When your posting day falls on February 15, you have to laugh. Writing demands timeliness, and in mid-February, nothing’s more timely than Valentine’s Day. Chocolate, cards, and all.
Any attempt to procrastinate writing is a dive into V-Day content. Social media swings between sappy love letters and sarcastic diatribes. Even YouTube suggested a romantic chocolate chip cookie tutorial from my favorite source of absurdist humor. And with February 15 (the unofficial date of Galentine’s Day) falling on Friday this year, I doubt I’ll be the only one continuing the V-Day content into the weekend.
If you’re creating for an audience this month, you’re thinking about Valentine’s Day – like it or not.
Three weddings and an elopement: last summer I was four times a bridesmaid. Four white dresses. Four bouquets. Four very different ceremonies.
“Wow, so many engaged friends!” other friends would comment. “How do you feel about all those weddings?”
And I would pause, leaving paragraphs and paragraphs of explanation hovering in the silence. Some answers were too optimistic, too starry-eyed, too cheery to be honest. And others were too pessimistic, too sarcastic, or too doomsday to be true.
According to the Pew Research Center, only twenty-two percent of Millennials are currently married. The same study shows millennials are “slower to marry than were their counterparts in older generations.”
Of course, they weren’t studying a sample of Calvin grads. And of course, most of us don’t base our emotions on Pew Research Center studies.
Comparison is about looking at our surroundings, even if our surroundings are the minority.
In the month after Bekah’s engagement, we developed an unhealthy affection for Say Yes to the Dress. We’d clamber onto her queen-sized bed, flip on Hulu, and settle in for thirty minutes of airbrushed absurdity.
We loved to predict brides’ comments, the lines they repeated episode after episode after episode.
“Tell me about your special someone.”
“He’s my best friend.”
No wonder. We’ve met your friends, that circle of raised eyebrows and brutal jabs, on the other side of the mirror. No wonder he’s your best friend.
I wanted to write something silly about all the weddings of 2018. I have plenty of ridiculous stories: a realization of a missing garter, a morning-of-the-ceremony sewing party, a bridal party’s failed prank, a coffee run in full makeup and hair an hour before the ceremony….
But every time I tried to deepen that piece, I found myself writing about friendship.
This afternoon I sipped coffee with a friend and tried to separate envy from wanting what others have. Order your desires, says St. Augustine. A clever enough system. But good desires don’t fade when handled well. They don’t control you, yes, but they also don’t disappear. A craving for apples doesn’t vanish just because you planted an orange tree.
I tried searching the Pew Research Center, that handy storehouse of random stats, for studies of Millennial friendship. Marriage numbers, those I could find. Friendship stats – how friends meet, where they meet, how long friendships last – proved more elusive.
Even Pew seems to know that quantifying friendship is a nightmare.
Do you tally up inside jokes? Coffee dates? The number of texts you’ve sent one another at odd hours of the night?
Quantifying romance is easier because it can become a legal status as well as a relationship status. Meet, date, get married. We can find thousands of variations on the theme, but there’s nothing like an established narrative for creating comparison.
We have no cultural ceremonies where we invite aunts, great-uncles, and second cousins to watch friends deepen their relationship. Most of these moments happen late at night, sobbing over a second cup of tea, or in the quiet routines of showing up in the same place week after week. Together.
A trite part of my brain wants to type a neat ending, something warm and fuzzy tied with a sparkly red bow. That’s the narrative of friendship we get at Valentine’s Day: friends are better than romance, anyway!
That’s cruel to the single, and perhaps even more cruel to those in relationships. Romantic happiness doesn’t eliminate the desire for friends, and friendship doesn’t eliminate the desire for romance.
I took a break from writing to help plan a sushi night for Galentine’s. Yes, the single woman’s version of Valentine’s Day. How neat. How warm and fuzzy and trite.
Friendships can be rich, and deep, and wonderful. But they are a different good, a separate good than romance. A separate category of life, loaded with pinnacles and clichés. Not margarine to butter: apple to orange. Different. Still good.
Courtney Zonnefeld graduated in 2018 with a degree in writing. She currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she works for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, and saving up for more herb plants. You can usually find her wandering a farmer’s market, hunting for vintage books, or browsing the tea selection in coffee shops.