The Relationship Stigma
Now that Valentine's Day has officially passed, let's talk about being single in the Anthro community and all the bad things that come with it! Are you single? Do you feel as if no one will ever want you? Then this is the article for you, my friend. For just $19.99 you can get your "slice of love" advice from the utmost professional in relationships, guaranteed* to solve all your problems! BUT WAIT, sign up today and we will also send you this free "love sucks" t-shirt! Just pay additional processing and handling.
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Okay, time out, let's talk real world for a second. I'm sure you have all seen the couples art, Twitter "I love you's," and all the fawning over being in a relationship recently. Kinda feels like it's being shoved in your face, right? You wanna know the real reason why Valenine's Day is the way it is? I can sum it up, along with the stigma that surrounds being single, in one word:
The reality behind the holiday that so many of us have a love/hate relationship with is actually very interesting, and very clever from a marketing standpoint. Much like the De Beers diamond company's rise in the early 1900's, the traditions surrounding Valentine's Day have a very violent past. The key thing to remember, and what we are going to cover in much greater detail later in the article, is this:
Valentines Day as we know it now, much like many other holidays, was pushed by big businesses to help you decide on how to spend your money. They created the stigma about how being single is bad to influence your spending habits and add to their bottom line.
Don't believe me? Grab your backpack, map, and throw Swiper out the window; cause we are going exploring.
Let me set the scene for you: The year is 278, seriously, and we are in Ancient Rome. It's February 14th, which is execution day for some reason, and St. Valentine is in prison; awaiting his inevitable demise. According to one legend, he was allowed to have paper and pen, in which he used to write a love-letter to the jailer's daughter. It was later given to her upon his execution, and it was signed, "From your Valentine." As many of you know, this phrase is still used today! This is merely one legend in murky history, however. There are also Pagan roots to this holiday, too, but the true story has been lost to time.
Fast forward over the years and, by the middle ages, St. Valentine had become one of the most popular saints in all of England and France. This brief exchange of tokens, mostly letters and cards, had been firmly set in tradition; all to celebrate the memory of St. Valentine and his love. This simple tradition would not hold though, and those with an eye for money took action. By as early 1861, the holiday was being commercialized by the Cadbury Chocolate company with heart shaped boxes!
Needless to say, as the world continued to develop and businesses grew, this caught the eye of clever marketers across many different companies. Over time, this holiday went from one of remembrance, courtship, and love, to one that would bring in over $18 billion a year. Chocolates, flowers, cards, red and pink gifts, and the rotating display shelves of Wal-Mart are all wonderful examples. Can you see why this is one of the biggest roots of the relationship stigma?
So why do we all feel somehow worse when we are single? Why is being by yourself for long periods of time so difficult? Is it really just the big name corporations telling us how to feel so we will spend more money?
These questions are endlessly complicated and I am not a psychologist, but from my perspective, it's a "yes and no" sort of deal. We are social creatures and really do desire company on some primal level, but the way all of this stuff is marketed only makes it worse. All the cards, candy, and hearts exist to make you want something you may not really need to be happy; all for the sake of spending money. On the upside though, you don't have to buy into that and I hope that knowing the truth about Valentine's Day will help you feel a little better in the long run. It's a manufactured holiday that exists now to bring in as much money as possible, and that's the gospel truth.
I'm not going to stray into the realm of toxic positivity and say things like, "Hey, it's okay. You'll have a partner for next year! Don't be sad!" But instead, I'm going to highlight why being by yourself is not inherently bad. The stigma and harassment, often from friends and family, that comes with being single doesn't help anyone, so let's acknowledge these things for what they are, "B.S.", and get back to reality. You're not alone in being single, not by a long shot, and living for yourself is where it all starts. Take a look at this, an infographic provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, released today:
There are over 125 million singles in the United States alone and this is actual data! I'm sure this is good news for some, but that's not really my point. More and more people are deciding to stay single now and learning very quickly that there is a lot more to life than courting others. If you are alone, it really is okay! Don't let the marketing of Valentine's day get to you, because that's really all it is. Those companies out there want you to feel this manufactured pressure to start a relationship so you'll buy their products! Despite our social nature though, not everyone wants or needs a partner in life; we are all unique in our needs and wants~
Don't take this as a "Dear Abby," but this is my best advice from my experiences. If you are seeking companionship, then just living for yourself is the best place to start. Do things that make you happy and you will likely meet other people who enjoy those same things. The Anthro community alone is full of talented, kind people who already share one, very obvious interest. Let me tell you the true story behind my partner and I, as an example.
Shilo and I often tell the story to our families of how we met in a bar over a skee-ball machine. Naturally, they know absolutely nothing about our lives in the Anthro community, so this is our go-to cover. In reality though, our story is much simpler, and messier, than that. Here is how it actually happened:
A couple of years ago I joined a Discord server that a mutual friend had created. I wasn't even Mariah back then, and Shilo, who wasn't Shilo either, was one of the moderators. One evening, after a long day at work, said moderator was venting in the chat about her relationship issues. I happened to notice that her experience was very similar to mine, so I just offered some "that sucks but I get it" kind of support. We ended up chatting for a bit after that vent session and come to find out, not only did we both love Antho art, but we had matching luggage when it came to past relationships.
Things between us were actually kinda rocky at first. We were both damaged individuals who were skittish when it came to trusting again, but we just kept talking to one another and comparing stories about how terrible our ex's were. We had both been through failed, multi-year long relationships, so we knew that there was a potential for what we shared to be a rebound, so we kept a bit of distance for the first few months. We stayed honest and open about everything, and over time, things just fell into place on their own. That's really what happened. We had terrible ex's, loved Anthro art, and bonded over swapping stories while living on opposite ends of the United States.
This isn't me trying to rub my relationship in your face, let's not go there, but rather an admission of how messy relationships actually are. They almost always happen when you least expect it and I wish being sad about being single wasn't a part of the whole process. It really is natural to desire the company of others, but it's not a necessity to be happy. Start with yourself, first. Be honest with your inner desires and make the changes you want in your own life, then just relax. Being single is not a bad thing, it never has been; no matter what the chocolate and flower companies will tell you.
Something as simple as joining a Discord server could change your life. But don't let that discount all of the other wonderful bonds you have in life. Since starting AnthroBrand, I have made some of the best friends I have ever had. I honestly can't remember the last time I had a support network like this within the Anthro community. I may not be romantically involved with them, but I absolutely adore each and every one. There is no harm in leaning on your friends during this time of year, it's okay to be sad. Just remember to put yourself first, always, no matter what you're gunning for. I started AnthroBrand for myself, so I would have a way to give back, and look at where it has gone.
Unlike what the big companies who have a stake in this $18 billion time of year would like you to think, happiness is not manufactured or bought. You can be single and happy, those things will never be exclusive of each other. I know it might be hard sometimes, but you are wonderful and your feelings are valid. I dunno if many of you share Zen thoughts with me, but if you do, remember to just breathe. Relationships are like that actually, breathing. Sure, it can happen when you think about it, but most of the time it happens all on it's own; without a single, conscious thought~