My Love Letter to Valentine’s Day
Hello. My name is Gretchen. I am single. And I love Valentine’s Day.
There seems to be a movement as of late to vilify this holiday. Single and coupled people alike proclaim their disdain. There’s surrounding pressure to make everything perfect, to have a specific Valentine who will buy you things and sweep your off your feet. And that pressure seems to overwhelm everyone. It’s not simply a dislike, something to brush off or ignore. People actually loathe Valentine’s Day. And that makes me sad, because I really, truly, unironically enjoy it. In concept, I guess, if not as the whole Hallmark-card-package.
Perhaps it’s because I have low expectations. And maybe that is sad, though I don’t particularly think so. Last year I think I skipped class and went to Happy Hour at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. The year before that I was in Paris, so whatever I did, it was probably beautiful. And the year before that, well, I haven’t a clue. And that’s exactly the way it should be. Because Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be an enormous stress; it doesn’t have to be this giant beast of expectations and let downs. It can be simple and pleasant. Sweet, without being overwrought. A day to recognize that there are people in the world whom you love.
For me, love is a fleeting idea and one that I indulge in more frequently than others would assume. I am what some may call perpetually single and I may, in the traditional sense, display something of an aversion to commitment or relationships or grandiose romantic gestures (blech), but I will never concede that I don’t love. In fact, I probably fall in love at least once a day. Maybe more, if I’m going for a walk through particularly busy streets or attending some sort of event outside of my apartment.
Love is this specific, but indefinite, feeling. Like being thirsty. Or that moment when you realize you have just forgotten your dream. It’s something, something you know is there even if its form is undescribable. It’s something you must learn to identify over time. Oh, you say, so that’s what this is. Love is laden with a deep understanding of the existence of affection, but not an understanding of that affection’s meaning. It’s being happy someone simply exists. Of wanting that person to be near, in whatever context.
This is love:
That split second when I catch your eye as you snake around me on your bike on the sidewalk. Those conversations where our pieces of ideas and words fit together so well that they bounce from your mouth to mine in a thrilled excitement, so much so I can’t be still. Sitting next to one another, working separately but knee to knee, wordlessly passing an apple back and forth, alternating bites till it disappears. The genuine excitement of seeing you round the corner when I wasn’t expecting it, regardless of when the last time we saw one another. When you teach me about something I don’t know anything about. When you get, really get, what I’m trying to teach you. When you squeeze my hand in the middle of a crowded party, a secret thrill passed between us amongst the masses. That time you ran through the front door late at night, just to hand me CDs you had found of my favorite author reading poetry, before running off again. When we sat in that dark, smoke-filled bar in Belgium and you asked me about my home, relishing in the details because I think you loved it more than I do. The nights we chose each other in lieu of everyone else, slipping out of closed doors without goodbyes. Driving through New Hampshire streets with the windows down in the summertime, stopping to lay like geckos on the sun-warmed rocks in the mountain run-off creeks. The adventures, aimless and wandering, cameras slung around our necks. Clutching each others arms at music festivals, sticky with the hidden wine dripping from my backpack. That pride, the kind you feel deep in your gut, when I saw you had grown up and gotten your shit together. When you got me home safe. When you look at me and ask, No, really, how are you? That night I called you when my mind was going too fast and I didn’t know how to make it stop and you listened, though I made no sense. Knowing when to step back, to leave you with the others, delighting in your happiness, regardless of my presence.
This could tell a magnificent love story. It could, but it doesn’t. Because the you is not a single person. This you is multiple. This you spans people and times and countries and places. It spans memories and nostalgia and frustrations and joys. It spans friendships and strangers and accidents and mornings and nights.
Sometimes I think it’s over-ambitious to think that we could find all of this in one person. Sometimes that makes me sad. Sometimes I worry that I won’t ever learn how to stifle these feelings of loving so many and so often and simply pick someone. That my brain is wired differently and, for some reason, I just can’t choose. But there’s another part of me that just doesn’t want to. Why would I want to throw all of these individual moments, this circumstantial kind of love, and focus on a singular being? Perhaps I’m simply naive. Perhaps you will read this and shake your head and think, she’ll learn one day. A few years ago I explained to my mother that I didn’t like the idea of following one religion, I liked to pick and choose the best part of of each, ignoring the parts I didn’t agree with. She told me that was cheating. And maybe I’m still doing that. Cheating myself out of full-blown, verifiable love. Maybe I have only been in love with moments, not people. Maybe you will recognize one of these you‘s as yourself and think, God, was she stupid, that meant nothing. But it doesn’t really matter.
Today I read the most romantic article I’ve ever read and it was about how everlasting love doesn’t exist. It explained that, scientifically, that’s not how love works. Chemical love doesn’t endure. Chemical love is made up of moments, of two people coming together. “The mutual understanding and shared emotions, especially in that third category of listener, generated a micro-moment of love, which “is a single act, performed by two brains,” as Fredrickson writes in her book.” And this makes me feel good, validates my understanding of the very concept. Love doesn’t have to be this grand, elusive thing that we’re all striving for. It can be something that happens every day. Yes, we can continue to love someone over time, but that love is made up of little loves, repeating. So why not, when I am young and stupid and unshackled by responsibility, spread such love as much as I can. If it doesn’t diminish the feeling, the concept, the emotion, if it makes me feel as though I’m bursting, then why not?
But today is not really about that. Today is Valentine’s Day. And, whether it is out of spite or bitterness or affection or accident, people come together on Valentine’s Day. You seek out your people. The ones with whom you have cultivated these mutual micro-moments of love. Maybe it’s for fear of being alone, or maybe it’s strictly platonic, but that’s ok. You find someone to be with, even if it is only to talk about how much you hate this holiday. And that is why I love Valentine’s Day. And that is why I probably love you.