Valentine’s Day Post-Mortem, Part One: In Defense of Valentine’s Day

Or, “Why You Are Actually In Love and Just Didn’t Realize It”


Yes, that’s President Roth ’78 gazing up at Clark Hall longingly in 1977.

Valentine’s Day seems to have gone out of fad. It’s a day to bemoan, moan, eat chocolate, buy into or cynically quip about commercialization of holidays, and generally feel bad about another year having gone by without finding that special someone.

But it’s time to give Valentine’s Day the justice it deserves.

Wesleyan is awash in couple celebration today. Wesleyan University Facebook posts like this, for “Love Bugs” alumni to tell their couple story, and Argus articles like this and this, about what to do if you are single or in a couple on Valentine’s Day, or Argus polls about nominating the sexiest single are symptoms of obsessive culture around a single/couple dichotomy. At a campus where we like to toss around words like “messing up the heteronormative patriarchy,” maybe we could turn an eye to the relationship one.

Because even if you’re not in love with someone, or even if your love is missing reciprocation, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate all of the love—all of it. It can be a day to honor, celebrate, and proudly blast the stereo over your head for the love that does not fit perfectly into the typical monogamous couple picture we all seem to be myopically stuck on. If your life does not match coupledom, you have not failed—you can still be happy, and it does not mean that you are out of love. If your life does, there are still some unconventional love valentines to be given out this year.

Why am I writing a Wesleying post about this? Because I have had this conversation about five times today and feel compelled to broadcast myself a little louder. Please excuse the self-indulgence.

This is not to dismiss a yearning for love of the romantic type, or the bliss being in love can be. I would by lying to write that I would not like to find that love. We want to be loved and we want to love. But I am writing for a recognition of the multiple ways in which we do love, and the forms that it takes outside of the picture of a monogamous two-person romantic and sexual relationship. It’s about time we expand the picture of the couple embracing under a rosy halo of euphoria. Not because it’s illegitimate, not because it’s not great or can be replaced with less risky contracts like friends and family, but because it shields us from recognizing and celebrating and being content with all that other love. Realizing all the ways we are in love, as opposed to wanting the love to be contained to a familiar formula and recognizable configuration, opens a whole bunch of possibilities.

And why does this matter? Because equating being in love with someone as being happy, or making coupledom the goal we yet again didn’t reach this Valentine’s Day, distracts, hides, and stretches the happiness a little further out of reach. We can expand the picture to recognize the other relationships that touch us. Moments of happiness we share with another person(s) and the ways in which a relationship can touch you in ways that feel euphorically good are not locked up waiting for you to finally hit the home strike and land in a relationship. Those satisfying moments of love and the touch of healthy relationships are also deceptively hidden in other configurations. We are loving and being loved in far more ways than one; unlock it and seek in the right places.

To mop on the cheese, Rumi, Sufi mystic and writer of wise words, tells us, “Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Happy Valentine’s Day.



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