Even outside of a global pandemic, Valentine's Day is never a particularly happy or self-affirming time for the chronically alone. But after a year that's forced many of us to self-isolate, the prospect of having to examine your eternal singledom amidst rom-com reruns and photos of your smug couple friends feels extra shitty this time around. So if you've been dreading the upcoming holiday like us, we'd like to suggest an option that isn't swiping and FaceTiming: A solo date for one.

We'd also argue that if there was ever a time to engage in some serious self-care and sensual self-exploration, it'd probably be now. But instead of just drinking alone, why not also treat yourself to something nice — maybe Postmates or a fancier bottle of Yellow Tail — and splurge on some gifts you don't have to return? Because after the collective stress and chaos of the past year, there really isn't anyone better to pamper, spoil and impress than yourself.

So turn off your phone, dim the lights and check out PAPER's step-by-step guide to help create what we think is the perfect solo night-in (Read: A nice buzz and a good orgasm). After all, it's not like you were going to go anywhere else, right?

Setting the mood is probably the most important, yet overlooked, aspect of having an amazing date night-in. After all, atmosphere is everything, but what else can you do to create the perfect solo date setting once you vacuum up all the Cheez-Its crumbs and pick up your dirty laundry off the floor?

First off, give yourself something beautiful to look at. Whether it's a new bag, a plant or a celebrity cardboard cutout, get something you've either been wanting for a while or that makes you feel good every time you look at it or use it. Depending on your budget though, it can also be something small like a cute little plant (The Sill's Echeveria Lola ($25) is a good one), or practical. Think: These Luxury Silk Satin Pillowcases ($12). But if you opt for the latter, we're personally obsessed with Lovepot x Oat Cinnamon's Dried Arrangement ($88), which combines gorgeous, long-lasting dried flowers with smokable hemp flowers (and it ships nationwide!).

Second, get something that will make your place smell or feel amazing. Boy Smells candles ($36) always do the trick for us. But again, you can also always just get some smaller stuff, like a Rose Quartz Worry Stone ($7) for good vibes or this super popular DRMTGLY Lavender Linen and Room Spray ($15) if you're aiming for something calming. That said, if you're also spiritually inclined and looking to go whole-hog, we also love House of Intuition's Self-Love Box ($110), a curated, all-in-one package filled with empowering, high-vibrational goodies from the LA institution, like their Love Wins Anointing Oil, Love & Heart Ritual Cleansing Kit, Anew Organic Spray and Rose Quartz Body Polish. It also includes their cult-favorite Self-Love Magic Candle, which smells lovely and seriously works wonders.

Comfort is king, especially when it comes to a night-in with no one to impress. So the next step is to throw on your favorite sweats (we've been living in our Yeokou's Warm Sherpa Lined Sweats ($26.99) and snuggle up under a soft blanket — like this Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Throw ($147), which is a little pricy, but so worth it — with another drink.

Then, depending on your mood, you can either opt for something interactive and flirty, like this Love Potion Cocktail Kit ($35), or something silly and playful, like some spiked hot cocoa topped with a lot of Lick The Whip's Alcohol-Infused Vanilla Whipped Cream ($24.99). We like the latter though, because it's lactose-free and can also be used for more... playful purposes later on. You know, whenever you do happen to have company.

Speaking of which, since this is a sexy solo date, we're also big fans of Kikoko's Sensuali-Tea ($44), a cannabis tea that tastes delicious and will also make any self-pleasuring feel ten times better down the line. Just remember that it is weed, so skip the wine if you're trying not to get crossfaded, and go to sleep if you start to feel too high.

Once you're feeling nice and loose, you can start easing into the main event. And one of our preferred ways to make the segue? Either another drink or working yourself up with a sensual self massage. Right now, we're really into SalTerrae Intimate Oils ($43.95) — which come in three intoxicating varieties — since you can choose whether you want something balancing (Desire), something that evokes warm pleasure (Passion), or something that'll give you a little bit of both (Allure). But whichever one you pick, take your time and explore away, because it's the build-up to Step Three!

While your hand and some lotion is always an option, if you really want to take this final step to next, head-spinning level, you're going to need two things: Lube and toys.

When it comes to lube, our preferred variety if you have a vulva is Foria's Pleasure ($44), a natural arousal lube with THC that enhances sensations, eases tension and dryness, and helps facilitate a much deeper orgasm. We swear by this one, but be warned: If you live outside of Colorado and California, you'll have to get the brand's Awaken Arousal Oil With CBD ($48), which is also great.

For non-cannabis lube, Goodparts Hydrating Organic Lube ($25) is a water-based formula created with aloe that feels great down there. That said, if you're interested in a more long-lasting lube, we'd recommend their Ultra-Smooth Silicone Lube ($25), which is perfect for an intense self-pleasure session.

As for toys, this is where things get good. For all genders, Cute Little Fuckers's Starsi ($79) is a vibrating toy that's cute, quiet and has great grip. Super flexible and fun, you can go for a hands-free grind and disperse the vibration however you like, all while stimulating/covering any dysphoric areas for a wonderfully versatile experience.

If you're into butt play, Unbound's Shimmy ($59) is a popular medium-size plug that has five different vibration speeds and patterns for a nice, customizable sensation. If you specifically have a prostate you want to massage, we'd recommend Lelo's HUGO ($175), a hands-free dream that has two super powerful motors. And if you're looking for something with a sleeve, we've also heard great things about LoveHoney's Blowmotion Warming Pulsating Masturbator ($99.99).

And finally, for people with vulvas, Lora DiCarlo's Osé 2 ($290) is one of our favorites for a mind-blowing orgasm. Using microrobotic technology to mimic human touch, it combines G-spot stimulation with a clitoral "mouth" massage. And the result? A wonderfully intense sensation that makes you feel like you're fucking yourself. And who doesn't want that?

Another great product if you're looking for a dual stimulation toy is the Womanizer Duo ($219), which integrates G-spot vibrations with amazing clitoral suction power for a fun twist on the classic rabbit. However, if you're looking for more traditional toys, Lelo's Soraya 2 ($219) is a great rabbit option, while Le Wand's Rechargable Vibrating Massager ($170) has always served us well.

Welcome to "Sex with Sandra," a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, "Sex with Sandra" is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.

Photos courtesy of the brands

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