How many of us are actually excited for Valentine’s Day? The hyper-commercialized holiday of cheap paper cards and red flowers with ribbons. The holiday of “love.” The only reason I ask is because for many this is a great day to get away with their significant others to celebrate their flourishing romance. But what about the millions of single Americans? Everybody at least once in their life has had to figure out how to avoid, endure, or try to embrace Valentine’s Day as a single adult, but it is undoubtedly a difficult feat when the red balloons are littering the streets and every restaurant seems to be as dim as a candle-lit table. Maybe you’ve even been asked the most irremediable request to babysit your relatives’ kids as they know you aren’t going anywhere on the year’s biggest night of love.
But what really defines love? Is it as simple and one-sided as it’s trademarked on this saturated celebration? To really answer we’re going to go all the way back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Beginning with Greek philosopher Plato, the idea of love gained a new perspective. Taking the Greek term Eros, which was simply sexual attraction, Plato established that Eros was not just attraction based on the outside of an individual, but the inside as well. And from this, Platonic love came to be. Plato’s student, Aristotle, further developed Plato’s theory of love into a new category titled Philia, which argues that love does not even need to have attraction or passion, but can be purely based on genuine friendship. And from these Greek philosophers, Platonic love was sorted into eight different subcategories. So before you give up on V-Day, let’s see how much love you truly have to celebrate this season.
1. EROS: The first category, of course, is Eros, named after the Greek God of Love who was later renamed Cupid. Eros, funny enough, was born from the god Chaos in original Greek mythology, and in other myths was the son of the goddess of love Aphrodite. The original meaning of Eros (Vulgar Eros) refers to intense passion and sexual desire as denoted by the modern term “erotic.” But Plato redefined this definition by explaining that Eros transcends traditional lust and superficial attraction and expressed that the true desire should be towards the character and inner beauty of a person (Divine Eros). This can lead to a spiritual connection that surpasses all physical ones. So for those of you out looking for a good night on Valentine’s Day with your partner, remember that you should really be out celebrating how much you love the other for what lies underneath the beauty.
2. PHILIA: Aristotle took his predecessor’s definition of Platonic love and made the boundaries even more concrete. Philia is a complete dispassionate bond and a pure appreciation of friendship, and just like that, Aristotle birthed “the friend zone.” But he goes on to explain that this sort of love is derived from a desire that is met by both parties–whether it be the same values or taste in music, both people are fulfilled in some way due to this friendship. In this form, love is a sort of business transaction: Both parties are satisfied and freely give their affection as a result. So who says you need a partner to celebrate V-day? Find your friends and show them exactly why you love them! And if you’re that poor person who was looking for an Eros relationship at the end of the night and was met with a Philia one, at least they’re still saying they love you…sort of?
3. AGAPE: Agape is the selfless and unconditional love towards all mankind. Kind of hard to put into practice, but it comes from the Greco-Christian term referring to the love of God to man and man to God. Agape aligns with the New Testament’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Religious or not, this form of love requires giving out your affection to everyone and anyone as a sort of infinite inner love for life. Very similar to the Buddhist idea of “metta” or universal love and kindness, Agape is definitely something to be celebrated on Valentine’s Day. And maybe instead of focusing on that special one, or none, try and find ways to show everyone around you that they are loved.
4. STORGE: From these three base definitions, the Greeks decided on even more ways to express their love. Storge, or familial love, comes from the natural and instinctive love that parents and children have towards each other–or really the desire that any mammal has to protect and care for their offspring. This bond is always there but sometimes can become challenged and weaker as children gain experience and grow apart from their parents in certain beliefs and desires. So cherish your love with your parents, siblings, or children on this day of love but be sure not to bring up religion or Donald Trump at the dinner table.
5. PRAGMA: This one goes out to those celebrating Valentine’s Day for the __th time (fill in that number with at least two digits.) Pragma is all about an enduring love that has aged, matured, and definitely lost a little bit of that Eros luster. But the beauty of Pragma is that as the sexual desire takes a hike, it is replaced by shared goals, personal qualities, and a real want to never lose the other person. In some ways, this is one of the noblest of loves. Many times love, whether it be with a partner or a friend, comes and goes so quickly and is so fragile, but Pragma is that rare love you have for someone who would never do anything to jeopardize your relationship. It’s that love that always lasts. Find that person or people and let them know that you yourself have so much invested and would do anything for them, Valentine’s Day or any of the other 364 days.
6. LUDUS: For those celebrating their first Valentine’s Day as a new couple, Ludus, which means ‘play’, might be what you’re feeling. Eros in a very passionate way, Ludus is all about the playful butterflies young lovers get when they look at each other. They might not be totally committed to the other, but are definitely feeling the heat of the moment. Try not to get too caught up in this kind of love because it’s all about the play, the flirtation and the idea of the conquest, but can end quickly when either party gets Ludus confused with Eros. But if you’re looking for a “successful” Valentine’s Day, acknowledge it for fun’s sake and chase it fast before it flees!
7. MANIA: Going on a first date for Valentine’s Day? Be careful not to get in or get trapped in Mania love! When Eros and Ludus come crashing together, Mania seems to emerge. Mania is the obsessive and crazy love that comes from someone who becomes too invested too quickly because of initial attraction or poor self-love and neediness. This love is never good and leads to an all-consuming interest that usually ends in catastrophe. Make sure you have good self-esteem and get to know your date very well so we don’t get a remake of the 1993 movie “So I Married an Axe Murderer!”
8. PHILAUTIA: Lastly, and arguably the most important type of love, is Philautia: the purest and healthiest form of self-love. Often Philautia is overlooked as other relationships form and the insanity of daily life puts you down and distracts you from your individual needs and well-being. But Philautia is honestly the most important form of love because, without it, the six other forms (excluding Mania) would be impossible. As renowned American drag performer RuPaul famously says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
So for all of you single and even all you committed people out there, don’t forget that V-day is truly about you. Take this day to celebrate the love and respect you have for yourself and appreciate who you are without everyone else around you. Don’t let the tacky ads make you forget that love truly comes from within the individual before it can be given to anyone else. And this Valentine’s Day, make sure you really know what kind of love you should be celebrating.