Ah Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love with red hearts, chocolate, and flowers. A day to embrace the one you love and tell them how much you appreciate them. But what if this year we do it a little differently? How about this year we make it Friendship Valentine’s Day? Because while not everyone has a romantic valentine, most everyone has friends, and those friends are oftentimes the backbone of our lives.
I met my best friend back in the 1980s. I was fifteen and shy, trying to find my way into the choir and drama department and she was beautiful, talented, older, and aloof. I sang next to her in the soprano section of the choir. I started out in bit roles while she starred in the play. She was eventually voted homecoming queen and arrived to the prom wearing a huge white wedding dress with lace sleeves and a hoop skirt, accompanied by her bestie, a preppie queer boy who might have been more suited to be queen. She didn’t know I was alive as far as I could tell.
One fateful day we were walking down the hallway of our high school, both of us heading toward the music wing. She was surrounded by a group of friends/admirers, and I walked a few paces behind by myself. She was caught up in talking and wasn’t watching where she was walking. She was totally caught off guard as she crashed into a trashcan and nearly fell over. I picked up her books and handed them to her, expecting her to brush me off, but instead she laughed in a self-conscious way. She was embarrassed by her misstep, and thanked me profusely. It was the first time I think she saw me, and I realized in that moment that what I thought was aloof was actually shy.
Fast-forward thirty-five years, and outside of my family of origin, our relationship is the most enduring and long-lasting I have ever experienced. Not only is she my best friend, she is my sister from another mother – my sister friend. We came out together, hit the lesbian bars together, lived together, waxed each other’s legs. There was one period when a deep misunderstanding and a meddling friend caused a rift for six painful years. Living without her in my life was a constant source of grief.
While separate from each other, she got married and started a new life without me. But proof that we were still connected in some way is that while apart we both miscarried babies and then finally gave birth to our first children four months apart. Valentine’s Day originated with the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, an annual celebration of fertility commemorated each February 15, so it seems fitting that fertility, miscarriage, and our babies were what finally brought us back together.
When I see people with best friends that clearly center prominently in their lives, that provide a feeling of home and safety, I imagine that friendship can be considered a different kind of marriage. We may or may not share physical intimacy, but the bonds of friendship are truly profound.
Our closest friendships are just as important even when we have a romantic partner. Each kind of relationship has value, and there is room in our hearts for both. And when we are lucky, our romantic partners are also our best friends. My partner Amy Liam is handsome, charming, amazing, and I am so in love with her. On Valentine’s Day I will celebrate her and the way she loves me – with the unconditional love, fierce acceptance, and encouragement I always craved. Our connection is profound, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. She will always be my Butch Valentine, and no matter if we are separated by miles or geography, our devotion to each other is unshakable. On Valentine’s Day I will give her my heart, and it will be red.
But I will give Alex, my sister friend, a blue heart. According to the Urban Dictionary a blue heart means you are in the friend zone. But I like iemoji.com’s definition better: a blue heart can symbolize a deep and stable love. Trust, harmony, peace, and loyalty.
This Valentine’s Day, whether you have a partner or not, if you have a special friend who has stood by you, been silly and laughed with you, seen you through break-ups and new loves, send them a blue heart to thank them for their deep and stable love. Or send them this message:
You’ve seen me at my best and my worst. Thank you for loving me and listening to me when I need to feel seen. This Valentine’s Day, I celebrate you and the friendship we share. Thank you for loving me. My life wouldn’t be the same without you in it.
With deep affection and appreciation,
Your loyal friend