By Vivian Lam, Stanford Class of 2017

Gratitine’s Day: Rated R for Strong, Sentimental Language

Valentine’s Day has been declaring its impending reign on consumers since New Year, slowly encroaching on the tool section and the produce aisle with a garish shade of fuchsia pink and passionate, great male frigatebird gular pouch red.

As with most publicly recognized national holidays, the pressure to both exude a spirit of non-saccharine sentimentality and contribute to the $19 million Valentine’s Day Retail Fund is only meant in goodwill. For those who are so (un)fortunate to have a romantic partner to celebrate with, February proves to be either a sanction to extract an inordinate amount of adoration from one’s partner by means of a supposedly customized gift, or a time of immense anxiety and disappointment because it turns out that you don’t know your partner enough to give them the correct mass-produced gift customized to their tastes. Best of luck to all of you.

For those who are uncoupled, single, or simply not interested, this explosion of conversation hearts and sinister cupids might feel like a holiday for the exclusive many. What’s the point of Valentine’s Day if you don’t have that very narrowly defined single individual to preoccupy your thoughts the entire day?

But Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romantically involved pairs. If its express premise is truly about “love,” then our list of gift recipients needs to be revised.

Think of the people who make you smile.

Think of the people who have supported you.

Think of the people in your life for whom you are grateful.

There are other relationships that matter just as much … and who are we to assign precedence to a certain category of connection? In this capacity, everyone is qualified to exhibit public and private displays of affection.

So grab a pencil, sit down, and browse through your network. Make a list, and try to rekindle and strengthen your ties with the people who matter to you.

Express gratitude to your friends. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Reach out to those with whom you have fallen out of touch. Send them chocolates in heart-shaped boxes of various sizes that correspond with their relative importance in your life.

Express gratitude to your guardians and mentors. Thank them for their support. Chuck a mug and gift basket at their door. Break the professional barrier and wrap them in an uncomfortably tight embrace.

Express gratitude to your community. Give back to the place that made you who you are. Revive the elementary school tradition and give generically profound cards to relative strangers you haven’t talked to since school started.

Perhaps we should view Valentine’s Day not as a day for romance, but as a more kitschy and sexually heightened version of Thanksgiving. There is no need to impress, and no need to feel alone. Find joy in the people around you, and find joy in yourself.

This Valentine’s Day, act not as a lover, but as an individual who has an enormous capacity to love.