By Nev Schulman
As Season 4 of "Catfish," my show about internet romance and the power of love, gets ready to premiere, I find myself single for the first time since it began. It's been a while since I was solo, and I've been struggling to come to terms with how I feel. Let me give you a metaphor that I think describes my current emotional status: We all know the feeling of being in a nice, warm bath -- that fun, weightless, buoyant euphoria often including bubbles and infused with bath salts. Well, if that's what being in a relationship feels like, then the awkward, heavy feeling when the water drains out and the weight of your body is no longer supported by the water is being single. I was in this symbiotic, supported bathtub of love, and now it's just me -- a cold and naked body against the hard porcelain. And here’s Valentine’s Day to remind me about it.
Normally, I might sulk. But lately I've been wondering, what does it all mean? So on the day when everyone is meant to be reminded of their relationship status and often singled out for not being in one, I refuse to feel sad for myself.
I'm single on Valentine's Day and here's why I'm OK with it: For one, there's nothing less romantic than a day designated for being romantic. It doesn't take a genius to make a dinner reservation or buy flowers and chocolates for their special someone. Speaking of bouquets and boxes of candy, have you ever stopped to think how ironic it is that one of the gifts we're supposed to give our loved ones can cause diabetes? And that roses will inevitably die within days? Hey honey, gorge yourself with sugar, then watch these flowers die -- I love you!
But it's not just the superficial gestures that bother me about Valentine’s Day -- it’s the insidious way it reflects and reinforces cultural stereotypes about manhood. It's that we all use it as an excuse to present a false version of ourselves based on characters we've seen in movies, like the Lloyd Dobler outside Diane's window with a boombox. As guys, we are fed this idea that we have a role to fill as the romance maker in the relationship, and we are conditioned to try and emulate the grand romantic gestures we see in the media and advertising. So don’t worry if you're single on Valentine's Day, because what you're missing is just the poor man's version of a date on "The Bachelor/ette": being treated to $1 million worth of borrowed diamonds and dresses, then taken on a private plane to Vegas and forced to feel some overwhelming sense of passion and euphoria -- only to have the remaining 355 days of the year remind you that it was all a show.
Let's not confuse the high of a passionate evening with the value of a loving partnership. Actual romance is earned through commitment and trust. Beyond that, your definition of romance is unique to who you are. It's easy to get lost in relationships and forget how you ended up there and how you're really feeling. If you want to discover what real romance means to you, the first step is to know who you are, and oftentimes the only way to do that is to be single.
I'm still growing and getting to know myself, but I find the fun of being truly in love is being able to give your partner space. Sure, it's nice to spend time alone with your special someone, but sometimes the fun in having a relationship is sharing them with others and watching others appreciate them too. For example, I always loved going out with my girlfriend to a party and watching her get hit on by other guys, secure in the knowledge that I’m the man she’s chosen to come home to. By admiring my girlfriend from afar, I can see others admire her as much as I do.
If you find yourself single like me this February 14, do something nice for yourself that doesn't involve eating a box of chocolate. Better yet, send some flowers to your mom. She is the best woman you'll ever meet. She took care of you when you were sh**ting your pants. She loves you more than anyone. Happy Valentine's Day, Mom, your forever always.
Check out Nev's Valentine message and love advice video below, and be sure to catch a brand-new season of "Catfish" premiering Wednesday, February 25 at 10/9c.