Treat Yourself This Valentine’s Day

All too often, we spend Valentine’s Day treating and romancing others when we really should be pampering the ones we love the most: ourselves.

By Jane Ganahl

t took me until I was almost 50 to realize that I was not very nice to myself. If I were actually dating me, I would have broken up with me long ago. I work way too hard, I grab food that I can eat the quickest and rarely treat myself to a massage or facial. And how can I expect someone I’m dating to indulge me if I am not equally self-indulgent?

As researcher Barbara DeAngelis wrote: “If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a
I would have broken up with me long ago.
difficult time loving anyone, since you’ll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself!”

Above and beyond what my lack of self-pampering says about my too-busy life, it also says that my self-love is… lacking? I work my backside off and devote endless hours to friends, family and, of course, work. And where selflessness may be its own reward, without a bit of selfishness, one can burn out quickly and lose one’s joie de vivre. Horrors!

That’s my excuse, anyway, for starting a new Valentine’s Day tradition a few years ago: one that includes friends, food, and fun — of the self-pampering variety. Even during the years when I’m fussing over someone I’m dating, I still enjoy this new tradition. These routines are not mutually exclusive, and in fact one encourages the other.

As dating and relationship coach Sierra Faith puts it: “It is my experience that others treat us like we treat ourselves. So the issue of self-care and self-nourishment has to be addressed if we’re looking to attract a yummy, cherishing mate.”

Faith says it’s wrong to drive ourselves so hard and expect our date (or mate) to do all the caretaking for us. “If a woman wants a man to make her feel cherished, chances are she’ll either attract a guy who prefers his woman to be needy, or the otherwise-healthy men who come into the picture will eventually feel taken advantage of. Either way, it ain’t good. When women learn to ‘court’ themselves and take responsibility for their feminine well-being, they are more likely to attract men who want to enhance that well-being with no emotional or psychological strings attached.”

So, make Valentine’s Day a day to treat yourself as well as you can! It can only make you feel great, and when you’re dateless for the big Holiday of Romance, you’ll notice your lack of a date less acutely. I’m at the stage in life — some call it middle-aged, I call my ‘kick-butt prime’ — where I’ve learned what’s important, and getting more Victoria’s Secret garb is a distant second to activities that feed my soul. That’s why I start my holiday with great friends.

I set up a lunch at a favorite inexpensive café with my female friends (both single and not-so-single) during which we exchange little gifts, like
Valentine’s Day is a perfect time for pledging allegiance to ourselves.
individual chocolates and single roses. We dish and catch up, eat French fries instead of salads, and drink wine instead of herb tea. Sure, it makes me sleepy, but that’s OK, because then I’m off to the spa! Since I’m on a freelancer’s budget, I have to settle for “just” a massage, which still feels like the ultimate in luxury. I intentionally pick a spa that features a steam room, sauna and even a pool. So for the price of your regular massage, you can loaf and lounge all day if you so choose.

Last year, I chuckled to see how many women over 50 were there in their fluffy white robes. We’ve learned that Valentine’s Day is a perfect time for pledging allegiance to ourselves. And to our aging bodies, which always need a little TLC.

The rest of the day and evening (depending on your relationship status) can either be reserved for spending time with your significant other, additional self-indulgences or doing good works. Volunteering is the gift that keeps giving — not just to the recipients of your kindness, but to you as well! Check your local volunteer bureau for opportunities or see what’s available via an online site like There are always opportunities to show your V-Day love in ways Victoria’s Secret can’t touch: deliver goodies to shut-ins, bring heart-shaped treats to dogs and cats waiting to be adopted — or opt for something closer to home. Since my mother died, I sometimes invite my (very) aged dad for dinner; this cheers him up beyond anything a simple card could do. The look on his face when I surprise him with a cupcake beats anything I’ve seen in a lover’s eyes when he opens up a box containing an expensive tie.

And let’s be honest: it makes ME feel great! What could be more of a win-win?

Remember, dates and mates can come and go, but no one can love you better than you can! As world-famous wit Oscar Wilde noted, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Jane Ganahl is author of Naked on the Page: The Misadventures of My Unmarried Midlife, editor of the anthology Single Woman of a Certain Age, journalist of two decades, and codirector of San Francisco’s Litquake literary festival.
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