Valentine’s Day 2015 dawned silent and stunning, icicles glittering outside of my dorm room window and a fresh sheet of snow winking at me in the sunlight. I woke up, automatically checked my phone for a text, and remembered, with a familiar, tangled lump of pain and sorrow and anger, that we’d broken up.
Not a very promising start to Singles Awareness Day.
But the day began whether I wanted it to or not, so I got dressed and went to church and worked very hard on the smile I would show my friends when they asked how I was doing at our study group that evening. It must not have been very convincing, because before I knew it we were all deciding to get ridiculously overdressed and go out somewhere, just because we could. I paired the dress I’d worn to my high school graduation with the only set of snow boots I’d ever owned, ordered specially for my first Michigan winter. We (unwisely) drove through a howling blizzard to a coffee shop with weirdly 70s ambiance and a mediocre chai latte, hung out and talked for an hour, and then went to a grocery store, took selfies with dates (the fruit, because we thought we were so clever), almost got stuck in the snow, and drove home to make the best banana-chocolate-chip pancakes I’ve ever had. The only new texts on my phone were the pictures of us that my friend had taken.
It is easily my favorite Valentine’s Day memory.
Look, I get it—Valentine’s Day is a lot of pressure if you’re in a relationship. If it’s a new relationship, you’re wondering if you’re doing too much, too fast. If it’s an old relationship, you’re trying to distinguish this Valentine’s Day from past ones, trying to find the perfect gift or date or thing that will make the day special. The time, effort and money that goes into this one random day in February is impressive.
In general, though, I find that our culture emphasizes the importance of putting work into romantic relationships—and with good reason. Why else do we make such a big deal out of anniversaries? Why else do we stress the need for good communication? Relationships are hard work. I mean, you’re basically smashing the messiness of your life together with someone else’s, and trying to turn them into puzzle pieces that click neatly into place. That’s not easy. And Valentine’s Day, like anything that fosters a healthy relationship, has an admirable sentiment.
But I do think we forget, sometimes, that romantic relationships aren’t the only ones that need work. I’ve seen quotes about how a truly great friendship is one where you don’t talk for months, but the next time you see each other it’s like no time has passed. What a lovely thought! And one I’ve always been more than a little angry about. See, friendships don’t work that way. People don’t work that way. You may be able to catch up without feeling any weirdness or awkwardness, but if you don’t miss your friends enough to talk to them regularly, then how close are you really? How “true” is that friendship? I don’t want to diminish the joy of any kind of relationship, and you may still get along really well. But a friendship that takes no work is not the best kind, because it’s not really a close friendship at all. It’s just two people who get along well and have some history.
I live in minor fear of watching that happen to my college friends, people who have loved and supported me through badly-written papers and under-studied tests, through family drama and, yes, painful break-ups. College allowed me to forge friendships based on similar interests and shared values in ways that my high school, containing all of 250 students, couldn’t. The friendships I’ve made here have been some of the most important I’ve ever had. I don’t want to lose these people who have challenged and inspired me for four years.
But as a girl who’s moved more times than I’d care to admit, I know how easy it can be to get busy and stop putting in the work required for a truly close friendship. A week without texting turns into two; two turns into three; three turns into a month, and before you know it you haven’t spoken to your “best friend” in six months.
True friendships take work. They take phone calls and birthday cards and more than just the occasional text. Sometimes, they take driving to a grocery store on Valentine’s Day just to take pictures with dates.
So yes, Valentine’s Day should be celebrated and enjoyed, and romantic relationships deserve time and energy spent on them. But after all the Valentine’s Day festivities have wound down, maybe take some time to call someone you haven’t seen in a while, or make plans for a lunch date with that friend you don’t have classes with anymore.
Most of all, whether you spend your Valentine’s Day on a hot date with your significant other or making banana-chocolate-chip pancakes during a blizzard, make sure that you put time and effort into your relationships—romantic and platonic.