Dreaded by some, eagerly awaited by others, inescapable for all, Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. This particular day at Amherst (and beyond) can stress us out for a multitude of different reasons. For those without significant others, it can be a lonely 24 hours overflowing with jealousy and handfuls of food that we will regret consuming later.
For others who are in that weird in-between with another person it can hold immense pressure to do just enough but not too much. And then for those in serious relationships it can be held to such an impossible standard that anything short of perfection is a disappointment.
I write this article to challenge all of us to alter the way we view Valentine’s Day. Who says it all has to be about romance? Who says it’s only a consumer holiday that is ruled by candy and greeting card companies? Sure it’s a fun excuse to be extra romantic if you have the chance, but can’t it also be a day dedicated to love for … everything and everyone? Can’t we use February 14th as a reminder that we are surrounded by compassion, by friends and family who support us and are there for us, as a day to show some appreciation for these people and to feel the appreciation back? I believe it should be a show of love in all of its forms, be it amongst a sports team, within a room group, between a club or a band or family. Valentine’s Day can be so polarizing, and coming up with some methods to diminish any negativity and make the day about communal love and gratitude could make a huge difference. I’m here with a few easy ways to do it.
Something we’ve been doing on my team for Valentine’s Day for years is buying a piece of construction paper for every team member and writing each person’s name on the top of their own page. Then we all get together with candy and music and pass around the sheets so that every single person on the team has written something on everyone else’s page. At the end of the night we each leave the meeting with a piece of paper overflowing with positive remarks about ourselves, with a little bit of love from every person on our team written out for us in one place. We keep the notes anonymous and they can range from three words to a full-blown epic, but they’re always positive and supportive. It is so amazing to read a note from someone telling you about the ways you’ve inspired them, or another about the fun times you’ve shared or even one that lifts your mood with a compliment about something as simple as your hair. I’ve found that little notes like these can be a great way to share your love for your teammates, for those who are with you through thick and thin and who seem to be the only ones who truly know what you’re going through sometimes. I think this activity can be effective in spreading warmth and appreciation with any group of people.
Another fun thing to do is exchanging secret Valentines. These can be special (but cheap) things you buy for someone else (chocolate, something related to an inside joke, etc.) and then blindly exchange and try and guess who bought whose gift. Another take on it that I’ve done with my roommates came about when we were all lazily sitting in our common room. We suddenly decided to pair up and take two minutes to run into our rooms and find or create something to give to the person we’d been paired with. Sure this can end up involving gifts made of tissues and rubber bands, but at the same time it’s an incredibly fun and spontaneous way to share the love.
Another alternative would be to gather a group of friends (or people you’d like to get to know better!) and have a pseudo-potluck dinner and a movie. Each person can bring something different (it can even be french fries swiped from Val or some Schwemm’s M&M cookies), and you can all watch a movie together while eating and enjoying each other’s company. (I’d steer you away from something along the lines of “Titanic” or “The Notebook.”) This would be a relaxing opportunity to be with your friends and can be so much fun for couples and single people alike.
Instead of letting our happiness on this one arbitrary day of the year be ruled by our romantic relationships, I say we construct ourselves an entirely new perspective on what Valentine’s Day can truly be. Integrating some of these activities can bring people together through the lens of love as a general concept rather than as something that can only be shared between two intimate people. They might even stick and become fun traditions that make us look forward to this day every year, regardless of the romance or lack thereof in our lives.