This is the second installment of Madeline Hall’s column “Weird Love” which discusses the many oddities of affection as they appear in the year after the world didn’t end.
’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s REALLY NICE that in the United States, we try to celebrate a holiday that commemorates love and all of its squishy side effects.
There’s a civility involved in it; we nod to the continued phenomenon of affection by reminding ourselves of our relative companionship or solitude, all the while accepting that there is a day set aside to simply be in love. That is, if you are in love.
It’s hard to tell with certainty which population – that of the mirthfully matched or the sullenly solitary – feels the impact of the day more forcefully. Are those with significant others significantly happier with the arrival of the day? Or are those who pity their singular self that much more unbearable to listen to as they complain about their loveless life?
Regardless of the day’s relative value, I’m wagering that the majority of this readership feels greater joy in taking a huge deuce on the day than celebrating it. So let’s talk about how best to debase your V-Day.
There are many ways to properly pervert your Valentine’s Day. In fact, the original perversion occurred when the world stole the day away from Christian martyrology and disconnected it from its original intent of celebration. (Pardon the brief aside, but isn’t it a shame we don’t celebrate manifestations of love on April 26th, St. Paschasius Radbertus’ Day ? Doesn’t that have a ring to it?)
The chocolate eating, flower giving, baby making practices that have come to be associated with Valentine’s Day seem a tad disconnected from the third century. It’s quite popular in current discourse to remind ourselves of the bloody origins of the holiday, or of its parallel pagan heritage, but history doesn’t feel practical when you are five seconds away from finishing a half-gallon of ice cream and screaming at Patrick Swayze to STOP BEING A GHOST.
Rather, it’s more helpful for those looking to denigrate the holiday to provide concrete, applicable strategies to navigate the day in an ironic, aloof fashion. Certain sources of popular media do their fair share of turning the holiday on its head in a palatable way and can occupy your attention. If you’re a good “30 Rock” fan, you’re likely celebrating Anna Howard Shaw Day. Or, if you’re more in the Amy Poehler camp of “Parks and Recreation”, you’re gearing up for Galentine’s Day (or celebrating it in this not so ironic way). These outlets help remind the despondent date-less that there’s a world of more important and successful people out there that ALSO see some foolishness in its celebration. They just happen to have the wild achievement and confidence of adulthood to back them up.
Of course, you can also try to take a seemingly safe route by acknowledging the holiday, but setting it in your own terms. Such is the Friend Valentine: an agreement between two platonically friendly folks interested in eating a nice meal and mocking the sincerity of other couples’ futile attempts to romanticize an arbitrary day. In theory, this can work surprisingly well; food plus friend equals okay? I do that all the time! None of my friends think I assume that we are dating because I feed them food – although they might start to wonder if they read this column.
No, the Friend Valentine is all fun and games until someone gets confused, which certainly happened to one reader. They described the benign agreement to me, insisting that all felt platonic until “it stopped being as, well, friends-y.” The interest bestowed upon the reader by their Friend Valentine was unwarranted and unreciprocated, resulting in an awkward post-dinner movie-watching session with advances being fired and deflected at breakneck speed.
Herein lies the danger: while imposing a platonic theme on a romantic day, you run the risk of confusing friend with more-than-friend in unproductive ways. The reader advises, “If you think you can have a real Friend Valentine, totally do it; who says this holiday can only be appreciated by those in relationships. If you’re not as sure, I might skip it and sit at home with a box of Whitman’s, a movie, and some good fellow-single friends.”
Indeed, variations on the single-life Valentine’s Day can be focused on same-sex platonic friendships. Such is the Bro-lentine: an arrangement between any number of friends, typically within one gender or orientation, wherein all hallmarks of the holiday are done away with and replaced with chicken wings and beer. The name derives from the Bro’s choice cuisine which defies the typical Valentine’s Day ware, rather than the particular gender or disposition of the individual. Indeed, three determined females at Tufts attempted to conduct their own Bro-lentine’s Day; they were merely thwarted by the number of wings consumed, leaving their beers untouched and their digestive systems vengeful.
When pursued properly, these alternatives to Valentine’s Day can bring greater joy than the traditional celebration. Selecting your preferred distortion is part of the fun, and part of the beauties of being true to your understanding of love and affection.
Or, you can do it the right way, and have your birthday on the same day as Valentine’s Day so that you can go out with friends to celebrate, and you’ll never be alone on Valentine’s Day no matter how much you care or don’t care about the day. Such are the blessed who are born on February 14th.