Looking Inward: On Love and Valentine’s Day

Emily Russell/ Sun Star Columnist

Feb. 25, 2014

Did you fall in love on Valentine’s Day? If you are in a new relationship, maybe the holiday inspired some intimacy between you and your partner. If you are in a seasoned relationship, maybe the holiday added a bit of spark to your romantic routine. But if you are single, I hope the holiday did nothing more than give you a reason to eat more chocolate and tell the people in your life how you feel about them. Originally, I thought of the question as a rhetorical remark on the over-commercialized holiday that does nothing but put pressure on people to have a passionate and romantic evening. That was until I realized that I had once fallen in love on Valentine’s Day.

I was a high school senior in my spring semester, cruising through classes in anticipation of graduation and enjoying my final months at the school I had grown up at. I moved to boarding school at thirteen, and though the school was the type of idyllic New England prep school that unfortunately fits all the overpriced under-diversified stereotypes that you may have, I am still learning from the experiences I had throughout my four years there.

To set the scene: it’s the evening of Valentine’s Day in the lone hour after study hall and before lights-out (yes, those rituals do in fact exist at boarding school). We are on the ratty couch in the over-heated, over-humidified, and over-smelling-like-detergent laundry room in the basement of my dorm. How did we get here? I will leave out most details, but tell you it had something to do with a mixed cd and a song by the band Cake. After a few minutes of attempted assurance that the other person would say it back if you said it first, we finally both got those three words out. I had never been in love, and had never even been in a relationship before, but when you love someone you know it, and you shouldn’t waste any time not saying it. My first fateful time falling in love would have happened with or without the inherent pressures of Valentine’s Day, but it would have taken a bit longer to get us to that ratty couch in the laundry room if we hadn’t felt that burden.

Like Valentine’s Day, New Year’s can be a daunting holiday to face with or without a partner. At least where I’m from on the East Coast, there are enormous expectations for New Year’s to be the best night of the year. It is supposed to be sparkly and glamorous, nothing shy of spectacular, with a spontaneous yet flawless kiss to surprise you at midnight. In my adult years, I’ve practiced a steady stream of New Year’s Eve boycotts, finding myself in bed before 11:30, which always means I lie awake alone in bed just long enough to hear the shouts of joy and celebration outside my window. I boycott because on the rare years that I have stayed awake and surrounded myself with friends or partners, I’m always disappointed. In fact, the holiday has caused far more trouble than triumph for my relationships. I’ve learned that laying low is the safest bet.

Or maybe I haven’t. Valentine’s Day in 2007 brought me love on the most anticipated of days but in the most unexpected of moments. It’s even possible that had I trudged through more attempts at New Year’s Eve perfection, I could have stumbled upon something spontaneous and spectacular. Maybe the lesson to be learned is to keep your expectations low but to keep your mind open. Take the holidays for what they are: excuses to drink more champagne or eat more chocolate, and you never know, you may even stumble upon your soulmate on the next big romantic holiday.



Emily Russell is a Northern Studies masters student who grew up in New York, attended boarding school in Massachusetts, and went to college in Maine. Her column incorporates stories from the Outside and combines them with inward looking personal reflections.

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