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Top Five Reads for a Vicarious Valentine's Day

By Allison P. Pao, Contributing Writer

It’s Valentine’s Day. You’re already sick of the heart-shaped chocolates, the tacky red and pink flyers, and the advertisements for movies, concerts, and shows you’d attend—if you had a plus-one. You’re tired of binge-watching: You can only rewatch your favorite rom-coms so many times. You’re even tired of binge-eating: You can’t enjoy your Zinneken’s waffle in peace because the Datamatch dates are taking all the seats.

But how about binge-reading? Here are five reads inspired by this exhausting holiday through which you can experience love vicariously, ranked in order of how likely they’ll be assigned to you by a Harvard professor.

5. r/relationships
If you’re a nosy gossip and/or you want some brutally honest views on love, then r/relationships is the right place for you. In this particular subreddit, people rant about their problems and invite the internet to help solve them. Make sure to scroll down, because the comments can be even more interesting than the original post. Life Pro Tip (“LPT,” in Reddit terms): You can organize posts by subject tag (dating, breakups, infidelity) or by relevance (hot, controversial, top).

4. Fanfiction
Forget real people. Who needs a date in real life if you’ve got an OTP (“one true pairing,” for those of you who aren’t true fangirls) on your favorite show? Fantasy worlds are infinitely better because you can imagine your ideal reality. So your favorite show ended, but you still can’t get enough. Fanfiction can solve that. Check out "Archive of Our Own", which organizes fanfiction from its members by fandom. Common ones include “Harry Potter,” “Sherlock,” “Doctor Who,” and “Supernatural,” but there’s a fanfic for literally every love interest ever.

3. “Valentine” by Carol Ann Duffy
This short and sweet poem condemns the cliché and consumerist “cute cards” and “kissograms” associated with your least favorite holiday. Instead, Duffy replaces the universal symbol of love (the heart) with something unexpected (a certain vegetable which I will not reveal—read the poem)!

2. The “Modern Love” column
Tired of conventional love stories? The essays featured in this New York Times column range from the comedic and ridiculous (curious about cuddle parties, but too scared to find out for yourself?) to the emotional and poignant (this writer, diagnosed with cancer, sums up her husband’s best qualities in an advertisement searching for a replacement wife). If you’re a lonely and confused college student, you can also check out winning entries written by other lonely and confused college students for their annual essay contest.

1. “Symposium” by Plato
If you’re confused about love, maybe philosophy can help you. Plato’s collection of speeches presented by seven different philosophers features diverse and insightful opinions on the purpose, nature, and beauty of love. In the work’s most famous oration, the character Aristophanes absurdly but poetically suggests that we all once were spherical beings, until Zeus punished humanity by slicing us into halves. Now we spend our lives searching for our other halves to complete ourselves. Tragically romantic. (And yes, this was assigned reading for ninety freshman last semester. I’m looking at you, Humanities 10a.)

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