Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, Valentine’s Day is For Celebrating Friends, Too

Writer Caroline Bell talks about how Valentine’s can be for friends too.

As someone who hasn’t had much interest in diving into the unpredictable waters of modern dating, I never felt a particular propensity for Valentine’s Day.

In my mind, the holiday was reserved for people who had significant others to dote on, the kind of people who exchanged flowers and boxes of chocolate.

However, about four years ago, I decided I didn’t need a significant other to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Instead, I’d dote on the people I loved the most in a way I knew would bring them joy.

Like so many other 18-year-old high school students struggling with senioritis, I was in desperate need of a pick-me-up. Valentine’s Day was right around the corner, and I had come across a new way to rag on my friends — giving them the most ridiculous, cringe-worthy valentines.

The night before Valentine’s Day, I printed out the most Tumbler-esque, low-quality, stupidly funny valentines Google and Pinterest had to offer. Imagine the woman from the Life Alert commercials poorly photoshopped onto a bright purple background with the words “help ive fallen for you and i cant get up” written in Comic Sans. Now imagine thirty of those distributed amongst a group of 17 and 18 year olds.

Needless to say, a bit of chaos — and a lot of fun — ensued. A valentine bearing the words “i’ve got a berning desire for you baby” featuring a picture of Senator Bernie Sanders found its way onto my AP Government teacher’s whiteboard where it hung with pride for the rest of the school year. A valentine requesting “a pizza dat ass” was confiscated by a band director during an after-school practice, with half-stifled laughter revealing its passage through the rows.

That day was undoubtedly the most fun I’d had in months. By handing out valentines that best matched my friends’ interests and personalities, I was reminded of how well we had come to know each other. Seeing the joy — or dismay, depending on how bad the joke was — on their faces was the best Valentine’s Day gift I could’ve received.

For me, this is what Valentine’s Day is all about — recognizing the relationships that mean the most, whether romantic or platonic. If I’ve learned anything from that experience, it’s that there’s no specific parameters around celebrating the holiday — it’s simply an opportunity to express love and gratitude in the most meaningful way.

Even though my high school friends and I no longer live within half an hour of each other, I’ve kept our tradition alive by mailing each of them a few valentines every year. My heart bursts with happiness when I receive texts confirming that the year’s valentines have arrived, along with photos of them hung in places of honor or added to the stack of the previous years’.

I’ve also become involved in multiple other friendship-centered Valentine’s Day festivities, including Galentine’s get-togethers and letter exchanges. One of my best friends and I even began the tradition of taking each other on a date — I’ve since taken her to an admittedly horrible stand-up comedy show and she took me to a nature museum. Our usual outings are completely predictable, so allowing ourselves to be spontaneous once a year has helped us try new things and grow closer in the process.

I look back fondly on previous years’ Valentine’s Day shenanigans because they’re proof that doting on loved ones can take many different forms — and yield a number of interesting outcomes. The outings and activities I’ve been a part of have been excuses to show my affections for some of the people I love the most, even if they haven’t been entirely related to the holiday itself.

It just goes to show that sometimes the best expression of love is a 3-by-4 inch piece of bright blue paper emblazoned with the words “r u trash cuz id like to take u out tonite.”

Feature image by Julia Soeder / The Phoenix

Caroline Bell

Caroline Bell