Last week, a large percentage of the population celebrated the equally loved and despised holiday of love. Valentine’s Day is, as you know, the subject of both long anticipation and sharp ridicule, depending entirely on who you ask. I am not one of the people who endlessly fumes about the ridiculousness of the day, mostly because it’s all I know: I’ve made it through a whole 21 of them very single and relatively unscathed. I can’t pretend, though, that the red and pink mountain of decor that erupts upon me and other innocent bystanders at every attempt to walk into a grocery store for the month of January…doesn’t get a little old. This year, the fact that I had a performance on Valentine’s Day managed to mildly distract me from my lifelong lack of a significant other. The fact that 14 people within our 32-person ballet company are dating or married to each other did not.
So, despite my claims as a neutral party in this roses-are-red debate, I was more than happy to pause and watch (and maybe smirk) last weekend as the Target employees drained the rose tones from the card aisle until a blank white slate was left, soon to be populated by leprechauns and redheads. I had been on my way to the cosmetics when the alarming lack of vibrant celebration stopped me instantly–you know something is wrong when anything in Target can be described as understated. The first row of what’s usually greeting cards was completely empty. Not a single envelope or sign of color was left, just employees weaving around the bare bones of the shelves that I now know are a pure white. It was so foreign a sight that I instinctively found myself looking away initially: seeing Target between displays feels like walking in on someone using the bathroom or overhearing a secret you weren’t meant to know. It’s just embarrassing for both parties. Next, I experienced a mild existential crisis: if Target displays don’t actually magically change overnight from one holiday to the next, then what else in life can’t I trust?? It was shocking, to say the least. After expelling the fears creeping into my psyche, I regained my bearings, gripped my basket a little tighter, and eventually concluded that this rare indecency for Target was, in fact, a small victory for “all the single ladies.” So I watched.
As someone not in a relationship, it’s always kind of nice to be on the other side of Valentine’s Day, the half-priced chocolate, concave heart balloon side. I also can’t pretend, though, that the holiday has ever been anything but good to me. I mean, I grew up receiving annual candy from my parents and grandparents (a practice that assuredly would have declined had I offered a boyfriend to lighten the load), and I’ll be a forever participant in Galentine’s Day. One of my good friends, Sam, brought me and our friend Grace chocolate flowers this year. I had breakfast and exchanged cards with my friend JoAnna. I even received second-hand Valentine’s benefits when my roommate Allie built a massive fort in our living room for a movie night with her fiancé, leaving us all with a blanket oasis to inhabit for the next week. I’m far from being able to say that I am in any way oppressed by the happenings of February 14th. And for that, I’m very thankful.
Being single should be nothing more than a descriptive detail about a person. Unfortunately, in a culture of overbearing rom-coms and dating apps and matchmaking television, it’s often made out to be a flaw. I walk through endlessly shifting phases of contentedness as it relates to my relationship status: I’ll go a few days with the concept of dating on the very bottom of my prioritized thoughts, and the next I’ll be whining about it seeming like everyone has a boyfriend except me. It’s normal, I think, to experience this multi-sided relationship with, well, not being in a relationship. For anyone that needs to hear this: it’s ok. But I also need to remind you all, as many times as you’ve heard it in the past, that whether or not you have someone to take to the couples event has absolutely ZERO affect on your worth. My heart breaks for those who feel the need to validate themselves by dating–of all the reasons to be with someone, that is NOT one of them. Please know how loved and important you are just for being yourself.
Being single is perfectly great. Being in a relationship is pretty cool, too (so I’ve been told). As the last remains of this Valentine’s Day fade, celebrate your life partners; but celebrate the moms and cousins and besties, too. Enjoy that assorted chocolate box whether it was from your boyfriend or your grandma (I may or may not be speaking from experience). Finally, celebrate you: after all, you were “fearfully and wonderfully made” long before you knew what going on a date was.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Hibiscus Shortbread with Blackberry Frosting (V)
- 1 cup vegan butter, room temperature
- ⅔ cup sugar (vegan if desired)
- 4 hibiscus tea bags
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup shortening
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar (vegan if desired)
- 6 TBSP fresh blackberry puree (seeds strained), plus more if desired **see option below
- Pinch of salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and cream on medium speed until smooth.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and contents of tea bags. ***If your tea isn’t already in very small pieces, blitz about a cup of the flour with the contents of the tea bags in a food processor or Nutribullet until finely ground. Then, add it back to the flour bowl.
- Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, mixing between each addition. When you’ve added it all, work the dough into a ball.
- Roll the dough out to about ¼ inch thickness on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper. Use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes.
- Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for about 12-14 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown.
- Allow the cookies to cook for a couple minutes on the tray, and then transfer to a cooling rack to come to room temperature before frosting.
- Place shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Begin adding the powdered sugar and blackberry puree, alternating until both are completely added.
- Add salt to taste if desired.
- Mix on medium speed until very smooth. Ice cookies when they’re completely cool, and store at room temperature
- Enjoy within a few days!
**optional: spread a thin layer of blackberry puree on cookies before frosting for a tart, colorful addition!