As the stores fill up with bags of pink and red candy, and flower sales are increasing we enter our next big holiday after Groundhog’s Day. Give a round of applause for Valentine’s Day. The holiday surrounds love and appreciation of others. While people ask their girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, and friends the big question: “will you be my Valentine?”, the next question is, “what should we do to celebrate?”
That is the big question this year, as COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in the typical style of meeting new people, staying in touch with others, and being outside the house. While in years previous, a classy date, big fancy dinner, or a movie night would have been all appropriate ways of sharing the day of love, they aren’t an option this year. This year it’s all about staying home, being safe, and celebrating differently.
As we enter into our first anniversary with COVID-19 Valentine’s Day, it is important to remember that just because you don’t have a lover you can still have a day to celebrate. You can celebrate the love you have within your platonic friendships, or thank your family for being there with you, as well as choosing to rejoice in the love you have with yourself. This Valentine’s Day doesn’t need to be a pity party for the love you didn’t receive, but rather to acknowledge the love you already have.
Karalyn Kutzer, a junior at USM studying marketing, is currently living at home this semester, not far from campus though, as she resides in Gorham. Kuster and her boyfriend have been dating just over a year and will be celebrating this Valentine’s together.
On the agenda is a lovely steak dinner, adorned with salad and baked potatoes, “I wanted to go out and buy a lot of ingredients and make a meal together,” she explains their plans. “I want to be able to spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing this meal.” Kutzer also states that she and her boyfriend have been enjoying time in the kitchen more, and often try to use making a meal together as a date night.
She giggles and laughs when asked if her boyfriend asked her to be his valentine, “we are very sassy and playful to each other, so I poked fun at him when he didn’t ask me right away, but in the end, he did ask me to be his Valentine.”
Both Kutzer and her boyfriend lived on campus in Robie last year up until being sent home in March. Kuzter recalls that “we were basically living together, I could just go to his room in minutes since he lived in the same building.” She remembers that when USM shut down alongside the rest of the world, their relationship became what was once “seeing each other every day and all day long to a long-distance relationship that lasted over three months.”
Kuzter returned home to Gorham with her parents and sisters and came to live under those house rules again. These restraints on her relationship allowed Kuzter to “really improve my communication skills since I wasn’t used to having to rely on phone calls and texting, I would normally just see him in person.”
Kuzter also stated that they were friends before dating, so seeing someone every day for two years and then over the phone for months at a time was very difficult. She remembers that over the summer, she was allowed to see him once a week with a mask on for an hour.
She spoke about how excited she was to see him, “Even if it was just for an hour at a time, it was just nice to see him face to face.” He lives in Saco, ME, and with Kuzter in Gorham, the drive was not that bad.
COVID-19 and the lockdown have changed all sorts of things, dating being a big one. Kuzter explains that the biggest way COVID-19 changed dating was where they could see each other. As public places, restaurants and their homes were often off-limits due to restrictions. “It allowed us to spend more time outdoors and exploring our home from a new perspective. Being more thankful for living in Maine, took more advantage and was grateful for the outdoors.”
Kuzter also explains one of the stranger hobbies they picked up was going to the gym at midnight. “I know it sounds strange, but there is a gym that is open 24 hours, and we would go together around 11 or 12 and be the only ones there.” She went into detail about how these strange dates also allowed a sense of normalcy and routine, even if it was late at night into the early morning.
There are five love languages, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, and gift-giving. They are the way you like to be loved as well as the way you show your love.
Kuzter says “I am physical touch and gift-giving, but I think my boyfriends are words of affirmation.” She says a hobby that she is picking up herself is sending out letters to friends and family. “I want to go back to my kindergarten roots, make some art or a bracelet, and send a letter to my friends.”
Looking back at everything she has been through both with her friends and family, as well as in her romantic relationship, Kuzter’s advice is, “If I go back in time and give the advice to pre covid Kara, it would be patient with yourself and with everything that is changing and allow time for yourself and other people, especially your partner.”
Johana Jimenez, another junior at USM within the nursing program, is currently living in Old Orchard Beach. She and her boyfriend are originally from Auburn Maine. Jimenez and her boyfriend are about to hit five years together this March.
She shook her head and smiled when asked if he asked her to be his Valentine, “We just implied that we would be each other’s Valentine, he didn’t ask me. Valentine’s Day hasn’t been very important to our relationship, but we are still celebrating this year.”
Similar to Kuzter, Jimenez and her boyfriend will be having a nice home-cooked dinner. Jimenez explained that her boyfriend is currently living at home but goes to Husson University, so being long distance is not anything new. “It has been nice that he is living at home, he can come over more often and we like to make dinner together a lot.”
Jimenez explains that during the initial lockdown in March of last year, it was right around their fourth anniversary, but that they hadn’t seen each other since winter break in January.
“At first we didn’t hang out, I didn’t want to expose him and his family, but now I am currently living alone with my roommate, and we just don’t see anyone else and stay home.” Jimenez smiles as she says they did a lot of online activities and dates, and she tried to make it more cute and sentimental by creating online invitations, “I wanted to do more than say, ‘do you want to Zoom with me?’ So I created little evites that said yes or no and that made it more fun.”
Another fun activity they would do together is, “ more recently we have been making the foods you would normally go out and get. Which has been a fun challenge.” Due to the fear of passing more germs back and forth, Jimenez and her boyfriend have been sending each other gifts in the mail, ordering items online, and sending them to each other’s houses, rather than physically giving them to each other.
Jimenez recalls the dates they would do over the summer, “we did a lot more outdoors because I was working from home and just being in the apartment all day, I started hating my space.” To fix this problem, Jimenez would take many walks on the beach and enjoy being outside. “A lot of picnics, hikes, and walks, plus time on the beach. Normally I would just go for a walk alone, but since the pandemic, it’s been nice to have that time to be with him.”
Since Jimenez and her boyfriend were “already doing long distance before COVID-19, we could deal with online-only communication, had a good practice, we knew we could have a better relationship too.”
When it comes to their love languages, Jimenez agrees that both she and her boyfriend share the language of quality time. Whether it’s time apart on the phone or being together in person. “COVID-19 allowed more time during the day to talk to each other, we are usually so busy with school and work. It was nice to have a break from that and spend more time together.”
She ends with, “the advice I’d give myself would be to spend more time with those you love, before COVID-19 I was always doing school or work and did not prioritize relationships and friends as much, and now I do. Make those things a priority for yourself, and it’s a lot easier to make it happen if you put it in your calendar.”
Jimenez also reminds herself that, “Valentine’s Day is not just about your romantic relationship, before we were dating I would buy myself chocolates.”
Although called lover’s day, why can’t you be in love with yourself? Enjoy this Sunday with a box of chocolates, or surprise yourself with lovely flowers. Who says you can’t throw on some love songs and dance around your kitchen as you make dinner for your roommates. You can even indulge in some fancy dessert as you decorate your space with hearts and pink and red. Host some activities such as making clay rings, baking, creating a playlist for a friend, doing face masks, watching an old movie, opening up a bottle of wine, going to the beach, painting your nails, the list goes on and on. You might even want to send your friends some letters and call home and tell those you love how much you appreciate them.
In a time where relationships and friendships are most important to rely on, take advantage of the day of love to be warm and grateful for all you have in your life! So go celebrate your day of love and kindness! Happy Valentine’s Day!