Friday, February 14, 2014

The Value In All Sorts Of Loves

by Emily Maynard
If you’ve walked into any store that sells things recently, you may have noticed that love is in the air. Actually, it’s on the shelves, the display tables, the aisles, the walls, and piled next to the checkout counter.

Ever since they slid the Christmas lights into the clearance bin the first week of January, we’ve been overrun with heart-shaped confetti and chocolates and sentimental statements screen-printed onto everything. In fact, today might be a bit of a relief, because it’s nearly over now. And it’s almost time for Shamrock Shakes, but I digress.

It’s fine with me if you’re not really into Valentine’s Day this year. I get that. Valentine’s Day is kitschy and overdone and maybe it makes you barf in your mouth a little when couples get super into it on social media.

It seems like torture, when it’s already the coldest and most miserable time of year, for all the privileged, partnered people to have a day set aside to gloat.

It’s like a giant stuffed bear holding a heart that says you’re a loser if you don’t have a certain type of love in your life, and it can be incredibly painful. Some of you probably have stories about romances that feel more like cruel April Fool’s Day jokes.

I’ve been there, too.

This year, though, I am told that everything is supposed to be different. I’ve captured that mythical unicorn of every Young Christian Woman’s heart: a real, live, authentic human boyfriend. All the commercials, and even some of the messages I’ve heard at church, tell me that I should throw myself into romance at the expense of all else. They say I should expect to be showered with diamonds, or at least confetti and chocolate, as a memorial of our love. One of my friends even made mention of it recently when we were trying to make plans to hang out, “Oh, well, next weekend is Valentine’s Day, so you’ll be busy, of course.”

Everything is expected to change now that I’m “in a relationship,” but the thing is, I’ve been in real, significant relationships with people for years before now. It’s called friendship.

It didn’t even occur to me that I’d spend Valentine’s Day with only one person this year, considering I’ve spent so many February-14ths romantically unattached. I’ve formed other habits, and I’m not giving up my independence or my affections for the people that matter in my life.

I missed the rule that years of friendship don’t count once you find a quality mouth-kissing partner. So, this year, like so many years before, I’ll be celebrating Cupid’s birthday with my friends.

My friends and I have relationships that have flourished for years, and that’s without the added incentive of smooching hormones. They’re the ones who loved me when I was wearing cargo overalls (1997), plucking my eyebrows into oblivion (2003), and hadn’t yet discovered dry shampoo or feminism, but definitely needed both (1999-2012). They have shared adventures, ideas, empathy, happiness, and hope through many heartaches. They are the people who have shaped me into who I am and showed me what faithfulness, equality, and love really look like every day. And they have my undying affection in return.

Our culture celebrates romance above all other expressions, but I think friendship actually deserves the biggest cozy-stuffed-animal-holding-a-heart pillow of them all.

If you’ll permit me to rearrange your social life, please, pull back the kitsch and the mushiness and commercialism, and go have an amazing Valentine’s Day with your friends. Not because you’re cynical about the state of romance in the world, but because you see the value in all sorts of loves.

Shower your friends with confetti and chocolates, not because friendship is second best and it’ll suffice until you meet The One, but because love is not limited to one particular type of relationship.

Find ways to celebrate the relationships that tough out years of commitment even without the added sexual chemistry. 

Emily Maynard is an outgoing introvert from Portland, Oregon. She is a big picture thinker and big question ask-er. She likes Twitter, vegetables, fashion, Harry Potter, mentoring college students, new information on anything, and declarative sentences. Emily does her thinking aloud at Emily Is Speaking Up and @emelina.  

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Image Credits:
Image #1 via J. Girard 
Image #2 via Sister72 
Image #3 via Lunchtimemama
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