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Ciao Amore! Today is Valentine’s Day, the most [enter your adoring or snide comment here] day of the year. Maybe you’ve already heard those public serenades isolating someone’s sweetheart in an awkward, yet adorable, way. Or perhaps you’ve avoided such encounters like the plague? Either way, it is Valentine’s Day and here are some things one can do. But first, humor me and read about my “beef” with this holiday.

I view Valentine’s Day like I do Mother’s and Father’s Day — it shouldn’t be necessary. Now, before you throw a hissy fit or rejoice about what I just said, hear me out. The point of Mother’s/Father’s Day is to take the time out of your oh-so busy schedules (note sarcasm) and reflect on the easily forgotten truth that, regardless of how well your biological parents cared for you, you still have some parental figure who has done a lot to better your life. Often this sentiment is expressed in the form of a card, with a couple words, and your chicken track signature. Cool. The thing is, it shouldn’t be just one day of the year that you remember them.

Likewise, it shouldn’t be just one day of the year that you go out of your way for your significant other. I think the sweet and lovey-dovey sentiment is cute but you shouldn’t express it on only one day of the year. Write love letters to your significant other every time you think of something you love about them. Spend an evening doing nothing but eating dinner and talking … just because! When you’re in a healthy relationship, treating each other lovingly on a regular basis, Valentine’s Day is no longer really necessary. However, if you aren’t in a relationship where love is commonly expressed, speaking from experience, you’ll find yourself almost needing that rose or card to convince you that the other person actually cares for you. Unfortunately, that’s not a healthy situation to be in, and you might want to re-evaluate your relationship priorities. You want your counterpart to want to do things with and for you, not feel obligated because of some pressure from Hallmark and the obscene amount of red and pink in the Dollar Store these days. Yes, I did just say “you want x to want to do y.” You can roll your eyes, but trust me, there’s a definite difference between someone doing something because they want to and because they feel they should, and this isn’t just romantically applicable.

All that said, it’s a totally different experience for a single person. I really don’t like how there’s a mentality that being single is something that needs to be changed. Suddenly, if you’re over 20 every grandmother acts like the mom in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding and is eager to introduce you to her nice, attractive, and single grandchild. While it’s comical in a movie, it’s often annoying in real-life. Goodness, you’re single, not sick!

I don’t know about you, but I hated how in high school all the young couples would come out of nowhere. It’s never fun to see people playing tonsil hockey in the quad, especially on that romantic day.

Maybe it was the red that made them stand out? I think even teachers had an extra skip in their step. I swear, suddenly it seemed like everyone and their best friend had someone special … everyone, that is, except for me. Sure, I had other single friends and had my mom who always celebrated the day by surprising me with a little gift. I even got an adorable card from my brother one year (such good blackmail). But that’s very different from getting something special from a significant other. I came to change what I thought of Valentine’s Day though. Instead of it being just for the person you’re in a relationship with, I made it a point to express my love for all my friends. And you know what? It became something fun.

I actively sought to make Valentine’s Day enjoyable for my single friends and me by making goodie bags of candies and little love notes. It’s amazing what a couple bucks at the dollar store and some crayons and colored paper can do, not to mention a little imagination. I even learned to make pop-up cards! They loved getting something special and I loved making them feel special. I’d make a point to get all dolled up with some girlfriends (mom included of course) and go out to lunch and window shop on the weekend closest to the day. So while couples had their day, I had mine with the ones I cared for dearly.

Here are some suggestions I have for the day. For the star-crossed lovers:

1) Please, please, PLEASE refrain from acting like you’re in high school and save the inspecting of each other’s throats for your dorm room.

2) Make it a point to sit down and express how much the other person means to you, perhaps in a letter? I know I personally cherish love letters and notes because I can save them and re-read them another day.

3) Do something fun! Make it an experience to remember. Neither of you cook? Try making your favorite dish! Be sure to do so while take-out is still available at your favorite restaurant, just in case.

4) Perhaps most importantly, make an effort to be romantic more than just once a year. I’m sure your sweetheart would love hearing all you have to say more often. I’m not saying to go spend $100 on a dinner every weekend, but taking the time to show your affection is something extremely precious.

5) I know that society places a lot of expectations on Valentine’s Day, but don’t feel bad if it’s not like the movies — the point is to express your love.

For the peeps flying solo:

1) Spend some time with your other single friends. The worst thing, according to my friend Charlotte, is to sit alone in your room and dwell on the fact that you’re single. For goodness sake, it’s totally fine to be single!

2) Make it a point to play a board game if you have a group. Or pop some popcorn and watch a movie. Paint your nails if that’s what you’re into! Think about including froyo, because I know I can’t be anything but happy when I’m eating that delicious gift to mankind! There are tons of group activities that are super fun and super cheap.

3) If you’re artistically inclined, try out some origami hearts or pop-up cards for friends. Little goodie bags can be cheap and small — it’s the thought that will make them smile!

Feel free to send me any requests: dearchacha@tech.mit.edu. Thanks!

Fondly,

Chacha