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Dr. Bella DePaulo on Bad Advice for Singles on Valentine's Day

Editor's note: We are privileged to be able to share an excerpt from Dr. Bella DePaulo's book Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. Ten of the chapters in Singled Out debunk myths about single people. This send-up of Valentine’s Day advice is from Chapter 5, which mocks the myth of “the dark aura of singlehood,” which dopily proclaims that if you are single, “you are miserable and lonely and your life is tragic.” 


If you want to see fools rush in to provide well-meaning advice to hapless single people, buy a ticket for Valentine’s Day. One of my favorite examples appeared in USA Weekend in 2003, under the title How to survive Valentine’s Day without a sweetie. Here’s what it said:

“Valentine’s Day alone need not be depressing or embarrassing; you can survive and even thrive without a lover if you plan accordingly. These tips come from dating guru Jennifer Frye: 

  1. Don’t just sit at home and mope. Keep your spirits high by getting together with other single friends. Make dinner, watch empowering movies (The War of the Roses is a good one) and talk trash about love.
  2. If you have no single friends, take the day for yourself. Do something fun: Take yourself shopping, go for a nice lunch, go to a museum. No errands today!
  3. Avoid romantic restaurants and bars. The scene will just remind you of your loneliness.
  4. For a little end-of-the-day affection, kiss your pets, if you have any.

The guru is so smart that she knows without asking that if you have arrived at Valentine’s Day without a sweetie then you are miserable. Moreover, you are also stupid, and cannot figure out how to survive this tragedy without professional help.

Your first option, if you have some friends who are also losers, is to hide at home with them and cook your own dinner. I would not make fun of the suggestion to watch an empowering movie if the example of a “good one” involved strong, successful, happy singles. Instead, the guru expects singles to be empowered by a story in which a husband runs over his wife’s cat, and his wife cooks his dog for dinner, just to spite each other.

If you don’t have a sweetie and you don’t have any single friends, either, then you will have to play more than one role so you can pretend you are not alone. You get to be the grown up who “takes” the kid out for a really special day, and you also get to be the pathetic single person patted on the head by the indulgent adult.

Even without a sweetie or a single friend, you may still be salvageable. Perhaps you have some pets. If so, then you can kiss them.

If you have no sweetie, no single friends, and no pets, the guru is apparently stumped. She’s out of advice.

In fairness, I will admit that USA Weekend did also offer Valentine’s Day instructions for people who do have sweeties. Even coupled people need advice if their sweeties turn out to be imperfect. Take, for example, the problem of the “good guy who’s a lousy kisser.” To “handle” him, you can “stop the kiss as soon as it turns bad” and “without being obvious, use thumbs to clean up after a wet kisser.”

Frankly, I think the advice given to the person drowning in their sweetie’s kisses should parallel the advice given to singles. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep your spirits high by fantasizing about getting back to your own home where no grown adults will be slobbering all over you.
  • Avoid romantic restaurants and bars. They will only remind you of all of the other drooling kissers.
  • For a really good kiss, look to your dogs. They are neater.

You can get Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After in paperback here or as an ebook here. Her other books on singlism, single life, and the psychology of deceiving and detecting deceit are here. Dr. DePaulo writes the "Living Single" blog for Psychology Today, and the Single at Heart blog for Psych Central. Her website is BellaDePaulo.com.

Read more about singlism in our article on the topic here.

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