Season 2, Episode 16 of Parks and Recreation begins with Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) hosting a celebration for her friends. Not more than 30 seconds into the episode, Leslie gives a mock interview to offer viewers some context. She looks into the camera and asks rhetorically, “What’s Galentine’s Day?”
And thus, a demented holiday is born. In the 13 years since, Galentine’s Day has seeped into public consciousness and slowly destroyed my life.
Leslie goes on to explain the holiday in more detail. “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style.”
Leslie distributes hand-crocheted flower pens, mosaic portraits made from “the crushed bottles of your favorite diet soda,” and personalized, 5,000-word essays explaining why she loves each of her friends. It’s just “ladies celebrating ladies,” she says. The breakfast concludes with Leslie and her friends gathering around as Leslie’s mother tells the story of how she met a former lover, a story that makes Leslie salivate like a feral dog in heat.
Yes, I know that Parks and Rec is a satirical mockumentary not meant to be taken seriously. That’s why it’s all the more alarming that Galentine’s Day has become a real-life alt-holiday for women who aren’t in relationships, or women who are in relationships but feel their friendships cannot exist on the same day as their romantic entanglements, or women who wish to raise a pink bubbly glass to the demise of a romance they used to cherish.
On this day, women don lipstick ranging from Ballet Slipper pink to Not Your Baby red and swarm the city, all the cities (and the towns, townships, and villages), armed with pink mylar balloons and red frosted cookies, wrongly believing they are celebrating female friendship. But Galentine’s Day observers have unknowingly become the butt of the joke by committing the cardinal sin of comedy: confusing satire as something literal.
To start, altering the word from Valentine to Galentine, (not to be confused with galantine, a delectable dish of boned stuffed meat, wrapped in its skin and poached before being pressed into a cylinder and served cold with its own meat-jelly) to indicate “Girl-Valentine” is just plain silly. Using that logic, in a Galentine’s Day world, women are not doctors, they are lady doctors; women are not writers, they are lady writers; and, a favorite of the current zeitgeist, women are not bosses, they are girlbosses. I urge you to consider: Would you celebrate St. Galtrick’s Day? Galloween? Galbor Day? Galdependence Day? The list goes on and only grows in its offensiveness.
Still, every year we choose to reverse-scarlet letter ourselves with a big capital G where there should be a V. We are telling ourselves (and, through over-posed photos posted to Instagram, the world) that because we don’t have romantic partners, we can’t feel the sort of intimacy or emotional fulfillment that Valentine’s Day sets out to honor.
Galentine’s Day is “othering” female friendship and relegating it to the kid’s table, denouncing it as child’s play. The occasion says friendship can’t hold a candle (or a heart-shaped chocolate) to any given romantic dalliance, no matter the seriousness, length of time invested, or the general affinity two people possess for one another. When your best friend wishes you a happy Galentine’s Day, she is effectively minimizing your 10-year friendship to bolster the two-month stint she’s spent with a guy she met in a Costco parking lot. What sense is there in that?
I am no humorless scrooge. I understand that on Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day is meant to be absurd. The whole on-screen affair is funny in its frivolity. But it is not to be replicated, lest we contaminate the comedy. The fictional holiday loses its verve more and more each year women appropriate it.
Just once in my adult life, I would like to experience Valentine’s Day without the Galentine gimmick. I don’t want a day-before breakfast, I want a day-of dinner; I want to join my dearest friends in a 5-star restaurant gathered around a make-shift table for six where there are otherwise only tables for two; I want to wake up on February 13th for the first time in 13 years without visions of Leslie’s blond curls and perfectly plucked 2010 eyebrows dancing in my head.
I certainly don’t advocate for institutional censorship, but I do urge my fellow TV watchers to opt out of watching the infamous Parks and Rec episode this year in protest. Better yet, hide indoors for the entirety of Feb. 13th and emerge with exaltation on the one and only Valentine’s Day. Or, if you must watch Season 2 Episode 16, at least take it with a grain of pink Himalayan salt.
Will you be celebrating Galentine’s Day this year? Let us know in the comments.