When I was a kid, I enjoyed Valentine’s Day. It meant that I could give people things that expressed my platonic love for them. It gave me a chance to make or buy little cards with little messages of affection that we’d all put in each other’s handmade mailboxes on our desks. It was great to be able to share that with my friends from school. What could possibly be better than a day that dedicated to celebrating all the people that you love?

Unfortunately, my feelings toward the holiday have gotten more complicated as I’ve gotten older.

I’ve always been a romantic at heart. Give me a good love story and people to root for and I’ll swoon and sigh all over the place. I love the idea of love. I love being in love. But I both love and hate Valentine’s Day because while I’m a romantic and I write queer romance novels, I’m also asexual.

While I usually publicly use the label queer, I am panromantic and asexual. For me, that means I feel aesthetic and romantic attraction. I have crushes and romantic feelings for people regardless of their gender—but the idea of having sex with them never occurs to me, no matter how attractive they are. I often joke that I can dream up a romantic future with someone I’ve just met in less than 30 seconds, but sex is rarely part of that dream. It doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy sex on occasion, but it has never been a high priority for me.

Valentine’s Day is more complicated as an asexual adult. Where it used to be about celebrating everyone that you love—whether those feelings are platonic or romantic—Valentine’s Day is now a nightmare for me. No matter where you turn, love is being conflated with sexual desire, and it’s frankly exhausting.

During January and February, every company that sells anything even vaguely romantic turns all of their marketing up a notch. It feels a little nauseating. Lingerie goes on sale. People are expected to spend tons of money on expensive wines, dinners and chocolates. If someone asks you about your plans, it often comes with a wink or a suggestive wagging of the eyebrows.

We see this constantly in media about Valentine’s Day to the point that it has saturated people’s real-life expectations for themselves and for other people. It’s become about the big gestures that have always been more about the person making the gesture than the person they’re supposedly doing it for.

If you have the audacity to say something about how you are not planning on having sex with your partner at any point, but especially on Valentine’s Day, nine times out of 10, you are treated to a diatribe about how sex is what makes you human and that there must be something wrong with you. I can only imagine how this feels for my aromantic friends who are constantly smacked in the face with the idea that romantic love is the most important part of life.

That’s not to say that everything about Valentine’s Day is bad. It’s wonderful to celebrate people you love. I love that the holiday makes a lot of people happy. I love taking the time to do something special with my fiance or my friends, usually at a discount because we’re on a budget. I also love making or finding the perfect cheesy valentine for each of the people in my life. In a world where many people are told that their feelings aren’t worth anything, I think that it is wonderful that there is a specific date to celebrate sharing those feelings.

I hate that Valentine’s Day has turned into a time when people will slut shame or prude shame you, occasionally at the same time, because you celebrate your love a little bit differently than they do. I hate that there isn’t really an escape from other people’s expectations for anyone in the holiday, but especially those that are in relationships that other people see as ‘serious enough’ for sex to be on the table.

I’ve been with my partner for nearly seven years and engaged for nearly two. People are always asking me if the spark or the passion has gone out of our relationship because we’re in no rush to have a wedding. And by that, of course, they want to know if we are still having sex. They assume that either my fiancé or I will do something that is a big gesture to ‘reignite’ our relationship when we’ve never been big gesture people.

As Valentine’s Day draws nearer this year, I’m focusing on self-care. Not only am I working on several new literary projects with asexual and aromantic main characters, but I’m also limiting my exposure to advertising by using a combination of ad blockers and choosing my media consumption carefully. I’m avoiding Facebook, which is pretty much a smorgasbord of sponsored posts and advertisements for all things sexy when you write romance.

I’m also taking the time to thank each of my friends for being who they are, whether they’re my cyberspace friends or my offline friends. I love them and I want to make sure that they feel appreciated, whether they’re in a romantic relationship or not.

On Valentine’s Day and beyond, I wish people would try to mind their own business when it comes to romance and sex unless someone asks them for their advice or opinion on it. Even if you’ve known someone forever or they’re part of your family—especially if you’ve known someone forever or they’re part of your family. Not everyone wants to share their relationship with the world.

I want to challenge everyone to make their friends feel just as loved on Valentine’s Day and help normalize the appreciation of those we love platonically. Pick up your friend’s favorite food or something that will remind them of a good time you’ve had together. Or, even better, make plans to spend some time together.

We often default as a society to thinking of romantic relationships as the most important, and Valentine’s Day as a celebration of those relationships. It doesn’t have to be, and I want to encourage everyone to think of it a little bit differently this year.

Ceillie Simkiss author photo Equally Wed
Ceillie Simkiss is a queer and neurodivergent author and freelance writer based in southern Virginia. She has bylines in the Danville Register & Bee, VIDA Lit Culturess and Global Comment. She blogs regularly on CandidCeillie.com and is the owner and editor of LetsFoxAboutIt.com. She loves nothing more than curling up in bed with a book and her many furry creatures, but playing silly video games is a close second (even though she’s terrible at them). If anyone wants to reach her, she spends way too much time on Twitter as @CandidCeillie.