I’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day all week, and it’s not hard to imagine why. On Monday, it felt like the entire world had turned pink and heart-festooned overnight. At the House of Babes (hereby referred to as HOB), dinnertime discussions consisted of heated debates about the merits and the vices of Valentine’s Day. Some girls said they saw the holiday as a celebration of universal love, not just of the romantic persuasion but also of platonic and familial affection. Others decried the Hallmarkisation of February 14th, and viewed the holiday as an excuse for sappy couples to rub their lovey-doveyness via rather disgusting PDA into our pathetic, single faces.
Before today, I felt that I fell into the latter camp. Valentine’s Day is a saccharine, hyped-up excuse of a holiday that, while standing for something I believe in, has completely besmirched the name of love.
Let me explain further before you leave this site in a huff, I prithee! I really do believe in love.
I don’t mean to brag when I say that I am a very loving person. I am ridiculously close to my family and would do just about anything for them. I love going home for break and cleaning the house up and cooking delicious meals for my mom, my dad and my sister, to make their lives a bit easier and to remind them that just because I don’t live at home anymore doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I talk to my younger sister almost every day, and I try to never forget to tell her that I love her. At the HOB, I try to be there with a hug and a cookie (depending on how much time I’ve had to bake!) when one of my friends is bummed out by homework or life in general. If anyone needs to talk something through, get something off their chest, cry on someone’s shoulder–I am their go-to girl, and I pride myself on that fact.
However: I am single. I have been single for quite a while now. And in the past, come Valentine’s Day, I felt my singleness rather keenly.
I have a confession to make, which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me: I am a romantic. My favorite books and movies usually have to do with finding love against all odds, and discovering that love, true love, is more than anyone could ever imagine.
Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, North and South: I return to these tried-and-true tales at least once a year because they portray the love I have always wanted in my life. Not codependent clingyness, not a tumble in the hay, but a perfect communion of two emotional, intellectual and spiritual equals.
Or something like that.
The point of this long ramble is that I have nothing against love, romantic or otherwise. I freaking love the idea of love, OK?
What I don’t love, however, is the attitude some people have towards romantic love. Yes, having a partner in life sounds wonderful, yes, the heady rush and the butterflies sound fun…but not having a lady- or gentleman-love in your life does not mean that your life lacks meaning or is incomplete. It does not mean that you are inadequate or unlovable.
To some of you, (I hope to the majority of you!) this idea probably does not come as a surprise. But although I intellectually understood it, I never could fully accept it.
What changed, you might ask? I don’t know if I can point to one aspect of my life that changed my mind about the all-consuming importance of romantic love. Maybe it’s the fact that I now have so many different purposes and projects in my life that I care about, I don’t feel the need to “find a man” to create purpose in my life. Maybe it’s because since coming to college, I’ve made so many wonderful friends who feel like family, that I feel loved despite my singleness. Maybe it’s because after many deep talks with my mom, I realize that the right person will come along when I least expect it.
Maybe because I know now that without loving myself, I cannot truly love another person, especially in a romantic way.
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t particularly fond of myself in high school. I’m not going to say that my high school experience was miserable; I had quite a good time exploring Paris with friends who I talk to even now. But I didn’t really understand myself and I felt like I had no time to learn about who I was or what I wanted. I look back on my high school self and congratulate myself on how far I’ve come.
Now I probably sound like I’m some sort of enlightened, mindful guru sitting underneath a banyan tree with uncombed hair. (Well, it is true that I didn’t do a fantastic job brushing my hair today, ahaha ). Nothing could be further from the truth. I still have days when I feel like a snagglepuss for no good reason, when I question everything that I do and say, where I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Am I helping anyone by being here at Cornell? Will anyone else ever benefit from my education besides me? Do I even make the most of my educational experience?
But instead of constantly struggling with these questions, I accept them as part of who I am. (Acceptance is kind of my theme of the semester, so bear with me if you start seeing the word in every other blogpost!) I ask myself these questions because I value inquiry. I value knowledge of all types, but especially self-knowledge. I value emotion tempered by reason. I value honesty and integrity, even though those two values are the most difficult when you direct them at yourself.
And I value love in all its wonderful, mysterious forms. Familial love, self-love, the love of a close friend–and yes, even romantic love.
So before I close, I guess I would say this: if you hate Valentine’s Day, that’s fine. If you love it, that’s totally cool too. But if you feel so inclined, treat your friends, family or significant other today, and remind them that you care. Most importantly, treat yourself today. Watch a Youtube video you like, read something just for fun, drink your favorite beverage…don’t forget that you are important too.
Me? I’m going to do homework in my jammies. But before I go to sleep tonight, I’ll be sure to knit a bit and watch more 30 Rock.
As Liz Lemon would say: Happy Anna Howard Shaw day! And to the rest of you, a happy Valentine’s day.
EDIT: Good morning everyone! As one of my lovely fellow bloggers, Lily, was kind enough to mention me in her post, I thought I would do the same. And Jaudia writes about her own Big Red Love story on her blog. Check them out! And happy Friday