Reclaiming Valentine’s Day

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For someone who proudly claims to love love, I am incredibly cynical about Valentine’s Day.

Once upon a time, it was a holiday of innocent, childish glee. Every year, I trekked the aisles of Target, searching for the perfect Valentine’s Day cards. Spongebob or Disney princesses? Puppies or zoo animals? Chocolates or lollipops?

Then, I labored over my “mailbox,” decorating an old shoe box in pink and red and nauseatingly delightful hearts. On Valentine’s Day, school had a special kind of thrill: we were having a party. We wandered around the classroom, dropping Valentines into the festive mailboxes and snacking on our chocolate. I would practically skip home from the bus stop, ready to guzzle down more chocolate and watch Valentine specials on TV. Back then, Valentine’s Day was as special as Halloween is to me now–and those who know me well are fully aware that Halloween is pretty damn special.

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These happy Valentine’s Day traditions died in middle school and high school. My excitement also fizzled out, because I had no boyfriend or romantic life to speak of. As I endured the day at school, my heart hurt in the way that only a teenage girl’s heart can: I was aching to be seen. Preferably by a cute boy waiting at my locker to hand me flowers and a teddy bear. I mean, really. Was that too much to ask? Everyone else had a cute boy and flowers and teddy bears.

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Of course, not everyone in high school had a boyfriend. But this is how I felt as angsty teenager who had yet to experience her first date, or first kiss, or first anything.

A few years down the road, I was dating someone during Valentine’s Day…and to my surprise, I still hated it. I hated how we felt like we had to do something special, just because it was February 14th. I hated the Kay’s Jewelry commercials (more than usual, anyway). I hated how a day about celebrating love seemed to be limited to romantic love. Most of all, I hated how the holiday made so many single people feel miserable.

(To be clear, I know that many people don’t care about Valentine’s Day at all. I also know that any holiday–even Halloween–has the potential to make people miserable. But the spirit of teenage angst doesn’t die so easily when you’re a hyper-sensitive/empath/people-pleaser.)

Fortunately, it’s 2018, and the way we celebrate is changing. Here are some of my favorite ways to reclaim Valentine’s Day:

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Practice self-love. 

We tend to think that once we learn how to love ourselves, we’re set for life; in reality, it’s an ongoing journey. So why not use Valentine’s Day to acknowledge how wonderful you are? Write yourself a love letter. Take a bubble bath. Do yoga and marvel at all the amazing things your body can do. Take hundreds of selfies. Buy yourself a gift. Do that thing you have always wanted to do. However you celebrate, remember the wise words of RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Celebrate friendship with Galentine’s Day! 

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Out of all the wonderful things the show Parks and Recreation has given us, I think Galentine’s Day is my absolute favorite. In typical Leslie Knope fashion, she invented her own holiday: Galentine’s Day, which is all about celebrating and having fun with your lady friends. The options are limitless–as long as you are having a girls’ day/night out, you’re doing it right. Even Hallmark celebrates Galentine’s Day!

Create your own traditions. 

If you still want to celebrate, do it on your own terms. On our first Valentine’s Day, Drew and I built the dopest blanket fort in the history of blanket forts. Last year, we opted to skip the Valentine’s Day date and watched Last Week Tonight with our BFF/roommate Kate instead. Drew and I still aren’t sure how we want to celebrate this year, but we know we like keeping it low-key. Don’t let the pretty pink hearts and jewelry commercials tell you what do.

Join the revolution.

Justice is what love looks like in public, so stand with your sisters and fight against violence towards women (whether they are cis, trans, or gender non-conforming). Organize or participate in a local V-Day. Adopt love as an ethic and join the Revolutionary Love Project, where your voice can be a force for social good. Love is more than romance, after all.

We believe it’s time to reclaim love as a public ethic. Love has been captured by greeting cards and pop songs as personal and romantic — too fickle and sentimental to be a revolutionary force. But the greatest social reformers in history grounded entire movements in the ethic of love.

Revolutionary Love Project

I also asked my fellow cynics on Facebook and Twitter how they chose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and I think they had some pretty solid suggestions:

“Candy. That is all.” -Samantha

“I just ignore it. Till the day after when chocolate is on sale.” -Kathi

“Self care and buying myself flowers and chocolate covered strawberries.” -Alyssa

“When I was single, I would ignore it. This is my first ever Valentines Day in a relationship, and it’s not a huge deal to me but I’m still excited to celebrate. We will keep it low key…exchanging small gifts and for dinner, order pizza & eat it in the candlelight. Friday night, we will go out to dinner (it’s what works best with our schedule) and go see Black Panther.” –Mary Ann

“By Valentine’s Day, do you mean pitchers and catchers report day?!?” -Lindsey

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However you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! ❤ May we spread love wherever we go, no matter the time of year.

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