Pal-entine’s Day is the solution to rediscovering and appreciating the value of friendship
If you’re as big a fan of Parks and Recreation as I am, you may be familiar with episode sixteen in the hit NBC show’s second season: Galentine’s Day. What’s Galentine’s Day, you may ask? As Amy Poehler’s iconic character Leslie Knope puts it, “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!” What started as a fictional holiday centered around a day dedicated to ladies celebrating ladies has opened up a conversation of the importance of platonic love — and maybe that we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day the wrong way.
Last year, my best friend and I went out on Valentine’s Day to a fancy restaurant to enjoy each other’s company, catch-up with one another, and eat all the pasta we could to our heart’s desire. As we looked around, we realized we were the only non-couple in the room. When the waitress asked us if we were celebrating anything special, we said something along the lines of how Leslia Knope would put it: “tragically, we are both heterosexual.” But why shouldn’t celebrating platonic friendships and affection be more normalized on a day that is centered around celebrating love?
While the show portrays Galentine’s Day as the day before Valentine’s Day, I propose Valentine’s Day be completely dethroned and re-conceptualized. And since platonic love is not only just for the girls, I suggest using the term “Pal-entine’s Day” as a gender-neutral way for people of all genders to commemorate the platonic love in their lives.
We live in a society obsessed with attaining romantic love above all other forms of love. Oftentimes, it feels like finding the ideal partner is the solution to giving our lives meaning, security, and stability. This is particularly pushed on us through the media that we consume. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good love story. Nick and Jess from New Girl, Jim and Pam from The Office, and David and Patrick from Schitt’s Creek are just a couple iconic couples that always had me hooked to my screen. But I think Twitter user Icona (@iconaWrites) puts it best: “Society’s obsession with romantic love is part of what fuels our modern culture of loneliness. A single person, no matter how beloved, cannot fulfill all our social and emotional needs. We need to rediscover the vital value of friendship and community.”
Dr. William Chopik, a Michigan State University professor, directed a survey of 271 053 adults, and found that appreciating and cherishing friendships was connected to improved functioning, especially for older individuals. He found that friendships were very important factors in people’s lives — for instance, when friends caused some kind of strain in a participant’s life, it was reported that chronic illnesses increased; alternatively, when friends were the source of support for the participant, they reported being happier. According to Chopik, this discovery is compatible with preceding research that demonstrates that the quality of friendship often predicts health outcomes more so than the quality of other relationships.
It’s time to start combating a society that prioritizes romantic love over the importance of friendships and platonic love, as well as acknowledge the positive effects of maintaining these relationships for our overall health. Let’s emphasize the epic friendships and love embedded in relationships like Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings, Troy and Abed in Community, and Leslie Knope and Anne Perkins in Parks and Recreation. Celebrating Pal-entine’s Day is a great start to preserving and prioritizing these fundamental relationships that keep us happy and healthy now and in the long run.