Romantic relationships in college, like strong philosophical arguments, are about proof (and frequently, semantics). Both parties participate in a metaphorical tug-of-war for proof that the like-like is mutual. The evidence can be as subtle as the punctuation that turns “u up” into “Hey! Are you still awake? I miss your great personality,”or as concrete and expensive as three Cartier Love bracelets. In the month of February, there are valentines.
I have recieved four formal valentines in my life, the first of which was in email format (curse the twenty-first century). It was in fourth grade and it had been pajama day at school. I wore boys’ medium-sized pajama pants printed with the Nintendo Wii logo and one of my dad’s Chicago Bears t-shirts in a very roomy men’s XL. The look was accessorized with slippers made to look like sneakers and my passion for irony in a culture where it could not be understood: middle school.
The school day was pretty uneventful. In the morning I had pocketed some class-wide valentines and scored some free chocolate, but when I checked my mailbox for a card from that special someone, the box was empty. My emotions went from neutral to furious in a single beat of cupid’s wings. We had an arrangement! Perhaps it was a relationship of convenience, as all of our friends had too been paired up, but that didn’t mean he shouldn’t hold up his side of the bargain: a card for me on Valentine’s Day, perhaps sweethearts for the symbolic gesture despite their abhorrent taste. Eying my friends’ cards enviously, I struggled to understand why exactly my beau hadn’t come through. I was disappointed the day had been such a bust and walked home in a huff, already looking like I had given up on life at the ripe old age of nine as a result of my ill-fitting ensemble.
An hour later, I checked the family Dell Windows desktop to see an email pop up that read: “Hey, Amy. Sorry I forgot to send you a Valentine’s Day card. Happy Valentines Day! I thought your PJs were cool. Sebi.” I beamed at the 12-point Sans Serif font on the screen. Sure, the message was sent to my parents’ email account, but it was there, in black and white: “Happy Valentines Day!”
Valentine’s Day is mostly expectations riddled with disappointment, because emotions are hard to convey through a Hallmark card. Just like PJ-clad middle school me, everyone has their particular idea about what true love should look like – ideas which rarely match up to those of the person of their affection. In college, not just Colgate in particular, people focus on bettering themselves in a way that distracts from showing affection towards others. What was easy in middle school (a Snoopy card with the sweetheart “LET’S READ” attached) suddenly comes less naturally, though it might only take a holiday represented by a fat baby to bring it all back.