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our pop culture v-day picks for one

Valentine’s Day can bring up all sorts of emotions, especially for those who are single.  For some, this might mean weeping into a bucket of ice cream while watching The Notebook. For others, the day might be an excuse for a night out with friends, a celebration of friendship and singledom. But in your case, this Valentine’s Day business is getting old; you’re sick of The Notebook and it’s just too cold to go outside anymore. In that case, here are our (slightly) off-the-beaten-path pop culture picks to entertain you this Valentine’s Day, in any way you hope to celebrate it.

Top 10 Picks If You Want To Bawl Your Eyes Out in a Bucket of Ice Cream Because You’re Single

 

“Niagara”—The Office

Ensemble cast + dancing + hit song + love = tears.

After six seasons of waiting for Pam and Jim to finally tie the knot, I was extremely pleased at the very well written and heartfelt marriage episode. After realizing that their marriage is supposed to be special to them, Jim and Pam sneak away from the ceremony and tie the knot on a river boat overlooking Niagara Falls. When they return late, it only takes a nod from dear old Michael Scott to cue a choreographed procession down the aisle to the tune of Chris Brown’s “Forever.” Watching this episode still makes me cry as hard as I did the first time, and it’s not entirely lonely crying. It’s more of a crying out of happiness, watching the love between Pam and Jim and their coworkers. MV

 

“Someone Like You”—Saturday Night Live

Everyone knows that Adele’s “Someone Like You” is one of the saddest songs ever. As her powerful voice begs her past love not to forget her even though he has settled down, she calls upon all of our willpower to not cry at the sentiment. Which is what makes the 2011 SNL skit with host Emma Stone so hilariously accurate. Nasim Pedrad plays Karen, an office worker in need of a good cry, who plays the song to get the waterworks going. By the end of the skit she’s been joined by Emma Stone, Fred Armisen, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Kenan Thompson, Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan and more, all sobbing hysterically (and with the funniest cry faces) at the depressing tune. Listening to Adele on repeat this Valentine’s Day is too typical; a more interesting choice is to watch this skit. After all, it’s slightly better to sob in rhythm with some of the greatest comedic talents of our time, instead of on our own, right? HJ

 

The Last Five Years

Luckily for all the single folks out there, we can cry collectively as the movie adaptation of this Off-Broadway show is hitting select theatres and iTunes tomorrow starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. The show follows the relationship of Jamie and Cathy over the course of five years. Their storylines are told from both of their points of view, but Cathy begins at the end of their divorce and moves towards their first date while Jamie moves from first seeing her to moving out. The first song is “Still Hurting” as Cathy begins to try to understand why they’re separating, and even though there are some cute moments, you know the entire time how the relationship will end. The music is beautiful, but the story is grim. MV

 

“Looking for the Future”—Looking

In one of the most beautifully shot episodes of the entire season, Looking placed Patrick and Richie against the gorgeous backdrops of San Francisco. If this episode doesn’t make you ache to be with someone instead of opening another tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream, then I don’t know what will. Their conversation is one of those where you think you’re not talking about anything, but you end up talking about everything. It was nice to see them taken away from their friends, and to see them interact alone on a spontaneous day trip. MV

 

Overseas by Beatriz Williams

Overseas by Beatriz Williams is a sweeping, romantic, time travel novel released in 2012 that did not get the amount of attention and success it deserves. Sort of like a cross between Outlander and The Time Traveler’s Wife, with ten more scoops of sugar mixed in, Overseas hits the guilty pleasure target in all the right places. The story follows Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson, who attracts the attention of British billionaire Julian Laurence. But there is more to their story: in fact, their love story might have begun during World War I in France. Their love is perfect, Julian is perfect (some might argue too perfect), and that’s why this story might be hard to take on a V-Day spent alone. Weep for this incredible, decade-spanning love that you will never, ever have. HJ

 

“Losing My Mind”— Follies

Follies, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, takes a look at the roads not taken among a group of friends, now in their late 50s, years after they were performers and patrons of a follies show. Sally belts this torch song of her life of pining for the man she was in love with as a young woman, who ended up marrying her best friend. She talks about the constant thought of what could have been, and how paralyzing the love she has can be. Barbara Cooke and Bernadette Peters do this song immeasurable justice. MV

 

“How Could I Ever Forget”— Next to Normal

Next to Normal, the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical, is rife with tragic and tear-worthy moments. With subjects such as bipolar disorder, death, and dissolution of long-lasting relationships, its themes are both specifically tragic and heartbreakingly universal. But perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the duet “How Could I Ever Forget,” a song that unspools a conversation between Diana and Dan, a married couple whose relationship has been unraveling due to Diana’s illness and their shared memory of the day their child died. Honest, realistic, and with perfect harmonies. Prepare the tissues. HJ

 

“You Don’t Need To Love Me” and “Some Other Me”— If/Then

If/Then, like Follies, plays with the idea of the road not taken. Its approach, however, is to look at one specific choice point and how any single, seemingly inconsequential moment can change the path of our lives. One of the sadder ways that this plays out is that Elizabeth’s best friend, Lucas, spends one of the show’s two possible paths in a very happy relationship—with someone who he never meets in the other path, where he instead pines after Beth. “You Don’t Need To Love Me” is an anthem for the kind of excruciatingly hopeless and desperate unrequited love that we know is just sad but can’t seem to let go of. “You don’t need to need me, it’s better that you don’t / If each of us can walk away it won’t matter that I won’t.” The other song, shared by Lucas and Beth, is a beautifully painful expression of how sometimes things don’t work out, even if we can imagine—and long for—a world where they do. AM

 

“Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” by Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer’s unusual writing style makes him somewhat of a polarizing author, but I have always loved his work. In under 2000 words, this piece tells the story of the lives of a couple and of the dynamics and evolution of their relationship. Almost nothing happens. It is life, after all. Travel, jobs, deaths, births. A child grows up in three sentences: ”He suddenly drew, suddenly spoke, suddenly wrote, suddenly reasoned. One night I couldn’t help him with his math. He got married.” All of the plot points of life and the turmoil of relationships summed up in short, clipped sentences that leave you—lonely you, the reader—somehow feeling both very full and very hollow and very much on the verge of tears at the end. Here we aren’t, so quickly, Foer writes, and you can’t help but think about where you aren’t and where you are—and aren’t—going. AM

 

“End of the World”—Parks and Recreation

It’s the end of the world in Pawnee. This is a funny episode—Herb as the spokesman for the Reasonabilists and their volcano-mouthed lizard god Zorp is particularly good—but it’s also an emotional one. The most raw moments deal with Leslie realizing that she’s not really able to let go of Ben, even though she’s the one that chose to end their relationship. It’s still funny, but her floundering desperation hits home: “Just because I can’t go out with him, someone else can? Wow.” The episode ends with couples (and potential ones) in sequence: a rare moment of April letting her feelings for Andy show on her face, a past and maybe future flame giving a slightly despondent Tom a kiss, Leslie’s apology to Ben. In combination with the song playing over the sequence—”All Will Be Well”—it’s a lot to handle. AM

Top 10 Picks If You Want To Feel Empowered as the Fierce Single Person You Are

 

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

In this new memoir, Newman details her life of juggling work and play, a more spontaneous and sexually adventurous Liz Lemon, if you will. A television sitcom writer, Newman details the struggles of being a thirty-something while all of her friends are getting married, having children, and divorcing. After a slew of long-distance and long-lasting relationships, Newman decides to make use of her hiatuses from the writers room and take flight on exciting trips around the world. What makes these trips even more exciting are the foreign romances and stories she shares with hilarity and self-awareness. It’s a memoir of taking your life in your hands and doing what makes you happy, with or without anyone at your side. MV

 

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

When The Signature of All Things came out in 2013, it got a lot of attention for being Elizabeth Gilbert’s first fictional output since her insanely successful nonfiction endeavors, Eat Pray Love and its follow-up, Committed. Critics adored it, heaping praise on its detailed botanical focus and sweeping inventiveness. Less noted in the tale of Alma Whittaker, a brilliant botanist living at the start of the 19th century, is her fierce independence and success without the love of a man. The Signature of All Things is a great read—complex, interesting and different—but it’s also a perfect pick this V-Day to remind you that incredible achievements and romance do not have to go hand in hand. HJ

 

Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date by Katie Heaney

In this debut memoir from Buzzfeed editor Katie Heaney, Heaney regales us with the stories that have made it possible for her to make it to 25 years without a boyfriend or any serious romantic relationships. Her stories are both hilarious and heartfelt and make for a great read. But what makes her memoir more inspiring than depressing is that it is also a treatise on friendship, and how a great friendship, as Heaney has with her friend Rylee, can serve as the major relationship of one’s young life. HJ

 

“Take Your Time”—Sam Hunt

Sam Hunt is a new player on the country scene, and his artful mixing of R&B and country styles make him arguably the most modern country singer around. Nowhere is this more evident in his mid-tempo, half-spoken new single, Take Your Time. In the song, Sam sings to a woman he sees and admires in a bar. While the concept could have taken this song an entirely different route, Take Your Time is hands down the most respectful pick up song I’ve ever heard and it’s hard not to wish Sam was singing it directly to you. But this song goes in the empowering category rather than the depressing one because of what Sam is actually saying. He doesn’t want to take this girl’s freedom or ruin her Friday—he just wants to spend time with her. His words to this girl will remind you to be cognizant of your worth; that you are someone to be admired, but you are not an object for anyone’s taking. The fact that a male human can express these feelings should empower you to never settle for anything less than this level of respectful. HJ

 

“It’s Never Too Late For Now”— 30 Rock

This episode makes me grateful for my friends and makes me understand the importance of surrounding yourself with great people who care for you more than any one night stand. Liz Lemon, after breaking up with Carol, decides to give up on love, become a spinster, wear a sweatshirt, and hold her hair up with a chip clip. The entire 30 Rock gang joins up together to get Liz out of her funk—antics include poisoning someone’s food, stealing money, creating a fake nightclub, staging a fake fight, and hiring a male prostitute recommended to Jack by Martha Stewart. They know her so well that they know the four things she needs in a one night stand: “Star Wars, fried food, bagging on movies, and malarkey.” She rebounds and sees that the friends around her are more important in her life. MV

 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

This rock musical, currently playing on Broadway starring creator John Cameron Mitchell, explores the idea of wholeness and the search for one’s other half. Hedwig, an internationally ignored song stylist who received a botched sex change operation, has been touring the country following the hit rock star, Tommy Gnosis, whom she taught, loved, and created. Mitchell portrays her story of pain as she looks for acceptance within herself as well as someone to love her for all that she is. In one of the most heart aching moments, she recounts Tommy kissing her for the first time and realizes her “angry inch,” and quickly retracts, saying “I love you.” Hedwig yells, “Then love the front of me!” By the end of the show, Hedwig has come to understand that the feeling of oneness comes from within, left bare on stage as she has stripped away the layers of wigs and makeup and costumes. She sings, “Know in your soul / like your blood knows the way / from your heart to your brain / know that you’re whole.” MV

 

“Get Out and Stay Out!”— 9 to 5

I had never been to a Broadway show that had a standing ovation during a performance before I saw the musical adaptation of 9 to 5. Stephanie J. Block, playing the role of Judy, belts this anthem of independence and brings the crowd to their feet. Judy has been dealing with men bringing her down at work and in love; in this moment where her ex-husband (appropriately named Dick) comes to try to win her back, she stands in defiance and belts, “It took me this long to realize that I don’t need a man.” She finds that without worrying about Dick, she can move through life “unfettered and unbound.” So she kicks him out of her life. The show, and this song, are all about taking charge of your own life and fighting the institutions and people who may try to bring you down.  MV

“No More Wasted Time”— If/Then

If/Then has its lonely-crying songs, but it has its exultant ones as well. Beth, the protagonist, has recently left a stale and unhappy marriage. She moves back to New York City to make a go of the dream career she had never gotten the chance to pursue. This song, sung to her by her best friend Kate, is the best anthem for being single and empowered that I know. It isn’t down on relationships, nor does it even really mention them—instead, the focus is on doing what you want to do and not taking no for an answer. My favorite line is “No hoping life will just get better / we’ve hoped it half to death,” which splits into a four-part harmony that makes my heart burst a little. We don’t have to wait for something perfect to come along, and we certainly don’t need a person. We  can make our own lives incredible. AM

 

The Legend of Korra

This animated series, a sequel series to Nickelodeon’s 2005-2008 Avatar: The Last Airbender, is fierce. From moment one of its first season, its heroine, Korra, knows who she is and what she’s about: “I’m the Avatar! You gotta deal with it!” There are plenty of uncomfortable love triangles in the first season to make you actually relieved that, even if you’re single, you’re not dealing with all of this high-school-type drama anymore. But The Legend of Korra has depth, and in the next three seasons we’re shown immense fortitude and growth from a large cast of emotionally rich, complex, and believable characters. Korra’s journey from brash, overly assertive dynamo to compassionate, wise, powerful badass is compelling. The wonderful characterization and worldbuilding and ultimately transcendent story are enough to make even the loneliest of us feel uplifted this Saturday. And for me personally, the end of the finale brings a lot of hope—because if Korra and Asami can end up together, maybe it’s not the longest of long shots after all that I’ll find someone, too. AM

 

“Free (feat. Emeli Sande) [Cash Cash x Gazzo Remix]”—Rudimental

The song starts out with these lyrics: “I don’t do yoga, never tried Pilates / Not many people want me at their parties / Tryna find my place, some place … And I drink a little more than recommended / This world ain’t exactly what my heart expected / Tryna find my way someway.” So yes, an auspicious, feel-sad-for-yourself start that seems perfect for a lonely Valentine’s Day. But then you get to the chorus which goes, “See, whoa, c’est la vie / Maybe something’s wrong with me / But, whoa, at least I am free, oh, oh, I am free” and then you get a thumping beat that is impossible not to dance to. The song starts with something depressing, but turns it into something happy and fun. Which is exactly what you have the power to do this Valentine’s Day. HJ