February 12, 2014

KUSSMAN | Why the Lonely Hearts Club Isn’t So Bad

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By LIZ KUSSMAN

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. As a little girl, I loved the Hershey’s Kisses and the doily hearts my fellow classmates and I would leave on each other’s desks. Back then, Valentine’s Day was a collective holiday: We gave out candy indiscriminately, even to the kids in the class who sat alone at lunch, because it was the right thing to do. Everyone left happy.

As we grew older, Valentine’s Day revealed a more selective dark side. Not everyone gets candy or flowers; not everyone leaves happy. There is a pressure to meet and manage expectations. And at worst –– as pictures of bouquets of flowers addressed to others pop up on our Facebook newsfeeds –– Valentine’s Day can seem like a big, cheesy, forced competition.

When a holiday devoted to love is the source of so much anxiety, we have to wonder: Are we doing it wrong?

If Valentine’s Day is a competition, then everybody loses –– or will lose at some point. Let’s face it. No matter who we are, there will be years when Feb. 14 rolls around when we’re single. There will be years when we’re dating someone who doesn’t know romance from table tennis, and there may even be a year when our best friend gets engaged, while we’re home alone feasting on Insomnia Cookies we ordered for ourselves. That’s just the way life is.

Last year, as a single girl, I had no choice but to celebrate Valentine’s Day vicariously through my friends in relationships. And yet, looking on in Libe Café as my best friend Kelly received a basket of candy delivered by her boyfriend, I was as euphoric as if it were me. It was exhilarating to know that such a thoughtful gesture could exist in the world. Whether or not it was directed at me this particular year seemed irrelevant.

After all, I knew the good times would come for me, too. One day, I will be getting flowers, and it will be someone else’s turn to abuse Netflix on Feb. 14. When that happens, I can only hope that my friends are as happy for me as I was for Kelly that day.

So for those of us who are single, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about what we’re missing. Instead, it can be an opportunity to revel in the happiness of those closest to us.

We all have our share of good and bad times, but if we are able to look beyond our own relationship status and appreciate the love the world has to offer, we can never really lose. Allowing the happiness of others to make us happy is the emotional equivalent of our elementary school days, in which we tirelessly wrote out cards to all 27 of our classmates: Everybody wins, every time.

Liz Kussman is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. She may be reached at ekussman@cornellsun.com. Up to Date appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

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