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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Column: V-Day musings

Wind blew girls’ hair in multiple directions Monday, turning bike riding into an arduous task. Some people walked hand in hand; others sat alone, sipping coffee at the CoHo while cramming for a midterm. Ducks napped in the grass outside of Olson, most sitting solo, a few coupled up, using each other’s backs as pillows.

It was just like any other day on campus.

I didn’t see maniacal couples sauntering by with their arms wrapped around each other, laughing in the faces of us “poor singles.” The scent of romance didn’t tinge the air, as far as my nose could tell. I wasn’t torn up or downtrodden about anything except for the shitty weather.

But contemporary representation of Valentine’s Day wants you to believe otherwise – that if you’re single, you’re broken. If you’re in a relationship, you’re complete. This implication is BS for both single people and couples who are in an imperfect relationship (which, these days, is much more the norm than consummate harmony).

Valentine’s Day was originally much less showy, flamboyant, and in-your-face than it is today. It had humble roots: to honor a saint who risked his life for love.

Legend has it that centuries ago, St. Valentine conducted marital ceremonies for soldiers who had been banned from matrimony under the verdict that emotional ties to a family might compromise their loyalty to the army. Valentine was imprisoned and sentenced to death for his audacious act. Upon his demise, the love martyr wrote a letter to his beloved, signed “St. Valentine.” We celebrate on Feb. 14 to honor his sacrifice.

Nowadays, the media makes it sound like V-Day will be the worst day ever for single people, and the best day ever for couples. But when I talked to friends, both single and taken, Valentine’s Day this year seemed pretty negligible, taking the backburner to midterms and busy lives.

The majority of couples I talked to didn’t have elaborate plans. Rather, they hung out casually, doing things they would ordinarily do.

The last time I remember being in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, I didn’t have grandiose plans either (granted, it wasn’t a serious relationship). Junior year of high school, my boyfriend at the time gave me a set of Cupid Pez dispensers, catering to a fetish of mine (like most high school girls, I was an avid collector of Pez). I don’t remember much of what Andy and I did that night, but I’m pretty sure it involved studying for an algebra test with PJs and a bag of Frito Lays. Hot damn.

Both my friends Kyra and Laura said they spent their Valentine’s Days in a similar casual fashion; Kyra at Starbucks and Cost Plus World Market, and Laura at the local sushi restaurant.

“If you care enough about the person you’re sharing this holiday with, it shouldn’t matter what you do together,” Kyra said.

Aside from the one Valentine’s Day I spent attached, a lot of my V-Day memories seem laughable.

In 6th grade my “boyfriend” of the time asked another girl out on Valentine’s Day. After flinging chocolates in his face and calling him something along the lines of a douche, I discovered the whole debacle boiled down to a simple misunderstanding: he hadn’t realized we were a couple.

Two years ago after both our relationships had recently ended, my sister and I spent Valentine’s Day in our parents’ Oakland Hills abode. Our cat Waldo was in high demand that weekend, a noble recipient to our cuddle needs (though I’ll ashamedly admit I was often snubbed, losing out to my sister’s superior mattress and many years of practice at seduction).

Before these experiences, my only memories of Valentine’s Day had involved decorated boxes and platonic love notes exchanged between pint-sized classmates. Back then, the media’s messages that single girls are “lost and broken” failed to ruffle my third grade peers. I guess it’s hard to think about committing to a boy if you still think he has cooties.

What I took from these memories is that most of us have a lot of other love and support in our lives besides the kind that comes from an intimate companion. Moreover, the moments I can call truly meaningful in my life occurred on mediocre days that Hallmark wouldn’t make money selling cards off of. For those of you, single or attached, who found that the day did not live up to your expectations, or that it’s just stupid, you can turn the holiday into an occasion for laughing, if nothing more – finding humor in the way the media markets, sensationalizes and personifies “true love” in much the same way they have fabricated Santa Claus.

ELENI STEPHANIDES spent Valentine’s Day sipping wine, watching episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” and professing her platonic love to her dear housemate Magdelena. How did you spend yours? Shoot her an e-mail at estephanides@ucdavis.edu.

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