It is Sunday evening, Feb. 13, and Karilyn Crockett DIV ’07 is getting ready to celebrate the 188th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ birthday.
“I call a couple of friends over, we usually have a little reading,” Crockett said. “I figured that we celebrate the presidents’ birthdays, and Hallmark has [St. Valentine] all covered, so I should do something for Frederick Douglass. I thought about making renegade cards for Frederick Douglass’s birthday, but instead we just get together. It’s mellow.”
No matter that Walgreen’s department store is covered with heart-shaped balloons, its chocolate-saturated aisles decorated in homage to the romance of cholesterol intake; no matter that New Haven’s flower shops look like they’re preparing for a particularly rose-themed party at Elton John’s pad; no matter that the Lifetime channel has been running a steamy romantic movie marathon for two weeks in advance of Valentine’s Day: Yalies like Crockett would rather tune out the popular holiday.
“It’s kind of a non-holiday,” Claire Pavlovic ’07 said. “I never really had a date for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not one of those people who want to kill themselves on Valentine’s Day.”
Other students just have too much schoolwork to be in a romantic mood.
“Tomorrow I’m studying for a midterm,” Abby Jackson ’08 said. “Valentine’s Day is different if you’re single, but not in a bad way. I’m not one of those people who’s embittered by Valentine’s Day. It’s just there.”
It’s not that the 1,736th anniversary of St. Valentine’s stoning and decapitation will go entirely unnoticed or that VD isn’t contagious, unexpectedly infecting otherwise unromantic couples with sentiment. But Yalies simply have their priorities straight.
“Some things are more important to me than true love,” Aaron Friedman ’08 said of his plans to watch the Syracuse-Pittsburgh basketball game Monday evening.
For singles who do not find college hoops or a special Whitney Humanities Center showing of “The Battle of Algiers” romantic enough, anti-Valentine’s Day parties (alternatively titled “Celebration of Friendship” parties) are a possibility.
Ida Assefa ’08 said she and a wide group of friends will take each other out to dinner, then exchange flowers and truffles.
“We thought it would be a really fun way to not let the day be depressing,” Assefa said. “Not that people who celebrate the holiday are manipulated by the media, but it’s a very corporate holiday. We thought it would be fun to twist it around and not spend tomorrow mourning.”
Lindsay Ullman ’08 said she and girlfriends, whether single or in a relationship, planned to boycott boys on Valentine’s Day, turning the day for lovers into girls’ night out.
“There’s a group of 10 girls, and we’re going out for a huge dinner: no boys allowed,” Ullman said. “The holiday’s not just about your significant other, it’s about the people you care about.”
But if boys are banned from Valentine’s Day, Haven Reininger ’08 has no objection.
“It’s kind of a lose-lose situation for guys,” Reininger said. “Either you’re single and out of an exclusive holiday, or you’re down 50 bucks on gifts.”
Valentine’s Day may never have been for guys, but John Lynch, a flower vendor working on commission for Yale, said Valentine’s Day is not really about couples either.
“I would actually say that romantic couples represent less than half of customers,” Lynch said. “The rest are platonic girlfriends giving each other flowers and also some people buying for their mothers. Valentine’s Day has become a mini-Mother’s Day.”
As far as Lynch is concerned, Valentine’s Day is at its best when it makes money. For Lynch, who braves the February cold to sell flowers and organizes greeting cards in order of commitment — ranging from “I love you” to “Thinking of you” to “For you” — nothing makes money like Cupid’s holiday.
“Valentine’s Day is to me what Christmas is to Santa Claus, but maybe in reverse,” Lynch said.
No day, Lynch said, is better at filling his financial stocking than Feb. 14.
And while Valentine’s Day may not be a holiday for boys or couples or Yale students, it is a jubilee for companies Many Yalies say the blind love god is robbing Valentine’s Day lovers blind.
“It’s a holiday designed around making money. Why do you need a day to celebrate your feelings for someone?” Lorrie Kiger ’08 said.