During high school, Valentine’s Day was always unpleasant. It usually started with an uncomfortable assembly in which zealous feminists sang the praises of “V-Day.” I will spare details, but suffice it to say: their rhetoric was awkward for (still quite immature) high-schoolers, especially when flanked by elderly faculty.
V-Day didn’t improve from there. The varsity field hockey team held an annual Valentine’s Day rose sale for charity. It was a rather uncharitable event for those of us who didn’t receive dozens of flowers. Yellow roses and cards came from friends; red, significant others; pink, secret admirers. Each year, popular girls flaunted the number of roses they received, insincerely lamenting the clumsiness of the bouquet they had just collected. If you received fewer than five flowers, you might as well have just thrown them out. To acknowledge such a dearth was worse than to carry none at all. The sale was dreadful for us students, heightening our teenaged insecurities. It was completely unavoidable, too; the rose distribution took place en route to the cafeteria. And even if it hadn’t, we probably couldn’t have escaped the temptation of seeing whether this year would be different, whether this time we would receive a pink rose.
At Harvard, too, I have found it difficult to escape the horrors of Valentine’s Day. For my first two years here, it has fallen on a weekend. The perfect “date nights” called; few perfect dates followed suit. All I wanted to do was let the “holiday” pass by quietly, unnoticed. So I removed myself. Freshman year, I stole away for the weekend, bringing my roommates home with me. We cooked, watched movies, sledded, and went cross-country skiing. We returned to campus late enough to justify starting homework rather than acknowledge our lack of other engagements.
Sophomore year, Valentine’s Day was on a Sunday. Though Sunday is not de jure date night, President’s Day fell on the following day, so it was de facto date night. Thus, Valentine’s Day weekend became an extended hell. My female blockmates and I did our best to avoid the whole thing. All of us single, we sequestered ourselves in a kitchen in Currier House. One of us made chicken and rice for the group; another baked an apple pie. Together, we adopted a “screw love” attitude (an inevitable part of Sophomore Slump), singing and dancing to “Believe” by Cher. To answer Cher’s question: we believed in life after love. At least, that’s what we told ourselves.
This year, escaping Valentine’s Day could be easy. Feb. 14, 2011 falls on a Monday, comfortably far enough from Friday and Saturday that Valentine’s Day weekend doesn’t need to feel like much of a weekend at all. If I don’t have a date on Friday or Saturday, I could have an alibi (“It’s not Valentine’s Day”). On the day of, I could complain of homework and easily hibernate in a library (“Ugh, response paper ...”). And to sweeten the deal, the canoodling couples of Lamont probably would not be there to remind me of my datelessness. This year, Valentine’s Day could be exactly what I have always wanted: just another unspectacular day, one easily overlooked, one in which I won’t have to acknowledge the fact that I don’t have anybody with whom to spend it.
But I don’t want to do that this year—just blur over Feb. 14. As I reflect on the Valentine’s Days of my freshman and sophomore years, I realize that I haven’t actually forgotten those days, nor do I want to. I loved sledding with my roommates in 2009 and dancing with my blockmates in 2010. While doing so, I thought I had been avoiding Valentine’s Day. But I was, in fact, spending it with people I cared about. The efforts I took to bypass Feb. 14 didn’t help me to erase the day at all; rather, these compensatory activities resulted in some of the best memories of my first two years here. Though I hate to admit it, Valentine’s Day at Harvard hasn’t turned out to be all that bad.
As to what this year holds, I’m not sure. Who knows? Maybe this time, I’ll get that pink rose.
—Elizabeth C. Bloom ’12 is a junior in Currier House. She’s a hopeless romantic.