How five L.A. singles are spending Valentine’s Day 2021
There’s being single. Then there’s being single on Valentine’s Day. And then there’s being single on Valentine’s Day in a pandemic. On their own, none of these things are inherently bad — except, of course, the pandemic part. But throw them together after a year of widespread isolation, pain and disaster, and the combination can feel like yet another cursed side effect of our times.
But does it have to be that way?
There are partnerless people in L.A. this year who say no. Many are reclaiming Valentine’s Day as a time for friendship, community and self-love — a concept that for many feels more beneficial than it ever has. Some are planning the perfect date for themselves. Others are bringing their single friends together to celebrate. Then there are those using the time to “just chill.”
House rose, a certified self-love and dating coach in L.A. who is hosting a self-love mini retreat on Saturday, has seen more of the single people she works with invest in themselves and become attuned to their own needs in the last year. She thinks Valentine’s Day can be an extension of that — whether that means indulging in a self-care weekend or ignoring the holiday completely.
“[It’s about] tuning and asking, ‘What do I need? What’s the perspective I need to take?’” Rose says. “There’s no right or wrong way that this weekend should look. So, letting go of any ‘shoulds,’ letting go of any expectations, and just being like, ‘OK, how can I make the most of this time for me?’”
Or as Rinny Perkins, a single Echo Park-based artist-comedian-writer, says about celebrating V-Day this year: “I think it’s also cool to do something nice for yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. If you want the Telfar bag, get the Telfar bag … if you can get the Telfar bag.”
Here’s how five L.A. singles, metaphorically speaking, are getting themselves the Telfar bag this year.
Alessandro Negrete, 38, branding and marketing consultant
Every year B.C. (that’s “before coronavirus”), Alessandro Negrete would throw a singles Valentine’s Day rager, complete with themed drinks and gift bags because he’s “very extra.” His friends would pack into his Boyle Heights home to celebrate themselves and each other. Most years, the couples in his circle also were vying for an invitation.
Negrete wasn’t in a serious relationship until he was 28 years old, and has been single for the last six years. Valentine’s Day, both intentionally and by default, has always been about friendship.
“In Spanish, it is the day of love and friendship,” Negrete says of Valentine’s Day’s emphasis on “love and friendship” in Latin cultures. “So I started focusing it more on the friendship part. Breaking down these ideas of male platonic relationships. Hyping up my boys — all my homegirls. That’s what it’s consisted of.”
This year, with pandemic updates, that tradition continues. Negrete will host a scaled-down, socially distanced version of his V-Day gathering at Echo Park Lake with a small group of single friends. The invitation calls it “An LGBTQ Reminder That Today and Every Day Love Wins: A Homie Valentine’s Day Gathering.”
Monique Gardner, 28, freelance videographer and photographer
Monique Gardner has been single her entire life. When she was in high school and college, Valentine’s Day was nothing but an uncomfortable reminder of that fact. “Society has this thing that makes being single feel like a terminal illness,” she says. “You internalize that and then start feeling like there’s something really wrong with you.”
But then she got older. Gardner started spending Valentine’s Day partying with friends and embracing her solitude. Eventually the holiday became a chance to do what she loved with none of the pressure that comes from celebrating it with a significant other.
This year, for Gardner, that means working. (Yes, working.) She got booked to do a surprise Valentine’s Day-themed photo shoot for a friend’s partner at a private studio. It’s an activity that, at least vicariously, is also giving Gardner her dose of romance for the day.
When she gets back home to her Koreatown apartment, Gardner plans to brew some ginger tea, light incense, throw on Roy Ayers tunes and “just chill.” “I don’t put too much thought into [Valentine’s Day] because then it becomes a thing, and that’s where all the anxiety and stress comes from,” she says.
Zoe “Mala” Muñoz, 29, writer and cohost of “Locatora Radio”
In the four years that she’s been single, Zoe “Mala” Muñoz has been open with her thousands of social media followers about the “reply guys” in her direct messages and her Hinge dates gone wrong, plus the good, bad and weird that comes with being a single person in her 20s. “I was on the apps. I was off the apps. I was going out dancing. I was going to bars. I was meeting people in different ways,” she says of her life before the shutdown. “Over the course of the pandemic, it’s been a lot of yoyo-ing.”
This month, Muñoz started hosting a room called “Very Much Single” on the invite-only social app Clubhouse, with her friend, Lori-Ann “L.A.” Stacey. In the first session, about 40 people showed up and were asked the same question: “How single are you?” Serendipitously, the next installment of “Very Much Single” lands on Valentine’s Day this year, and Muñoz will spend the evening with a new batch of faces sharing the metrics of their singledom.
However, earlier in the day, there will be some “self-lovery” happening. “I feel the need to invest in literally dating myself,” she says. “I have to be my own girlfriend right now.” An ideal solo date this year? Picking up bacon and Gruyère sous-vide egg bites from Starbucks, hitting a local dispensary to stock up on weed, rollerskating at the beach and filming some content. “For me,” she says, “that’s a beautiful date.”
Jacqulyn Whang, 31, high school teacher and model
For the last four years teaching at Compton’s Centennial High School, Jacqulyn Whang has received a second-hand dose of the excitement Valentine’s Day still holds for many teenagers. They show up to school decked out in pink and red and eager to see who gets the biggest teddy bear. Or they’re perfectly content with receiving a box of chocolates from their bestie.
“The thing I love about Valentine’s Day is I get to see all my kids happy — or some not happy because they didn’t get something — but it’s a day that’s supposed to rev everybody up,” Whang says. The closest she may get to a classroom celebration this year is having her students hold up Valentine cards for each other on Zoom, but she still believes in the holiday’s potential.
For single people in L.A., especially after a year of COVID, Whang sees it as an opportunity for self-love — the kind of love, she says, that can ripple into our communities, our world and our future relationships. “Since it’s about romance, and love and, for some who are more aware, friendship, we’re able to remind ourselves of the value of self-care in all aspects,” she says.
Oseije Imoohi, 25, photographer, director, founder and designer of Oji Royale
Last year on Valentine’s Day, Oseije Imoohi felt a “woosah kind of relief.” He was single. He didn’t have to plan anything for a significant other, and the pressure was off. “That sounds terrible,” he says, laughing about the sense of calm he got from being single on the lovers’ holiday.
As a business owner, Imoohi’s perspective on V-Day has always been slightly detached. Running his do-rag and menswear line, Oji Royale, since 2017 has made him understand that companies capitalize on certain holidays to drive sales — including this one — but he believes instead that “love should be expressed every single day.” So this year, he’ll continue to keep Valentine’s Day low-key.
His close friend is having a small birthday brunch on the beach on Sunday. “There’s going to be drinks. We’ll be getting litty. We’re just going to be vibing out,” he says.
Being single for the last three years — but especially in the last year — has allowed Imoohi to get introspective. “I’m learning to really love myself and embrace every single part of me — parts that I was taught to hate,” he says.
He doesn’t lament being single on Valentine’s Day this year and predicts that others — especially after staying home and not being able to meet people — won’t either.
“I think this year people will feel less bad about not having a Valentine,” Imoohi says. “There’s a whole pandemic.”