Sometimes I think that singletons have it the toughest. There's the single supplement on holidays, a phenomenon that I'll never truly understand. "It's £999 inclusive of flights and airport transfer if you're travelling with your spouse, sir, but given you're alone at this time of year, we're just going charge you double. Merry Christmas!"
It's not enough that the around-the-clock adverts snap and crackle with maudlin images of consumerism and contrived pictures of what giving is all about at Christmas, wrapped up in some uber-trendy expensive material gift - detracting from the true meaning of the holiday - driving consumers to buy, spend, drink, dance and eat, then along comes that Hallmark Holiday: Valentine's Day; marketers' subtle way of saying, 'guys, have you still not found someone yet?'
Why do I feel my singleton status that much more pointedly around these times of the year...? Could it be the giant hearts that hang from ceilings of the shopping malls here in Nairobi, with the subtle reminder that, yes, it's "VALENTINE'S DAY!!!" Could it be the incongrously-located endorsements of this commercial love-in? As I entered one popular store in Kenya's capital last week, I had to do a double take. Did I just see an advert for bleach, with Valentine's Day emblazoned across it?
Dazed and confused, I made a beeline for the fruit & veg store next door, only to find myself in some trance-like state to see red hearts dangling from the ceiling. It couldn't be, could it? It had to be some post-modern, tongue-in-cheek in-joke I wasn't aware of.
Have advertisers completely forgot that only the lonely probably rather like chocolate, too?
So-called Hallmark Holidays such as Valentine's Day, with bleach advertisers even getting on board, shimmer with the very best of intentions, but the crudeness of brands piggybacking on their popularity really dilutes their brand equity.
Beyond that, for those coping with heartache, the loss of a loved one or the breakdown of a family, these events are truly alienating. Packaged as something that can bring people together, Valentine's Day advertisements usually divide as much as they unite.
True love or something resembling it, I imagine, should be manifested not because Cadbury's says you should love your partner, but because, you know, you actually do. Daily.
Tips on overcoming Hallmark Holidays:
1. Celebrate your singleness:
It may not be true that half of marriages disappear into divorce, but the mindset that the grass is always greener is not always true. The 'happy couple' picture may look nice from the outside, given an extra shine and gloss by mainstream media, but the reality is often far more complex.
2. Put things in perspective:
Just like you, there will be many other people out there experiencing feelings of being alone. Even, perversely, those in a relationship where there is a disconnect or one party, or both, see having no future. Just because you're not physically with another person doesn't mean you don't share commonalities with those who are.
3. Spend time to strengthen existing relationships:
You may know friends or colleagues who also spend time alone during these holidays. The upcoming Mother's Day may be a very special day for some to celebrate a special person, but not everyone has one because of bereavement, separation and lots of other reasons. Take time to connect with these people prior to, on and after these events.
*This piece originally appeared on Kevin's site, www.universityofinspiration.com