A single's guide to Galentine's Day

Em Mann shouts out to all the single (and otherwise) ladies

What is Galentine’s Day? As my public servant spirit-animal Leslie Knope infamously exclaimed on TV comedy Parks and Recreation: ‘Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies.’

Galentines sign

A feature at Em’s Galentine’s Day dinner.

If you are like me, you may have physically recoiled from Knope’s on-air idea. I am not one to ordinarily fall into an event created by a TV show, simply to fulfil some gender normative obligation. Even though I do love a bit of pink.

Still, this year, I hosted my first (very impromptu) dinner-style Galentine’s Day – on February 9. While it was incidental that the gals I invited over happen to be fans of Parks and Recreation, I also wanted to deeply reiterate Leslie’s sentiment of celebrating ladies.

There’s just something special about being with women you trust, who are themselves trusting in the Lord, and who have seen you at your worst and still love you.

I know that spending time with gals looks very different throughout one’s life. As I write this, my 20-year-old sister is hosting a fairly rowdy sleepover downstairs. While one (usually) grows out of the sleepover era, I’ve come to believe that ladies will always need their ladies. Regardless of status, life-stage, or any narrative of ‘self-reliance’ we have constructed.

For me, I’m a gal in my mid to late 20s with the ‘world at my feet’. But I’m single. This has been a challenge, not least because it has been a clear deviance from the church norm. It hasn’t been by choice (Grandma, that’s for you), but I don’t think that makes a difference. I’m single now because God wants me to be that way now. However, having my trusted ladies around me has been vital to any semblance of a life walking in step with God and trusting in His good plan for me.

l preface this by stating that I know that I am incredibly blessed. I have a loving and supportive family. I have graduated from a great degree and have started on a formidable career path. I feel at home at my church. I have many weird and wonderful friends. I am profoundly thankful for my life.

Yet I have always longed to be married. I, like plenty of gals, chose my wedding dress and ceremony hymns while I was still in high school (cue cringe #2). I always thought I’d marry ‘young’ because, God-forbid, I would turn 25 and still.be.single. Praise God for the many examples of godly and single women in my life, which really helped challenge that narrative. I pray I can be that example for those gals coming after me. (And I know I’m still young, don’t worry)

Alas, hindsight is a funny thing. As an anxious soul with profound insecurities, it would have been all too easy to have defined myself as X’s wife had I been married in my teens or early 20s. I just didn’t have that option. Rather, I had a few years when I only had God’s promises to pierce through my anxiety as that voice of reason. Strangely when you’ve got nothing else, you often pay attention to what he’s got to say. As a result, I have profoundly learned that his grace is sufficient, his power is made perfect in my weakness, and that he is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I am, first and foremost, a child of God.

Other times, I haven’t paid attention and God has had to use my gals and other trusted confidants to point me to him. They remind me that God has a plan. That he’s faithful. That he has been able to do things in and through me that may not have happened or, at the very least, would not have looked the same were I wed. That I have had more capacity to serve in ways and across so many ministries than I otherwise would. That I have more flexibility to invest in workplace relationships because I can stay for a glass(es) of wine with my colleagues without consulting my spouse. That I can (and should) pray for my future spouse. And that I am able to powerfully display God’s sufficiency when you are living a celibate, single life, because of that stark gospel-difference.

I know that my desire for marriage isn’t a sinful longing that must be repented of …

It’s still hard though. Engagement and pregnancy announcements, for example, are really painful as it’s that wiry, ineffable reminder of what I don’t have. However, I’ve learned that it is critical to consider how I can respond to this longing for a family in a productive way, so that I can genuinely rejoice when others rejoice.

For me, it is important to hug my parents whenever I can. It is important (nay, vital) to spend an exorbitant amount of time with my (stinkin’ cute) niece. It is important to treat yo’ (my) self every now and then, to text my friends when I have an urgent prayer request, and to be vulnerable and ask for prayer or help when it’s just too hard.

I know that my desire for marriage isn’t a sinful longing that must be repented of (unless, of course it divulges into lust and envy). But it should lead me to three things.

Firstly, it leads me to pray – for faith, strength, contentment, intention, and for that someday man.

Em Mann

Em Mann

Secondly, it is an ache for a good gift that God intended to only be a shadow of an even greater reality – the wedding feast between Christ and his bride, the eternal rejoicing in souls saved, and that everlasting existence with my saviour. Whenever that pang of longing hits, it is but a glimpse of how I (ought to) feel about my ‘now but not-yet’ existence.

Thirdly, it leads me to praise God for Jesus, who, even if I had nothing else, has given me grace upon grace. Whatever may befall me, I will be with him forever.

That changes everything.

So this Valentine’s Day, I will buy myself flowers. I will praise God for the godly, respectful husbands that my friends are wed to. I probably won’t watch a rom-com (as much as I might want to), but spend time with the family who adore me. And I will thank my Father that his love is better than life, his plans for me are good, and that he is always, always, always faithful.

And should that day come, when I vow ‘to love and to cherish’ another, my lips will still praise my Jesus. I will be so grateful for this season of singleness and all he has taught me. I will have many gals by my side. My heart will still long for heaven because I know only He can satisfy my deepest longing. And heck, I will still celebrate Galentine’s Day (even if my hubby has to skulk in his bedroom because he can’t go over and crash at Chris’s place to play video games) because ladies need to celebrate/support/pray for/adore their ladies, regardless of marital status.

One final note: I didn’t share all of this as if it were a representation of all Christian experiences of singleness. It is simply a few thoughts emerging from my personal experience. I know it is unique, and that every experience of singleness is incredibly (and importantly) different. I hope I have been able to spark a sense of familiarity and solace, as well as to encourage you with God’s unrelenting faithfulness in our complicated and broken world.

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