine’s Day is just a holiday but it does reinforce the myth of us needing another person to be fulfilled.
Relationships are also healthy or unhealthy, mature or immature. Healthy and mature relationships help us grow as people and encourage us to be the best person we can be.
Seek a relationship where you can follow your dreams.
When this column runs, it will be a day after our Valentine’s Day party at our Common Ground Teen Center. Our teen staff creates activities. I find it comforting to know they planned a day to celebrate friendship on a holiday where being part of a couple is stressed. You are welcome at the Teen Center any day. We’re at 92 N. Main Street in Washington and we’re open at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
I think you’ll be interested in our peer educators’ comments. They align with your thoughts. Good luck. I know you will sort out your feelings and mature well. You are a person of worth, with or without a relationship.
Peer Educator Response: Many of us feel like Valentine’s Day is a borderline scam and is only continued for tradition and money. Some of us don’t like Valentine’s Day because it puts too many standards on people to show their love in materialistic ways. It feels like a cash grab. If you’re single it’s just another day to stuff your face with chocolate and cry about being lonely. It is a Hallmark holiday and a time of fake love. It is for couples and single people are usually sad when they are left out. Valentine’s Day can also be a day to brag about being in a relationship.
Some of us think Valentine’s Day is good even if we don’t have a significant other. It’s the day we get chocolate and maybe a stuffed animal from our moms. Right now, our moms are our favorite Valentine’s Day dates.
We don’t like how people feel pressure to be “dating” someone on Valentine’s Day. Maybe if there were less pressure we’d be OK with it.
Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email firstname.lastname@example.org.