By Gabi Forman
Valentine's Day isn't canceled. This year VDay urges us to see love as it actually is: fluid, and in its rawest form.
Yes, even at the end of the world Hallmark still sells this soapy holiday. Especially at the end of the world Hallmark will sell it. But when millions of hearts are broken and millions of others stop beating, the sort of Hallmark boosterism, insufferable to many under ordinary circumstances, is really rubbing salt in our wounds.
Valentine's Day? Really? I mean - at such an existential juncture is there time for such frivolity? Is there really room for Cupid in this dumpster fire of a film? What redeeming value does he really hold?
As Sam in Love Actually says, "What could possibly be worse than the total agony of being in love?" Um maybe a pandemic, a democracy in jeopardy, a dying planet.
Our romantic grievances seem petty in the face of catastrophe yet our preoccupation with romance prevails; our punch drunk desires drag on, beguiling us almost even more than before.
Devoid of the usual diversions that distract us from our love void, I guess our newfound boredom welcomes the luxury of existential trepidation. And what a luxury it is, to be still and "just like realize stuff", like how alone in the world we truly are.
Where exactly is the utility in romance today?
And yet, despite it all, we cling to the idea of love more closely, especially in times of crisis. Love always finds a way. Cupid is bulletproof. Our romantic lives might be out of touch, but they aren’t out of mind.
As Valentine’s day looms closer, I can't help but reflect on how COVID is reorienting our convictions about love. Where exactly is the utility in romance today? Is digital love compromising our levels of intimacy? Will our quarantine pen pals meet us on the other side of this, or will they toss us?
A semblance of normalcy is now in reach, and so is connection. A lot of us will come out of our shells with a newfound understanding and appreciation for lust and partnership.
Just as our perspectives of the world and our place within it is forever altered, so is the idea of “our person”, and the sort of romance we seek and attract. The old love formula is eclipsing, making way for a new age love.
I decided to ask some of my friends how COVID had both expanded and transformed their ideas about love.
Anon, cutting out the bullshit
I have grown a deep, deep love for the people that are close to me… At the same time, the reverse happened and because I was spending more time talking to people intimately than I ever have, it revealed some incompatible friendships and friends that I had for years and years… now we don't speak at all… I think we all have lost tolerance for BS this year.
Bru, the value seeker
Because of COVID, I’ve become a lot more thoughtful and intentional about [who I want to pursue]. I want the person who occupies my time and space to add value to who I am, encourage me to go after my goals, and motivate me to become a better person.
I don't want to be in a relationship just for the sake of it. I now believe being alone isn’t the worst thing in the world, but being with the wrong person definitely is.
Isa, the one who crawled then ran
I left New York back in March, which meant my brand new boyfriend (of only a few months) and I were about to be apart indefinitely. It was hard once we realized COVID was going to last more than a few weeks, and we didn’t know when we would see each other again. But it taught us how to really communicate with each other and find creative ways to spend time together, apart. I feel the pandemic made our relationship stronger and confirmed to me that my boyfriend is a keeper.
Lex, acing the love test she didn't sign up for
The pandemic forced our relationship to progress much quicker than it would have otherwise. Because of the lockdown we started to spend entire days together whether that was just enjoying each other’s company or actually doing something more productive. That really forced us to grow our relationship and our comfort levels with one another. During that time we learned to work independently and to not always need the other's attention.
I definitely think COVID was a testing moment for quite a few relationships, however, luckily it allowed mine to flourish and I’m thankful. My SO became my rock when I felt lost during COVID.
Shelby, making the most of it
I started out the pandemic in a relationship, and now I'm single.
How a person has used COVID as an opportunity to grow - to pivot rather than wait it out - is something that's important to me. Knowing that the person is coming out of this crisis stronger and more open-minded is key.
Anon, alone but not lonely
I’m not looking to date seriously right now.
As things return to normal… I don’t think people are going to wanna be in relationships. They'll want to be single. It's going to be about freedom and new experiences - which you can’t get in a relationship. If a person would want to date me, I’d be worried it’s for the wrong reasons; that it’s out of desperation because they need company and feel lonely.
People forget - being alone and lonely are two very different things.
SP, the one who found her lifeline
[My boyfriend] was my lifeline keeping me afloat when I needed to work under incredibly trying circumstances not only with COVID, but through threats of violence in the field because of my work as a journalist.
Neither of us had planned on living together for years, but we seamlessly fell into a routine out of necessity. A hand on my shoulder after a long day, him saying “let me do the dishes” are what actually helped me survive those days.
Yesenia, and new found happiness
I used to be scared of being alone and now I’m happy in my own company. This, to my surprise, allowed me to open myself to the universe and for my path to cross with that of my now truly amazing partner. The pandemic strengthened my relationship with myself - my love for myself - and as a result my independence, all of which radiates.
Our hearts are fragile but resilient and, in many ways, COVID has tempered with and recalibrate it. Our palpitations this year are irregular and staccato - a cadence unrecognizable to most of us. COVID has stretched love’s boundaries and cast light on just how elastic our hearts truly are.
Our romantic lives may seem hollow, but in truth - our lovescope is recasting in ways that will change love as we know it.
The end of our solitude will be met with a stronger fervor for connection than we have perhaps ever experienced. Our plots will thicken and they will be rich.