Usually on Valentine’s Day I talk about flowers – why roses are the weirdest choice for an emblem of love in February, and how our obsession with cheap goods led to the loss of thousands of domestic flower farms, and the exploitation of land and labor in places like Ecuador, Colombia, and Vietnam. Fun, happy things!
This year, I feel like processing the holiday itself a little.
Valentine’s Day… As Dr. Becky would say, it’s tricky. As a currently single 42-year-old, I feel fortunate to be old enough / wise enough to be mostly beyond a time in my life when being single hurt. In my teenage years, besides the heartache of pining for a crush who didn’t notice me – pining for whatever it was I thought I wanted – there was this manufactured feeling of lack. Something (unnecessary) about being on the outside of some norm, outside of what it seemed like everyone popular was doing or was supposed to be doing.
For those of you out there for whom singledom is un-fun and un-desirable at any age, I do get that. I’ve had my share of relatively long-term relationships, and they were special, sacred. Also really challenging, dynamic, and they provided so much comfort/joy/fun in between the harder parts. In 2019, I went through major heartbreak/grief as my 7-year relationship ended. With that, all of the traditions and norms and memories that we grew and nurtured were suddenly felt as an immeasurable, rippling loss. So, I also know what it is to love a person, be challenged in that love, and be grateful for the closeness and care.
In 2020, not only very newly single but also newly a full-time florist / no longer a farmer, I offered a Galentines’ Day workshop (over Zoom of course), and started leaning into 2/14 as a day to honor love in all forms (friendship, siblingship, etc.). The heteronormative tropes of Valentine’s Day can be alienating and harmful. And the versions of it that capitalism sells –limiting, boring, superficial. As a floral designer, someone who can choose to opt WAY in, in some way or not, I personally try to be careful to stay true to my values – local sourcing, low waste, inclusivity.
All the same, I actually have no qualms with going traditional on Valentine’s Day if that’s what I’m feeling. Dolling up for a date night and getting that sub-par prix fixe. Buy 2 dozen roses if you must (don’t buy local!). Staying in, ignore the bullshit, drink champagne. Watch a French film.
Let’s also pause this rant to just acknowledge this is a totally made-up fake holiday. Which all holidays are to some extent. But Valentine’s Day also carries some sweet memories...
One of my first jobs was working in a candy / chocolate store. My mom worked there too and for a short time we even overlapped, scooping ice cream and tying up fancy boxes of truffles in cellophane and perfecting bows... Growing up, my mom would always have homemade paper valentines made for us, and chocolate hearts from the chocolate shop in the morning. That’s the fun and cute part of this holiday!
This year, I’m really feeling taking a day to craft some paper Valentines to send to all of my friends, the way we did in elementary school. I remember the excitement of popping a CVS tear-apart paper Valentine (with a My Little Pony or Strawberry Shortcake theme) into the cubbies of each of my Kindergarten classmates in the morning on arrival. At the end of the school day, the pleasure of getting a construction paper heart envelope full of 20 or so Valentines. I remember especially delighting in the ones I received from the classmates I never spoke to – how nice that was. That was the best version of Valentine’s Day I think I’ve ever had. It felt so good to feel love all from my community!
As I got older, Valentine’s Day turned into something else. It wasn’t just about cute homemade cards and candy and sending conversation hearts to your besties. It was now mainly a day for the coupled -- the pretty, the popular, the ones without glasses or bug bite bruises – to go out and be in their glory and have a date night at the movies (or a phone call through a landline where you need to ask the mom to speak with your person first LOLZZZ).
Ever the late bloomer, once I was in solid relationships in my 30s, I could participate. The years I was single, I probably felt that lack, that loneliness. Single was a problem to fix. Relationships (heterosexual, again) were the status symbol. I never felt that pre-puberty. Culture is a bitch!
It's amazing that a lot has changed for the better since my teenage years in the 90’s. Galentine’s Day was christened in February 2010, as one of my all-time favorite TV characters– Leslie Knope from ‘Parks and Rec’ (played by Amy Poehler) declared it a national holiday:
Galentine's Day is "the best day of the year. Every February 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies."
I’m lucky to have a couple of friends who still send Valentines, and its always a treat to receive those whether I’m coupled or not.
Well, all this to say that Valentine’s Day is coming up, and yes we will have offerings. Beautiful, seasonal, compostable ones: a gorgeous bunch of locally-grown PINK pussy willows, a handtied bouquet full of seasonal flowers, a pretty arrangement in a pink pleated glass vase (a keeper!).
How we wrest this day away from the mainstream narrative seems a Herculean task. There’s one single gal out there fighting the good fight -- @shanisilver. If you don’t already follow, and you’re single, you should. Even if you’re NOT single – it’s good information, to become more cognizant of the ways culture lends feelings of superiority to the coupled and taxes the single folks. Any person – coupled or not – as far as I’m concerned, has to work on self-love, work on feelings of fulfillment. And being partnered doesn’t solve that issue. We’re all on our journeys. Partnership and marriage are beautiful, hard-won things. So is a feeling of contentment if you aren’t partnered. These are things to celebrate, right along with friendship (hard work), sibling love (hard work), etc. You get the picture.
I say, if you’re single, don’t be triggered by Valentine’s Day! It’s silly and made up! And, if you aren’t single, consider sending your single friend some flowers. Skip the overpriced prix fixe and do Galentine’s instead. Celebrate relationships and love in any form. Trans love, straight love, pet love. Self love. Take a walk in the wintry woods. Journal. Draw. Take a bath. Rest, and order in – don’t cook. Or do go out and support a local small business.
This floral studio is here for it. It doesn’t need to be about spending money with us. If flowers are what speak to you, we have those!