in which I experience feelings of love

Last night, I was on the home stretch of two-hour viewing of The Bachelor1 when I noticed that there had been an excess of diamond ring and Hallmark card commercials all night, each more nauseating than the last2. Then I realized why: it’s almost Valentine’s Day.

I’m not a Valentine’s Day hater. I’m not actually a Valentine’s Day lover, either. I’m pretty neutral in my feelings towards V-Day. I generally use it as an excuse to buy myself a book and eat chocolate. However, there is something in direct relationship to Valentine’s Day that I would like to discuss.

Valentine’s Day is a day that celebrates love in all its many splendored forms. But if the commercials and window displays are to be believed, the only love worth celebrating this February 14 is the romantic, hand-holding, face-sucking kind. Which—NEWS FLASH—is not the only kind of love.

So today, I’d like to talk about friendship—that kind of love.

When we tell someone of the opposite gender3 that you are not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with them, we say that we want to be “just friends.” Which is ridiculous. When did “friends” become a “just”? When we stacked the pyramid of worthwhile relationships, who put friendship a tier below monogamous, lip-sucking partners? When did dating someone become the whole game? Friendship should never be a “just”.

Since I’ve done a lot of starting over in the past four years, I’ve done a lot of making new friends, and it never stops being hard. Too often, when I’m alone in a new city, I tend to jump into friendships with people that are convenient to be friends with, or who I share one thing in common with, but nothing else. “Oh you also like turkey sandwiches? So, should I just go ahead and pencil us in for spending Thanksgiving together?” While I would never enter into a romantic partnership with such a shaky foundation, I do it all the time with friendships. I try to force a friendship out of something that isn’t there because I just want to know people. I just want to have someone to vent about school to and go see a movie with4.


I stole this from Elizabeth Wein and a tumblr user named Kelly.

But the truth is, we should screen our friends just as closely as we do our romantic partners. Just because someone is convenient or willing, does not make them suitable friend material. Just like you aren’t going to be attracted to every person you meet, you can’t expect to have friendship chemistry with every person you meet either. And in the end, when you’re left crying on a street corner in the rain after that boy dumps you5, you want the people on speed dial in your phone to actually pick up.

With all the changing my life is done in the past few years, I have started to value my friendships more than ever. When I was younger, friendship was such a given thing. I moved within the same circles of people for most of my young life, and I took for granted how well I knew my peers and how easy it was to judge our compatibility. When thrust into an unfamiliar situation with new people, I am much more impulsive about my decisions, and have ended up perusing a lot of relationships that were doomed from the start just because I missed having friends. So when the new, sparkly-ness of a place falls away, or when distance and space comes between us, those people that are left standing with me have become so very important to me.

I think we as a society tend to romanticize6 romantic love. We act as though the only thing that gives us value in this world is being in a romantic partnership with someone7, when really, that sort of love is only half of it. Life isn’t just about forming relationships with people you are attracted to. It’s about valuing and finding strength in people who you don’t want to exchange saliva with.

This is not to say that I am a man-hater, or a relationship-hater. I am neither. But when I think of my life, and the relationships that have lasted and mattered, I don’t think of the boyfriends I left behind. I think of the friends who are still here with me.

So on this Valentine’s Day, I will not just be celebrating the ghosts of boyfriends past or lamenting my singleness, because there’s nothing lamentable in it. I’m not alone, and I’m not lonely. Instead, I would like to celebrate the people who inhabit my life in a non-hand holding, non-face licking capacity8.

  1. Don’t judge.
  2. I noticed this because every time one came on, I made a very loud and very dramatic groan, and by the time the Bachelor was half done, my throat was starting to hurt from the exertion.
  3. Or same gender, depending on what team you bat for.
  4. Trick question, because I go to 90% of movies alone. And I like it, because no one judges me for sneaking a diet coke in in my purse, and I do not have to share the popcorn.
  5. Everything I know about breakups I learned from Lifetime movies
  7. Which is why I am all the time told, “Oh, you have lots of friends and important people in your life and you’re happy and fulfilled, but you have no boyfriend? Don’t worry darling, you’ll find a good man soon.”
  8. I kind of hate myself for writing this post, because even as I’m reading over it now, I’m so painfully aware of how much it sounds like the sort of thing girls say around Valentine’s Day to hide behind really desperately wanting a significant other. Which is not me. This is an honest opinion that has nothing to do with my current dating situation. I also want to say that this is not a post to discredit anyone who is in a romantic relationship—that’s awesome, and I get finding strength in your partner and being two halves of a whole and that whole Dove chocolate wrapper nonsense. But for me, right now, in my life, this is how I feel about love, and this is where I find my strength. This is my life, as honestly as I know how to explain it.
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9 thoughts on “in which I experience feelings of love

  1. heidikins says:

    There is a lot more to romantic relationships than swapping spit, you know. Perhaps the fluttery, twitterpated, puppy-love stage that is most often depicted in Valentine’s Day commercials is not the best perspective with which to view a long-lasting, enduring, monogamous, deep and intimate relationship, no?


    • MackenziLee says:

      Hence the sort of disclaimer in the last footnote haha. The reason I chose to write about this sort of love–the friendshipy sort of love–is because it’s what I have the best perspective on right now. I know there is much, much more to a relationship than I can comprehend at my age and perspective, so until that day comes, I will continue to write posts like this! This is not meant to say anything against the awesomeness of relationships like you and J-Mo have, it’s just me thinking out loud that friendship is often very undervalued in our society.

      Also Heidi – I love and miss you. That is all.

  2. Paige says:

    Amen. Loved this. Excellent read.

  3. Magna Hahnel says:

    I know it’s early, but hope you have a great Valentine’s Day. From a friend. Enjoy the diet soda with that popcorn.

  4. Billy says:

    Interesting what thoughts and feelings Valentine’s Day invokes in us. An excellent insight into friendship and the value of simple, uncomplicated relationships that stay with us forever. Oh to be your friend….one could only hope. By the way, long-lasting, enduring, monogamous, deep and intimate relationships are also verrrrry complex/complicated (sorry heidikins).

    The only thing left to say is, “Kiss me Hardy…..kiss me quick.”

    • MackenziLee says:

      I think a part of why I have such strong feelings on this subject is because so much YA lit is so focused on romance and only gives value to romantic relationships. Friends become background characters in favor of finding your “meant to be”. That’s why Verity was so refreshing – it was about friendship. Well, that and because it was just absolutely the most well-plotted, brilliantly researched historical fiction of all time.

      “A part of me will always be unflyable, stuck in the climb.”

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