My single Valentine 

Q: Oh no, it's that time again when all of us who are not part of a romantic couple are made to feel like something the cat dragged in — worse, like something no self-respecting cat would drag in. Are those of us who do not have a special someone really out of step with the natural order or just with the advertising industry?

A: Well, you're not much good to the chocolate producers of the world if you're not buying 2-pound boxes and florists will not make a killing from you if you stick to a twice-a-month bunch of daffodils for the hallway table. If you want to be on the good side of the greeting card people, send a card of commiseration to another unattached friend. While you're at it, buy yourself a candy bar and surprise a friend or your housemate(s) with some flowers. That takes care of you and the advertising cartels. Now about you and nature, or, more importantly, you and your sense of yourself as a misfit. I have been writing this column for 17 years. During that time I have been coupled and not looking, coupled and looking, single and keeping an eye open and single and beating the bushes. Whatever state I happened to find myself during every one of those 17 Valentines Days, I have always been aware of feeling the pressure that you mention — that being part of a dynamic duo was Nature's Way and anything less was ... well, definitely less. I can't change the popular press single-handedly; I can’t change the mindset of biological determinists who postulate everything on hard-wired mating urges, either. But if you're feeling blue I might be able to at least change your mind about being unattached as necessarily a "poor me" state of affairs. What follows are some quotes from my just published book, Doing It (Conari Press, $15.95), a collection of helpful hints and sexy suggestions from column readers and members of my Sexuality Forum Web site offering a different perspective.

• "As a single guy, the commercial hype of Valentine's Day can make even the most well-adjusted and optimistic single person feel like a pariah. But it is important to ignore the hype, and I couldn't agree more with you on your suggestion to take stock of the important people who like you day in and day out. They are far more important and fulfilling than a fleeting mismatched romance. Having been in the two-by-two parade to board Noah's ark with some pretty incompatible people in the past, I think I'll sit this one out."

• " I have been single for the past year-and-a-half and have been having more fun than in my whole entire life. I used to sit around worrying about why I didn't have a boyfriend, but now I am going out all the time and doing things I want and not worrying about someone else's schedule."

• "I am very proud to be single, especially when I think of many of my friends who are unhappy in relationships but unwilling to take the risk of getting out of them. I am proud that I can be on my own and not succumb to the pressures of finding a mate. I admire those qualities in other people."

• "For the people who want to get on with their lives after a relationship has ended, running a witty personal ad will get you lots of attention, but please keep in mind that the blind leading the blind tend to walk into traffic! Give yourself time after a relationship ends."

• "I've never been a better person. I've never been a better father. I've never felt this kind of happiness before. I'm still working on me."

• "Get out of the house and get yourself involved in activities that will feed and nurture your spirit. Always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance? Now is the time. Think you've got a marathon in you? Start training. Interested in Thai cooking? Take a class. As you begin to nurture your own inner spirit, you'll begin to find satisfaction, pleasure and purpose in life once more, and this will bubble forth from the well of your soul to those around you. Your happiness will be evident in the smile on your lips, the glow of your cheek, the sparkle in your eyes. Life will fill you with pleasure and your cup will runneth over. The most attractive people are those who are content within themselves and have something to give, not those who seek to fill an emptiness within themselves with the shallow attention of others."

• "You could masturbate in the kitchen. If you really need someone there, you could get a fish. The idea is to have just enough friends that you feel a nice balance between company and alone. A nice balance keeps thing looking bright." Isadora Alman is a licensed marriage counselor and a board-certified sexologist. You can reach her online at her Sexuality Forum (www.askisadora.com) or by writing to her care of this paper. Alas, she cannot answer questions

Speaking of Love & Sex, Ask Isadora

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