Valentines Day in isolation

Friday 22nd January, 2021

Last February, many of us outside of China and eastern Asia approached Valentine's Day without an added thought. Some worried what types of flowers would look best in their bouquets, while others despaired in silence as another lonely Valentine's Day came and went, not knowing that soon every day would become lonely, despairing, and socially distanced for everyone. 

And so, as we approach a Valentine's Day made distinct by social distancing, it's time to prepare a celebration that renews passion between lovers, but also reminds those other acquaintances what they mean to us. Just as you purchase chocolates and flowers for your significant other, I encourage you to incorporate your dearest friends and family as well.

Because this year, as with all else, your Valentines Day could look different for many different reasons…

For those who are separated

Two weeks ago, I took a cross-country trip with a couple friends. We went on a privileged escape to a ski resort, and now, upon our return to our home state, we are undergoing individual two-week quarantines. I am now halfway through my quarantine, and I understand the pain of separation from a loved one. My Girlfriend lives only two blocks up the road, and yet she exists in another reality. 

While I will have the fortune to reunite with her before Valentine's Day, what can people do if they can't? The iconoclast in me says to not worry about it: Valentine's Day is an arbitrary creation by the holiday industry. It's a day meant to sell holiday cards and other crap. But the romantic in me recognizes the value of the day-of a demonstration of love with the power to reignite cringy, doggerel, but feel-good passion..

The classic candlelight dinner can certainly be adapted to a virtual video conference like all else, but you can't adapt the important tangible aspects: the subtle game of footsie beneath the table, your hand draped over theirs, and the arm-in-arm walk out the door and into the starry night.

All of these pebble-sized moments of physical connection, which add up to much, are lost. So what should you do?

I'd start with a gift. Send them something ahead of time in the mail (hence why we've written this blog a month in advance). Give them something you've either carefully selected, or made yourself. That way, by the transitory property, you've made a physical connection (i.e. you touch gift, gift touches your significant other, ergo you touch your significant other). Is this a perfect solution? Absolutely not. But it's a start.

With these sorts of gifts, I'd recommend thinking about their value, and the way they represent you, the giver. Because in moments when I felt lonely and distant from my girlfriend, I would begin fondling a bracelet she gave me many months ago. I saw it as a representation of her. Try, if you can, to create something of similar importance. Something like a talisman: a bracelet, a framed photo, a poem, or a hoodie that feels like a hug when you wear it. Any object with the potential for an emotional connection.

But gifting feels a bit trite. It's missing something…special.  

But how do you make it SPECIAL?

Valentine's Day has always been about that special, romantic connection. That's what separates it from other emotional holidays like Christmas. But if you're not allowed to breathe near or be within six feet of your loved one, then what are you supposed to do?

Keeping this PG, my first recommendation is to take a cue from Lloyd Dobler in the movie Say Anything. You don't have to play "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabrial, and you don't have to hold a boombox over your head in the first place, you should stop by your loved one's window. At the very least be like Romeo and call out their name. Here's a script, if you need one:

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

It is the East, and [their name here] is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief

That thou, their servant, art far more fair than it.

Be not its servant since it is envious.

Its vestal livery is but sick and green,

And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.

It is my [lady/man/name]. O, it is my love!

I took the liberty of de-gendering the pronouns for your use, but if you want the original or you want more, find it in Act 2 Scene 2.

This talk of Shakespeare has me in the mood for more iambic pentameter and stories of unrequited love, and I think there's a way to incorporate more of this into your distanced demonstration of love.

Perhaps, as you speak to your lover through the window, you could recite some of Shakespeare's sonnets. A verse from "Venus and Adonis," maybe? Or maybe it's just the English major in me that's attracted to all this pretentious gibberish. If you want something simpler, and more honest, then just write them a love letter and read it aloud. Sometimes a voice can touch when hands cannot.

For those in unison in isolation

On the opposite side of the COVID relationship are the couples who've developed cabin fever together-the couples in dire need of some new stimulation. Fortunately for these couples, an intimate holiday like Valentine's Day loses little do to COVID. It was never a day for large gatherings, but rather a day for one-on-one moments. Maybe your favorite restaurant has shuttered, but you're (hopefully) skilled enough in the kitchen to whip something up yourself. And rose gardens can't contract the virus, so bouquets remain untouched, as do chocolates.

So if you want to go the classic route, not much has changed…

…but chances are you're in need of an activity to spice things up. If you have been cooped up for the last eight months, you're probably more apt to drive a nail through your lover's head than smile and hand her a box of chocolates.

So let's think of some COVID-friendly ways of spicing things up!

For myself, I have the fortune of living in Vermont, which has one of the highest per-capita rates of bed and breakfasts (as well as breweries). With so few folks traveling these days, many are empty, and if you know the right people and nudge a few shoulders, you can end up with a beautiful socially distanced weekend in the mountains.

If this isn't an option for you, either because you hate the outdoors or live in the midst of the wide wheat fields of Nebraska, another good idea would be a scavenger hunt. Does this sound childish? Good. The idea: one of you runs around town from clue to clue; at each clue finding a gift and/or a memory to spark nostalgia. The gifts, nostalgia, and fun of the chase should be enough to reinvigorate a relationship that's become strained. At the very least it will give you both time away from each other.

Another, less active but just as stimulating stay-at-home activity involving our handy-dandy wishlist services at Things To Get Me would be to create gift-lists for one another. It could function as a test of your understanding of one another. Do you know what the other person wants? Focus on the ones they get right, not the ones they get wrong; don't let it become a toxic game.

And don't forget the rest

Normally, Valentine's Day is a time for you and one another. A tango, of sorts. But this year, consider turning your intimate dance into a brief ballroom dance, or a hoe-down with ample do-si-doing-to extend the metaphor a little too far.

Don't hesitate to wish platonic love to all your friends and family, as Valentines Day has a nasty habit of making people feel left out. And this year, those feelings will be exaggerated. Don't let Valentine's Day be a day of self-loathing for someone else! Make your love inclusive! Send letters and gifts to anyone that's touched your heart and may need a pick-me-up. They'll appreciate it. Trust me.

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