Call me every begrudged, wronged manic pixie in a rom-com, but I hate Valentine’s Day. I don’t need to tell you the reasons why, because you’ve heard them all before: capitalist commodification of love, “Big Hallmark,” etc. But this year, I chose not to sit home and loathe the (questionably) happy couples swarming my Instagram feed or rue the day my last relationship ended. I was tired of being the cliché miserable Valentine’s Day witch. Instead, I decided, I would siege the overly commercialized holiday. This Valentine’s Day, I was going to party.
My two best friends and I sat down the weekend before V-Day and made a list of the most anti-Valentine’s Day activities we could think of: eat at a restaurant with communal dining, go to a singles only party, dress in all black — the antithesis of the cheesy, classic Valentine’s Day activities that our coupled-up friends were doing. We also scouted several anti-Valentine’s Day events that were happening around New York City, such as shredding pictures of your ex at The Seneca, but we ultimately decided that we’d be doing those things out of bitterness. We were seeking a genuinely good time, sans emotional baggage. And yes, that also meant steering clear of Ariana Grande’s new album, which was no easy feat. We got to planning, confident that alcohol would be the only toxic relationship we flirted with that night.
Our anti-celebrations started at a Spanish tapas bar in SoHo around 7 p.m., where we sat at a long communal table with six other people, all of them couples who were pissed they got plopped down in the most unprivate table in the restaurant. Unapologetically, we ordered tequila shots and scoffed at the couples drinking Cab Sav.
We made a rule during our meal that we couldn’t talk about our exes, past relationships, current crushes, or anything related to “love.” Instead, we reminisced about our favorite memories together: the time we studied abroad and snuck on the roof of our academic center to watch the sunset. The ridiculous fight we got in during high school over Jonas Brothers tickets (not kidding). We could hardly breathe, never mind finish our patatas bravas, we were laughing so hard. We had more shots, attempted to chase them with some food, and headed to our next location: a warehouse rave.
We figured no normal, cutesy couples would be at a rave on Valentine’s Day. We were actually wrong. There were couples, singles, and everything in between letting loose in a big way. Drag queens passed by us with (more) free shots, face painters painted hearts, we made everlasting friendships with equally drunk girl squads in line for the bathroom, and most importantly, we danced our hearts out with each other. At first, we avoided standing near any couples, but eventually it didn’t really matter — we were all drenched in sweat and poorly hydrated. We were all in this together. It’s impossible to feel bitter or annoyed by the love around you when you’re experiencing it yourself, just in a different way.
Halfway through the night and after maybe seven shots, my friend started to feel sick, and our night took a turn in a why-did-we-decide-to-rave-on-a-Wednesday kind of way. We went outside for some fresh air.
Trying to hail a cab was useless — we knew she wouldn’t make it. So we did what any drunk girls in Brooklyn would do: we guarded her as she threw up in an alleyway behind a warehouse. Two people — a couple — approached us with offers of water and pretzels. They stuck around and told us about a good taco truck nearby.
Around 2 a.m., by which point we had each chugged as much water as humanly possible, we headed to the taco spot with the same couple. They regaled us with the story of their relationship, starting with how they met six-and-a-half years ago on Valentine’s Day at a Chipotle. I applauded them for not being the kind of couple to engage in cheesy Valentine’s Day activities, but they told me that they celebrated in the more traditional sense last week, giving each other cards, flowers, and going out to a nice dinner. They just wanted to go to this rave. I guess you really can have it both ways.
In the Uber home, my friends and I realized that we hadn’t checked our phones once since we’d gone out. It was the most present I’d been during a night out, maybe in years.
When we got home, we cuddled up in my tiny full-sized bed. After we’d turned the lights off, my friend who’d gotten sick quietly asked if we could put on “When Harry Met Sally.” We burst out laughing and fell asleep to the always-comforting sounds of Meg Ryan that only an ’80s rom-com can afford.
In the end, I did celebrate Valentine’s Day. I celebrated love, the kind you can only experience while holding a friend’s hair back with a hair tie you found on the ground while she throws up bottom-shelf tequila. The kind that allows you to laugh afterward while you sit on the side of the road eating carne asada tacos with strangers whose random act of kindness may have saved your night from ending badly. The kind that makes you forget about all the heartbreak you’d felt on Valentine’s Day pasts. I haven’t experienced that kind of love with anyone other than my best friends, and that’s more than OK for now. In the meantime, I have Harry Burns to rock me to sleep.