Traditional narratives tend to romanticise the romantic – pun intended. From portraying (often monogamic, single-partner) relationships as integral to our wellbeing, to valourising the acts of ‘asking out’ and ‘finding one’s true love’, to characterising Valentine’s Day as a day where romance, love should be celebrated, only insofar as it applies to more than one individuals… our conventional discourses are packed to the brim with signs and claims affirming the orthodoxy that love is good.

And indeed, love is good. It nourishes. It transforms. It transfixes. It makes life meaningful where meaning cannot be found. It makes death meaningful despite our age-old proclivity and yearning for escaping death. It could embellish our lives with the bells and whistles integral to our economic survival, to our moral maps, to our ability to see ourselves truly, purely, for what we are.

Yet love need not be between two persons. Indeed, it need not be between anyone and yourself. It could be self-love – and indeed, just self love. For years I had convinced myself that the only reason that I had struggled to find someone to love, to share the Valentine’s Day, was because I was inadequate – unqualified by contemporary aesthetic standards, disqualified by measurements of appeal and attractiveness, and fundamentally, inadequate, because I have yet to find someone to love, and to love me back.

This Valentine’s Day, I’m done. I’m done with internalising narratives that attribute my lack of attraction to others (NB: not attractiveness, but attraction) to some ostensible failures on my part. I’m done with rom-coms that glorify “orthodox”, cis-heteronormative relationships at the expense of the lived experiences of queer folx, wom*n, and persons of colour. I’m equally done with tales that repeatedly insist that “All that’s well, ends well.”

It doesn’t end well. It doesn’t have to end well. Romantic relationships can just as well end poorly – as disasters, as muffled divorces, as treacherous betrayals, or as they fizzle out in an anodyne manner. And that’s OK! That’s neither necessarily the product of intentional design, nor culpable failure on individuals’ part. Yet what it does suggest here, is that such love is transient – it is fickle. It can desert you when you need it most. It can leave you in your rut when you find yourself sinking into a downward spiral.

And if you ever feel down for being alone, for being single – just remember one key thing: loving oneself – practising self-love, seeing value in one’s love, and recognising that one’s love is just as valid, if not more so, than others’ appreciation and affection and adoration and adulation and attribution and ascription and… tokenistic fetishisation of incidental features of yours that coincidentally satisfy appetites concocted and maintained by structures beyond your or their or anyone’s control.

That’s the way forward. That’s my way. That’s our way.


  • Brian Wong

    Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large from Oxford University

    Also: Rhodes Scholar, DPhil in Politics, University of Oxford. Political theorist, policy advocate, activist, competitive debater, ad-hoc journalist, and a restless old soul in a 22 year old's body.