In Defense of Pt 7: Celebrating Galentine's Day
Galentine's day is often associated with lonely singles coping with their misery while yearning for true love, or perhaps perceived as another commercialized holiday to justify buying copious amounts of chocolate and wearing 20 shades of red and pink. To me, though, it is a reminder to be grateful for the systems of support we surround ourselves with and a celebration of the kind of love that frequently falls in the shadow of romantic love. Although I only learned a week ago that Galentine's day is, in fact, its own holiday and not just an alternative name for February 14th, I am ready to defend it with my entire being.
The most memorable, heartwarming experiences I have experienced in the past few years include cringing at "Love Island" episodes with my best friends and doubling over in laughter at each other's playful teasing. On the contrary, when I recall the most difficult moments in my life, I think of the people I can always rely on to make plans to grab some delicious food, drive down to the beach for sunset, and spend a night in binging Netflix shows to cheer me up. What would I do during the nightmare that is the college application process if I did not have friends to wallow in our mutual commiserations before forcing each other to pick ourselves back up and trek ahead?
This phenomenon of turning to female friends in times of hardship is not an isolated experience. Research shows that there is a biological reason why women turn to friendships in times of stress. A landmark UCLA study fundamentally changed our understanding of stress research, which was historically performed on men, by finding that women release the hormone oxytocin as a response to stress. Oxytocin buffers the fight or flight response (which had previously been accepted as the prevailing reaction to stress) and increases the tendency to "tend or befriend" in women, leading to the release of more oxytocin and creating a calming effect. While testosterone–-which males produce at high levels when they are under stress–-reduces the effects of oxytocin, estrogen enhances it.
Furthermore, a study from Harvard Medical School found that "those who had the most friends over nine years cut their risk of death by more than 60%" and that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged. The impact of having close friends was so significant that the researchers concluded that "not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight."
From both an anecdotal and scientific perspective, it's clear that platonic relationships are vital to our well-being and are worthy of celebration. While some argue that Galentine's day is a patronizing consolation holiday, I would argue that this interpretation fundamentally underrates the importance of female friendships and mistakingly ranks them as lesser than romantic relationships.
Female friendships are not a consolation prize for when you can not find a romantic partner. They are their own kind of love, and they are just as important as romantic love. And if you are lucky enough to have a group of friends who love and support you, then you have already won the jackpot. So, every February 13th, remember to remind your friends of how much they mean to you, and if being cheesy does not fit the vibe for your specific relationship, share a funny TikTok or send a game of word hunt to let your friends know you are thinking of them.