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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Reflection: On Hookup Culture, Fun Dip and the Underrated Joy of Platonic Love

One writer reclaims Valentine’s Day as an excuse to celebrate neglected forms of platonic love.

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It’s Feb. 14, which means the Dartmouth listserv has been teasing me with its annual, obnoxious onslaught of catfish flitzes all week. One more subject line in the realm of “are you extremely alone?” or “heart-shaped pizza for fucked attachment styles in Common Ground,” and I’ll hit reply all. Yes, I’m alone. No, I don’t want to drink pink lemonade and talk about it. Thanks for flooding my inbox, though. 

Writing for the magazine section of your college newspaper is tough when it’s Valentine’s Day and you refuse to reflect on the dire state of campus love. Early in my journalism career, I made the conscious decision to avoid writing about love. I dealt with this predicament last year by publishing a copout “Love Letter to Dartmouth.” I didn’t feel like intellectualizing past romantic stints and the premise of articulating my broader frustrations with hookup culture bored me. This was for a few, very tangible reasons.

One, it’s low hanging fruit: To critically dissect hookup culture is to state the obvious. Bonus points if you take a feminist angle to your analysis — who could have guessed that it benefits the guy? 

Two, for self-protection: I’m envisioning a deck along the lines of “this week, one writer copes with her loneliness by reframing unlovability as a universal phenomenon — the article now comes up every time you search her name into Google.”

Three, my female fatigue: Allocating 800 words towards unpacking male apathy is a dumb journalistic endeavor when you’re already tired of thinking about boys. 

Sorry, I don’t mean to come off as bitter. Believe it or not, I actually love Valentine’s Day. I’ll take any excuse to eat dark chocolate, write love poems, wear pink and watch “Before Sunrise.” I just tire of the “single on Valentine’s Day” rhetoric, where girls sulk about being “sad and alone” only to neglect to appreciate the role that platonic and familial love plays in their life. National “Fixate on Your Lack of a Boyfriend and Disregard Female Friendships” day is the holiday shoved into my inbox, social media feed and local CVS every year. Can you blame me for refusing to celebrate?

I miss the wholesome elementary school years when every student in the grade hand-wrote a Valentine for each of their classmates with an attached piece of candy. Why did we stop celebrating friendship? When did we ditch the fun dip and start privileging amorous forms of love over all others? (Probably when Walmart learned that romance commercializes better than friendship. But maybe I better leave that one rhetorical…)

I’m at that age where my friends and I constantly ruminate over boys. Trying to understand what they think, if they think, why they haven’t texted back and the nuanced differences in subtext between a “hey” and a “what’s up.” It’s exhausting and pathetic, especially when you realize the attention we allocate toward our schemes goes largely unreciprocated. 

For a while, I thought the solution to my preoccupation with male validation was giving up on the pursuit of intimacy all together. But, as pathetic as centering my life around romance is, so is entirely eliminating the possibility of a relationship at the young age of twenty. Like, who hurt me?

Every time I grab a meal with a girlfriend, I anticipate the inevitable moment when she asks who I have my eyes on. At Dartmouth, I feel boring when I’m not actively pursuing anyone. When so much of girl-to-girl small talk is predicated around men, discussing potential schemes comes to bear its own, unique form of social currency. To not have a scheme is to be no fun, or even a little socially inept. 

The problem is, I’m too interesting of a person for the initials of a prospective hookup to be the first (ok so realistically third) topic of conversation over breakfast, lunch or dinner. We all are. Talk to me about my Israel-Palestine class, where I’ve developed a nuanced take on a) the disheartening plausibility of a two-state solution and b) the arrogance of government majors, instead. Ask me which dining hall is the most neoliberal, and I’ll explain to you why it’s Collis. Need a movie recommendation? Tarot reading? Makeover? I got you. Allow me to recite my monologue on the power of mixing perfumes, it often extends a beat too long but bears incredible wisdom. Please, for the love of (Sun)god, just don’t reduce my entertainment value to the name of a man. 

This Valentine’s Day, I look forward to celebrating the abundance of fulfilling female friendships in my life over fruity drinks and al dente pasta, and not in a sad Bridget Jones way. Usually, this is where I’d insert a self-deprecating joke about how I’m forced to do this by default. But no, I’m genuinely psyched to cook vodka rigatoni, listen to Elvis ballads as the water boils and hand-write love letters to my friends abroad. Whether you are in a committed relationship, or not, I encourage you to tell your friends how much they mean to you this Valentine’s Day. We really don’t do it enough.