Growing up in a convent girl’s school (St Anthony’s Canossian Primary and Secondary represent!), Valentine’s Day took on a much different meaning for me. I was a late bloomer and didn’t even have my first boyfriend ‘til I was 18. So when the 14th of February rolled about, and I was old enough to understand the societal pressures of that date, I never dared to expect candy, flowers or a romantic dinner at Jack’s Place (it was honestly all we could afford at that age) bestowed upon me.
You see, I was never one of those girls sneaking off to see her male adjacent catholic school boyfriend at the bus interchange. Hell, I didn’t even dare to look at most of the boys in the eye at my weekend catechism classes, let alone flirt with them.
But what the school lacked in Y chromosomes, it more than made up for in female companionship and camaraderie. You see, when I turned up to school on the 14th and was prepared to feel lonely and reminded of my singledom with every stray balloon or card, I ended up feeling the complete opposite. It wasn’t just the happily coupled up that received gifts. Turns out, way before Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec coined the term “Galentine’s Day”, us girl’s school girls were already using this day to celebrate female friendship over anything else.
Look, I wasn’t even a super popular girl within my class, let alone the school. I had my circle of close friends, but I definitely wasn’t someone that everyone knew. But looking at the myriad of homemade confections, trinkets, Hershey’s Kisses and cards on my table, for one day in a year I definitely felt like I was. We all did. One of my friends (who back then happened to be in a punk rock band) even bought guitar picks and turned them into key chains for her closest friends. Many of my school mates would even bring extra packets of chocolates to hand out to the more socially awkward girls that didn’t have that many friends.
All-girl’s schools might develop a reputation for being “bitchy” and catty, but that notion was always suspended on Valentine’s Day.
This early experience completely changed my mindset about Valentine’s Day. I was never one to place big importance on birthdays or special occasions, so Valentine’s Day just felt like yet another stressful and over commercialized event. And when I finally did have a partner to spend the occasion with, it ended up being the reverse. Instead of me expecting him to shower me with gifts, I ended up buying him a really nice dinner instead.
And as nice as it was to have someone to spend it with, it still didn’t come close to what it felt like in school. Back then Valentine’s Day wasn’t about being paired off with a partner. It was the celebration of yourself and female friendships. There was no space to feel shame in being single when the overwhelming amount of love, support—and if gift-giving is your love language—and presents dissipated any negative feelings.
And while I no longer indulge in the same behavior years after I graduated, the way I feel towards Valentine’s Day still stands. So ladies, if you don’t have a fella in your life to go to dinner with or receive/gift presents to, who cares? Get a gift for that one friend who’s always been there for you. Better yet, buy *yourself* a gift for being awesome. And if anyone is still looking for a Galentine, just FYI I’m a size 35 when it comes to shoes.
Here’s what I might be indulging myself with this Valentine’s Day.
More from CLEO:
Love Notes: I’ve Been Single For The Last 8 Years. No, There’s Nothing Wrong With Me
The “Anti-Date-Night” Date Night Looks You Should Be Wearing
How To Be Friends With Benefits Without F**king Things Up