Valentines Day: A Toast / by Sarah Schwartz

I.

Valentine's Day found the four of us in a nearly empty Irish pub, an establishment we mistakenly stumbled upon after a poetry reading. It was too early to call it a night, so we ordered a round of drinks and claimed a round wooden table with high chairs close to the bar.

"A toast," I motioned, raising my drink in the air.

"To those who have loved us well, and those who haven't."

We clinked glasses—one gin & tonic, one whiskey sour, and two beers.

"Ok, around the table," K offered, taking a sip.

"Worst date and best date—go."

Laughing, we took a moment to sift through our most cringe worthy adventures in like, love, and everything in-between.

Do you remember the guy who brought the Star Wars cut out to brunch?

I kid you not, he asked me out by telling me he had just successfully played matchmaker for my ex.

What about the time you went with him to that house party, and your therapist was there?

"All right, best dates," M prompted as we pulled ourselves together, wiping tears from the corners of our eyes, still giggling.

We were silent again for a moment, conjuring the ghosts of those who had been ours in some previous life.

The restaurant was closed, but it didn't matter. We wound up eating ice cream sandwiches in his car, and listening to Battle Studies all the way through.

We were saying goodbye before I left for the summer, and he put his face in the crook of my neck, and told me I was beautiful.

He drove us to the beach in his cherry red Mustang, and we were so busy talking and laughing, we didn't even notice the sun go down.

At the end of each story, we raised our glasses to the men who had loved and lost us, wishing them well, wherever they were, oddly comforted by the thought that maybe they were telling those same stories in another dimly lit bar that evening, surrounded by friends.

II.

I've never felt strongly about Valentine's Day—never giddily celebrated it's coming or mourned it's arrival.  For me, it's mostly just been something stores start decorating for too early. Oh for the love, it's not even New Years yet!

But over the past couple of years, I've felt the increasing need to acknowledge February 14th, particularly with these women, my ever faithful and true companions in life. The love that we share—the love that we consistently work on and towards and for—is significant, and deserves to be celebrated.

Not that the four of us who sat around swapping stories Sunday night don't want for a partnered kind of love—it is a nice someday dream we each carry in our own way. But we are also keenly aware that romantic partnership is not the apex of human existence, or a necessary prerequisite to a full and good life. 

The friendships we share are not consolation prizes for not having partners—something to keep us occupied and warm until the "right one" comes along. Close to everything I know about being brave, living loved, or extending grace, I've learned and continue to learn from these women. They are the fabric of my rich and right now life, and my God, is it beautiful.

And so here are the truths we are trying to live into and out from these days—that we can be surrounded by friends who know and love and fight for us, and still carry a torch for someday love. That doesn't make us silly or small or ungrateful. It makes us human, and that is something to embrace.

Equally as important, is the knowledge that if that someday ever come to be, we will need the sacred ground of our friendships, more than ever.

We are seeing this play out in our larger friend group, as capital B Boyfriends are being brought around for gatherings that once upon a time were girls only. We are making space for them in our hearts and lives, knowing we don't stand in opposition to each other, vying for a space that can only be occupied by a singular party.

Rather, we are hoping to match harmony with melody in a way that ensures that all of us, single or partnered (but more importantly, friends) are so very well loved.