Saturday 7 November 2015

Chinese Singles' Day?

November 11 means different things in different countries. In the British Commonwealth and the United States, it marks the end of the First World War, and Canadians now call it Remembrance Day. In Poland it marks the beginning of 20th century Polish independence, and so for them it is Independence Day. But in China, it is Singles' Day, and Chinese Singles celebrate it in fine communist style--by buying themselves stuff. 

Personally I am all for Singles buying themselves little treats to reward themselves for emotionally heavy obligations, like going to weddings, or smiling through Thanksgiving Day dinners as the only unmarried niece, or remaining conscious in the USA during Valentine's Day. In the case of Valentine's Day, I have always thought that it is just as good for a Single to give to another as to receive from another. I would say it was better, were it not for the memory of the surprise chocolate my dad left on my desk one year. I don't know why, but that was one of the best surprise gifts of my life.

There's something hollow about giving yourself a present for a day celebrating your non-status as a Single person. If I go to the beautician on my birthday, I'm celebrating the fact that I'm alive and taking the pressure off my husband to give me a happy birthday. (Many men just do not get why celebrating birthdays is important.) On Valentine's Day I meet with female friends and any Single readers who happen to be in town that day. For B.A's and my wedding anniversary, I call up a favourite restaurant and reserve a table for lunch.

As a Single, I did once send myself a valentine. I thought it would be cool to get something in the post, even if it was just from myself. It wasn't. Reading the message I had written only a few days before felt pretty pathetic. It would have been a much better use of the price of the card and the stamp if I had sent them to a fellow Single--or to my mother or grandmother.

I suppose after the deprivations of Communism, the Chinese think the answer to life is consumer goods--one thinks of the girlfriends of Russian gangsters rolling around in Chanel lipsticks and Prada bags--but I really think the best way to cope with the privations of Singledom is to reach out and do something for others. I honestly have never heard of a holiday in which the point is to buy yourself something, and it seems just as sad as the valentine I sent myself.

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