“Friendship isn’t a bathplug. It isn’t there to fill a hole,” says Poorna Bell.
I’ve always felt a latent crankiness at Valentine’s Day, regardless of whether I’m single, dating or married. Partly because any energy and enthusiasm I have around celebrating a holiday is squeezed out of me after Christmas, and six weeks is just not enough time to refill the tank.
But also because it always feels overly divisive and pressured.
If you’re with someone, there seems to be a weird one-upmanship with friends around whose partner did the most romantic thing. And if you’re single, you really can’t really fake to make it.
I remember, years ago, an ex-colleague asking, “Didn’t anyone send you anything?” while knowing full well that the absence of flowers on my desk didn’t mean they were hiding under Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.
In light of this, it seems a foregone conclusion that I’d be a supporter of Galentine’s Day, the fictitious day that was first coined by Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler’s character) on TV show Parks and Recreation.
“Every February 13,” Leslie says on the show, “my lady-friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies.”
Galentine’s Day grew in popularity until it spilled over into real life and became A Thing. There are Galentine’s Day meet-ups, cards and presents, and it has even morphed into Palentine’s Day to include men – which is a day to ‘celebrate your friendships’.
But Galentine’s Day is not for me.
Celebrating female friendship is a great idea, but in a world already saturated with holidays and celebrations including Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, hen dos, stag dos, baby showers, Halloween, Christmas and Easter, not to mention overbooked social calendars, there is a creeping sense of dread at adding something else to the list.
But above and beyond, it’s because if there is anything that doesn’t need a special day to commemorate it, surely it’s female friendship?
During my entire life, my female friendships have been the one constant I’ve been able to rely on. Sure, certain friends have come and gone, but while they were in my life, I knew I could count on them. We have never needed a specially appointed day to celebrate each other, either.
My friends have spontaneously sent me flowers when they know I am feeling blue. They gift me little presents just to say: ‘Hey, I saw this and thought of you.’ I’ve cooked special dinners for them – and vice versa – with no agenda other than it happened to be a Wednesday night and I wanted to make them happy with food. They are in the next Uber to come and meet me, no matter what time of night I need them. They always text me after we meet up to check that I’ve gotten home safely.
Female friendships are softness, safety, love and kindness in response to the sometimes crappy way that the world treats women.
They are the tissue being pressed into my hand when I have a cry, they are the laugh at the other end of the phone, they are the hand on my back when I’m in a nightclub toilet wondering why so-and-so hasn’t texted me back.
I’m not saying that romantic relationships don’t, or can’t, offer the same benefits. But I am saying that in life, it’s all about consistency, and my female friends have stayed the course while men have come and gone.
Above all, it’s the sense of safety and comfort my female friendships provide. It’s a safety that isn’t contingent on whether or not a person finds me sexually attractive.
“All the more need for a day to celebrate that!” someone replied when I posted about this on Instagram. But to me, that isn’t what my female friendships are about.
The beauty of a female friendship, surely, is that we don’t need an excuse to celebrate it.
There’s also a troubling subtext of celebrating female friendships in lieu of a romantic relationship. Friendship isn’t a bathplug. It isn’t there to fill a hole. While Galentine’s is for all women – regardless of whether or not you’re coupled up – there’s an element of it being a booby prize for single women who might otherwise feel left out or alone.
I can’t speak for other single women, but to me, that almost feels worse than just getting through the pinch of Valentine’s Day with my head down. And female friendships aren’t a consolation prize – they are a prize independent to all and any other relationship.
If Galentine’s is a day you want to mark that friendship, then it’s no bad thing. But I don’t know that a card on one day of the year really does all of that justice.
To me, it’s the card that arrives on a soggy Tuesday ‘just because’, that anchors me back to that feeling that no matter what the world throws at me, my female mates will be there to catch me.