Sep. 22, 2014

Why we should embrace Valentine’s Day

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February 11, 2013

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“I HATE VALENTINE’S DAY!” “#foreveralone,” “Happy Single’s Awareness Day!” Why is it that seeing oversized teddy bears or red roses seems to be enough to bring out the “Scrooge” in so many of us every Feb. 14?

Okay, maybe that is a silly question. Being single myself, I completely understand why there is some animosity associated with Valentine’s Day. It’s hard not to feel lonely when you see hand-holding couples any regular day of the year, let alone on the day that has been branded as one to celebrate our love of significant others. In the dance party of life, this day can feel like the disc jockey has boomed over the microphone: “And this one is for couples only.” Cue the slow-dance music, and we single-folk retreat to the outskirts of the room to awkwardly sip our punch, avoiding eye contact with our fellow wallflowers.

But no one should be scurrying off the dance floor. The commemoration of this day should not involve masochistically watching romantic comedies, envying the perfect matches portrayed onscreen, consuming baked goods in exorbitant amounts, and posting angst-ridden Facebook statuses.

Students at the College of William and Mary are experts in seeing things differently, so we are definitely up to the challenge of advocating a broader meaning for Valentine’s Day. Instead of viewing this day as a holiday exclusive to couples, we should consider that the message of Valentine’s Day is actually very accessible to each of us. Quite simply, Valentine’s Day celebrates love more generally — something we all have.

‘Single’ does not mean ‘alone.’ Even if you do not have a significant other, I am willing to bet that you have quite a few significant others — invaluable people in your life who offer you support, encouragement and care. Your tight-knit groups of friends, treasured siblings, caring family members, sweet roommates, supportive teammates or passionate leaders and members of your favorite clubs or student organizations: These people have boosted your spirits with their kindness. They have given parts of themselves to you because they love you. Their love may not be of “The Notebook” variety, but it is something rare and beautiful nonetheless — it is unconditional.

We all have people in our lives that have supported us, no matter what we have put them through: picking up the 2 a.m. phone calls, helping us bake 5,000 cookies for our organization’s bake sale, or giving impromptu counseling sessions for mini-existential crises. They have been sources of strength during difficult times and have had more faith in us than we do in ourselves.

We should not see this Valentine’s Day as a reminder of the one specific type of love that we may not have found yet, but rather as an opportunity to celebrate the multitudes of love that we already have in our lives. This is our chance to show our gratitude to those who love us and to share love with people who might especially need some.

It is amazing how much a hand-written note, a favorite candy bar, a homemade CD or even a phone call can do to remind someone how much you truly love him or her. Sometimes, it’s the seemingly smallest gestures that really say the most.

And if you feel like going a step further, perhaps you could spread some love to those who may need the reminder that people care about them. Residents in nursing homes, veterans’ hospitals, or women’s shelters may feel especially alone on Valentine’s Day. Their days could be brightened immensely by a batch of simple cards handmade by you or your hallmates, club or student organization reminding them that someone is thinking of them.

Valentine’s Day should not be the awkward slow-dance of holidays. It should be a giant conga-line in which people reach out to others and let them know that they are not alone in this world and that they are loved. So put down your punch, and start dancing!

Email Andrea Aron-Schiavone at acaronschiavon@email.wm.edu.

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Andrea Aron-Schiavone

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