How to date your friend this Valentine’s Day


Photo credit: Genevieve Humphreys

Illustration by Genevieve Humphreys

Valentine’s Day is easy to hate. If you’re in a relationship, it may seem like it exists to sell you expensive chocolate and a cheap, oversimplified version of love. If you’re single, it can just feel like proof of yet another year you failed to achieve our sole purpose as human beings — to get a ring before spring.

But um, I’ve actually always been pretty into Valentine’s Day. Elementary school got me hooked with all those Valentines you buy at Target or from magazines in bulk to pass out to your whole class at school. Older, in-a-relationship me also didn’t mind the cards or the obligation to buy chocolate. And now, much older — elderly, if you will, and therefore somewhat wise — single me is trying to use the holiday as a celebration of love in all its forms.

What is there to do if you’re alone on Valentine’s Day? Well, plot twist, friend: You’re not nearly as alone as you think you are. If you have someone you love — whether it’s your parent, brother, sister, best friend, roommate or even your section editor —congratulations on your ability to participate in the festivities of Feb. 14.

What’s there to do with a platonic — but still significant — other on V-day? Go on a freaking date with your friend. Go to an art gallery, a fancy restaurant or a concert. You can splurge on the date, too! Prove that you don’t have to be making out with someone on a regular basis to also spend significant amounts of money on them.

But maybe you’re cheap; we are in college, after all. In that case, cook for your friend.

Or write them a sweet note about all the reasons you love and appreciate them. A hug also costs zero dollars, and cupcakes from the P.O.D. are only a few Bonus Bucks. For an extreme Valentines’s experience, consider driving to the middle of nowhere, parking your car on the side of the road and sitting on gravel while gazing at the stars and talking to your buddy about your Dark Past. I’ve heard that kind of thing is cathartic.

As you’re traversing the dense psychological territory of your own mind with a pal on Valentine’s Day, also consider this: We normally imagine being “just friends” as inferior to being romantically in love, but that isn’t some sort of universal consensus.

One recent study showed that men prefer “the increasingly intimate, emotive and trusting nature of bromances” to romantic relationships with women, which, um, tend to stress guys out. As the kids say, fair enough. Being in a relationship can be beneficial in many ways, but it can also be drain on your time and creativity.

I don’t know how many hours of life you’ve wasted wondering if a romantic partner is doing okay or likes you as much as you like them.

But for me it’s been approximately too many.

Being in love is super amazing and stuff, but having the free space in your mind and heart to devote to friends is also really cool.

Let the in-a-relationship people have a fun time with their gifts and dates this Valentine’s Day. Please oh please, don’t shove your “forever alone” bitterness in their faces, or in anyone’s face. That’s just annoying. Instead, be aware that if you’re single, in a way, you have something non-single people don’t. You have many hours to spend with yourself and a lot of time to share with many people who mean a lot to you.

So, value your friends. Tell them how much they matter. You don’t need an excuse like Valentine’s Day to do this, not in the slightest, but hey — it’s going to be here anyway with its big heart-shaped chocolate boxes. Might as well buy one for your bud. Grab your friend’s hand and say, “Hey, I love you. I love you so much. Here’s some chocolate. Also, we’re going to the taco truck, and I will buy you so many tacos, and we can pet cats and people-watch outside all night, and you don’t even need to kiss me one time.”

I don’t know if that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. But I think it should be.