It's a day for love, in a couple or not

This column, first published last year, was a reader favorite.

Whenever Valentine's Day comes up, the newspaper, TV, and stores are full of heart-shaped candy boxes, roses, and jewelry for "that special someone." The holiday has become a celebration of romantic love, and that's great if you're in a romance or you're married, which is like having an automatic valentine.

But not everyone is so lucky.

There are plenty of people who aren't seeing someone right now, which is code for haven't had a date in 55 years. Like me. And that's OK, every day except Valentine's Day.

Single people feel like losers on Valentine's Day. They're left out of the hearts and candy. They become wallflowers at the party of life.

This is sad, and wrong. I think it's time to revisit the way we think about Valentine's Day. So welcome to another trademark Scottoline time-to-change-things story, wherein my bossy and controlling nature works to my advantage, for once.

To begin, I did some research, and I learned that St. Valentine's Day was intended to celebrate a loving man, a priest so sweet, giving, and devout that he became a saint. Historically, his day had nothing to do with romance. In fact, it wasn't until the Middle Ages, when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem titled a "Parliament of Foules," that St. Valentine's Day became associated with romantic love.

Aha! So the link between Valentine's Day and romance is pure fiction. Chaucer made it up, and trust me, he did it to move some poems. Sex sells. Romance novels are best- sellers for a reason, and even my books have sex scenes, which I write from memory.

And now I forget.

Given that the history of the holiday is so sketchy, I feel free to write on a clean slate. In other words, I can make it up, too.

And if you ask me, Valentine's Day is really about love. Not only romantic love, but also just plain love. And if you're not married or seeing someone, you can still have love in your life.

Observe.

In my case, I have tons of love in my life. I love my kid, my family, and my friends. I love the people I work with. I love my readers. I love my dogs, cats, and pony. I love spaghetti. I love opera. I love books. I love Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.

In short, I love.

If I were going to improve on that maxim of Descartes, "I think, therefore I am," I'd say, "I love, therefore I am." Or instead of Pope's saying, "To err is human," I'd go with, "To love is human." Plus I agree completely with that great philosopher James Taylor, who tells us to "shower the people you love with love."

So I propose that, on Valentine's Day, we celebrate love. Shower the people you love with love. Don't take one another for granted. Recognize that we grow more valuable to one another as time passes, not less. Raise a glass to someone you love, in celebration of an emotion that powers our best intentions, leads to our greatest happiness, and gives us the stories of the world's greatest operas, movies, and novels.

Now, there may be some of you reading this who have no one. Maybe you've lost someone, or they're far away, and you're left hiding in your house or apartment, waiting for Valentine's Day to pass.

Here's my advice to you:

Find the love in your life, because it's all around you. And if you can't find it, make it yourself.

Make love.

And by that, I don't mean match.com.

I mean, adopt a dog and love it. Buy it a pretty collar and walk it around the block. A cat works, too. Cats like pretty collars, even though they're too proud to say so. Or get a fish. There's no shame in love you can buy, even if it has scales. I don't think goldfish get enough credit. Not everybody can look good in orange.

Or read a book that everyone says is great. You'll find a story you love, and maybe an author. Or if you don't like to read, watch Legends of the Fall. You'll love Brad Pitt, whether you're a man or a woman.

And if none of that appeals to you, volunteer at a shelter or a hospital. Cook a meal for the parents at Ronald McDonald House, as a friend of mine did.

Because the thing about love is that we can't control whether we get it, but we can control whether we give it.

And each feels as good as the other.

Your heart doesn't know whether it's loving a man, a TV show, or a guppy. If your heart were that smart, it would be your brain.

All your heart knows is that it's full and happy, and you will feel alive and human.

And next time, you will have a wonderful Valentine's Day.

And, better yet, a wonderful life.

Look for Lisa and Francesca's latest humor collection, "Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?" Also, look for Lisa's new Rosato & DiNunzio novel, "Corrupted," in stores now.

lisa@scottoline.com.