Unless you've avoided news, social media and the grocery store, you know tomorrow, February 14, is Valentine's Day.
I've always eyed the day with suspicion - just another example of commercialism on steroids, like Black Friday.
My late husband and I on odd years would dine out on Valentine's, only to realise we had erred, because our favourite restaurant was unusually packed, and some other couple had scooped up the last dish of tiramisu.
A 2017 article in The Atlantic said this about the Hallmark holiday: "The day conflates romantic love with the plasticine detritus of that affection: expensive flowers, cheekily presented chocolates, chintzy stuffed animals."
The past few years, I've thought of Valentine's as Singles Awareness Day. It's a time when the uncoupled among us can embrace or bemoan our status.
Whether you're partnered, single or somewhere-in-between, a day of love and gratitude doesn't cost a thing (chocolate, however, has a price, and it's worth every cent).
Today (the 13th) is Galentine's Day - a time to celebrate all female friends, whether they're single, or not. The non-holiday was started in 2010 by a character in the TV show Parks and Rec.
"Every February 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style," Leslie says in the episode, in which the characters eat frittatas and waffles.
In that spirit, I'd like to celebrate some ladies who add grace, beauty and humour to life.
The 94-year-old wants only her first name used. When I asked readers for their wins at the end of 2020, June wrote me from her Tauranga rest home, saying:
"Did something good come out of 2020 for me? Yes! My mind is still intact, just body in revolt. Covid-19 lockdown was not good for lots of residents as they just didn't understand and this is where I was able to shine. Luckily, I have been given a chirpy nature and so was able to cheer many people up. I also discovered hidden talents that I was able to use to entertain. It is amazing how much a kind word, a hug, even a hand squeeze can make someone's day. Love, kindness and caring is what is needed."
We need more Junes. Who's yours?
Last year's lockdown deepened my regard for teachers. Thanks to seven weeks of homeschooling, I have no doubt I made the right choice many years ago by not trying to instruct my children.
I have no clue about calculus, Year 12 biology is beyond my grasp and my teenagers would sleep half the day if they didn't have to show up for school. Hooray for the people who inspire kids to learn and fulfil many different roles, including a coach, counsellor, disciplinarian, mentor and cheerleader.
She's a confidante who makes you look fantastic. The world is a grumpy, unkempt mess without her.
These are friends you make because of a shared hobby or passion. Turn up to the club on a regular basis, and a spectrum of humanity awaits. Camp mum, drill sergeant, tutor, party planner and boss, among others. You can make art, help your neighbourhood, learn new skills and get fit while making new friends. The same people who show you the ropes at your group will also stop by when you're sick and celebrate good times, too.
Friends at Large
This diverse circle consists of people you've met last week or last decade and keep coming back to. They could be neighbours, your children's friend's parent, someone you intersected with at the gym or a colleague.
Kudos to my workmate who had the brilliant idea of celebrating her birthday last weekend overlooking the Tauranga marina as the sun set. It was one of those "pinch me, I'm lucky to be here" moments. And it was brought to me, on a platter with canapes, by a friend.
The Atlantic article said more and more, friendships are helping define a sense of self in the world during a time of geographic mobility. Friendships lend stability and meaning to our lives.
"The deepest friendships are operating not to replace the family unit, certainly, but to complement it."
This is especially true during the pandemic when the virus has kept many of us from connecting in person with overseas family. We've replaced holidays with relatives in virus hotspots like the UK and the US with homegrown affairs featuring immediate family and our circle of friends. People I consider family live not only in my native America but also in the Bay of Plenty and in Northland, too.
Naturally, businesses have latched onto Galentine's Day. New Zealand online sweets seller Hello & Cookie has sold out of "Galentines" bikkies printed with "single af," "cupid is stupid," "fries before guys", and "thank you next". There's always next year.
None of us needs a holiday - new, old, or overly commercialised, to recognise the specialness of friends.
But if a mate invites you to her place for brunch and bubbles this weekend, by all means - go. I'm bringing waffles.