The Days After Valentines’ Day

It’s two days after Valentines’ Day, and the holiday’s warmth is already beginning to fade. Restaurants count their profits from the night before as local stores replace their decorations and radio music in preparation for the next holiday. Students return to class, and online media sources wrap up their final comments on the holiday before moving on to their next big topics.

It’s a bit of a shame that the world is moving on so quickly from Valentines’ Day. It was nice to look back onto my memories of V-days past and spend the day thinking about what Valentines’ Day meant for me. I read up on old-school romances through Cornell’s Big Red Love series. I saw single men and women advocate for self-love and celebrate bachelorhood.  I reminisced with my boyfriend over how our relationship has grown over the past year. It was all very nice, but now that the day is over and the craziness of my own Valentines’ Day plans has finally subsided, I’m left wondering what happened this year on Valentines’ Day. Among all the stories of past romances, the one narrative I missed was how people this year continued to show that love to their families and lovers.

For the critics of V-day, I’m sure that the idea of listening to others describe how they gave or received gifts on Valentines’ Day is especially cringe-inducing and dreadful. However, being someone who not only enjoys talking about the good things in her life but also hearing about the fortunate events in others, I really wish there was more of a discussion about it. Sure, there may be some people who will take this opportunity to brag or gloat. Nevertheless, I feel like hearing these stories will not only continue spreading the warmth and love of Valentines’ Day beyond its 24-hour mark but also refocus our attention on how people can share love now, in the present day. In a world where there is such little faith that romance and chivalry still thrives, reminders that people are in love today as well as in the past may serve us some good.

So, in the spirit of the day after Valentines’ Day, I invite my readers to share their V-Day stories in the comments below. What did you do yesterday in order to show your loved ones that you still care? Did you go out with a lover, call a friend or family member, or spend the day loving yourself and promoting a cause?  Share with me your stories and I will share with you mine–how I spent V-Day with my boyfriend and how I spent V-Day advocating for equality. Together, maybe we can inspire each other to think of the message of Valentines’ Day in terms of the present and not just the past.

Share the love.

One Billion Rising

On February 14th, 2013, Cornell undergraduate students rose up on Ho Plaza against violence towards women in a small flash mob mirroring similar movements in over 200 countries. Mikey and I joined in their dance to celebrate the One Billion Rising event advocating for gender equality worldwide.

Both male and female students came together in the days leading up to Valentines’ Day and learned the dance in various locations around campus. For students who couldn’t make the trek to Central or North Campus, the event’s Facebook page provided a Youtube link to an instructional video which they could use to learn the dance at home. The sessions were fun and short, and the dance itself was easy enough for even the most uncoordinated dancer to learn (even Mikey).

Mikey Poses with the Organizers of Cornell’s One Billion Rising Flash Mob Event

At around noon on V-Day, students and bystanders began chalking up Ho Plaza with inspirational messages against female violence. Some students left short impacting phrases like “Cornell Rises Above Violence” while others rewrote the event’s slogan in different colors across the Plaza. One particularly talented student managed to recreate the logo of the organization which began the One Billion Rising event–V-Day–known best for its creation of the Vagina Monologues and other gender equality-based initiatives.

Mikey Stands Beside the V-Day One Billion Rising Logo, written in chalk on Ho Plaza; Photo Credit to Angela Lu

At 1pm, the participating students came together to prepare their dance to the song “Break the Chain.” Midway through the song, students brought in members of the crowd to join them and soon a small crowd of dancers began celebrating the cause together as fellow activists. It was a wonderful, fun event and it was a remarkable way to bring attention to the issue of gender violence.

Photo Credit to Cornell University’s Facebook Page

Unfortunately, amidst its success there also lie its critics.

Unlike Cornell’s recent Gangnam Style flash mob and its upcoming Harlem Shake event, the One Billion Rising movement had a much smaller turnout and was organized by a smaller group of students. By sheer number, the popularity of these other pop media movements greatly overwhelmed the One Billion Rising flash mob, attracting more volunteers and more audience members  in both cases. Some students point out that this lack of turnout points to an underlying issue in the priorities of Cornell’s community: students as a whole would much rather emulate pop culture than volunteer their time for a legitimate global cause, even when both activities require the same effort (in this case, dance). Other critics point to an alternative reasoning for the small volunteer base: the timing of the event. Smack in the middle of a heavy academic time slot, many students couldn’t make it to the event because of class conflicts. In addition, other events like the Gangnam Style flash mob utilized social media much earlier to attract interest than did the organizers of the One Billion Rising event, giving more students a chance to learn about the opportunity and to reorganize their schedules around the dance sessions.

Regardless, it is important to realize that the turnout was not nonexistent. There was a moderate group of volunteers and audience members, given the time and resources provided, and the event did capture a lot of interest on various media outlets throughout Cornell. For example, the event was featured on the front page and website of  the Cornell Daily Sun and Cornell University’s Facebook page. Several pictures of the events also circulated between students on social media outlets like Facebook.

Photo Credit to Angela Lu

It is important to acknowledge the good will that was demonstrated by those who did come to support the cause. In the context of the greater picture, where our students stand in the backdrop of over 200 countries standing behind their message, the flash mob was certainly not a small feat.

If anything, parlaying the facts about the issue before the dance helped bring us closer to the issue by illuminating the seriousness of gender violence.

One in three women on the planet will be raped of beaten in her lifetime.

One billion women violated is an atrocity.

One billion women dancing is a revolution.

The message of the movement rang clear through Ho Plaza this Valentines’ Day, and no amount of criticism can dilute the impact of that message.

Congratulations to the volunteers of Cornell University’s One Billion Rising Flash Mob event for illuminating that message.

Our First Valentines

February 14th, 2012 was the first time I ever truly had a valentine.

Yes, my mother was my valentines for most Valentines’ Days throughout elementary school (and, at times, high school), but this time I had an actual boyfriend to play the role. I was very excited to pull out all the stops this year to make sure my first Valentines’ Day was a memorable one.

I met Spencer–my boyfriend–last year in our Introduction to Astronomy class. Since then, we’ve done many of the couple milestones you would expect from such a young relationship and we also learned that we both sure a discomfort for receiving overtly expensive gifts from loved ones. We much rather prefer doing things together or making sweet gestures than going through the stress of holiday shopping. With this quality in mind, we both secretly devised V-day surprises for the other which we hoped would garner happiness instead of awkwardness.

A few weeks before Valentines’ Day, Spencer and I went shopping together at the Ithaca Mall and I stumbled upon the baking section of Target. Pausing over the various pie tins and pre-made pie crusts, I admitted to Spencer that I had an obsession for pumpkin pie and was seriously considering purchasing the ingredients to make some. Pumpkin pie is a special treat for me because I can usually only have it a few times a year, such as during Thanksgiving when my grandfather makes his special version with homemade whipped cream. In the end, I decided not to get the ingredients because I was low on cash and low on time. I walked away from the baking aisle slightly disheartened.

Some time later, Valentines’ Day ads crept into every magazine and newspaper and I realized that I needed to come up with a gift for Spencer quick. On the eve of V-Day, I went to 7-Eleven and purchased 16 boxes of Jello brand gelatin and a bag of marshmallows. Confused? So was everyone else in the store.

At one point, a store employee walked over to where I sat in the middle of an aisle stacking up Jello boxes in various structural formations. “Can I help you she asked?” It was obvious from her tone of voice that she was not amused. Nevertheless, I was too focused on my masterpiece to realize the woman was looking at me as if I was a psychopath. Instead, I answered…

No, thank you. I just need to make a dog.

See, my boyfriend loves dogs. He had pet dogs as a kid and to this day he still gets excited whenever he sees a dog walk by or a picture of a dog on the internet. My plan was to use the Jello boxes to make a small cardboard dog for him and to use the marshmallows as a trail for him to follow and find the dog. It worked marvelously.

On Valentines’ Day, I sneakily entered Spencer’s apartment building while he was away and aligned the marshmallows in a line up the stairs from the entrance to his front door. I used a marker to decorate each marshmallow with a sweet smiling face and little hearts on their heads. This idea had the double benefit of making the marshmallows look like adorable little creatures welcoming him home as he walked up the stairs and as a line of hearts as he walked back down the stairs.

At the end of the line, the marshmallows circled around his new cardboard dog. With  a goofy smile and glowing red heart, the dog held my V-day card for Spencer and protected the marshmallow people from lurking intruders. I ran from the building as fast as I could and waited at Sheldon Court across the street for Spencer to find his gift. Shortly after 5:30pm, Spencer came home from his classes and sent me a text.

The dog. It’s so cute. I love it.

At the end of the night, we met to have dinner and I got to see the puppy in his new home–atop the windowsill of my boyfriend’s living room, surrounding by a shrine of marshmallow people and a fantastic view of Collegetown. It was a great surprise and it set a happy tone for the rest of the night. I’m glad I spent all night making the dog (and I do mean all night -__-) because seeing Spencer so happy to receive it made the exact memory I was hoping to have for my first Valentines’ Day.


Oh, what did Spencer get me, you ask?

He spent weeks learning how to bake me the perfect pumpkin pie. <3