Valentine’s Day is a celebration when we express our love, paint the town red, dress up and look forward to a romantic dinner with a partner, if we have one. However, this year as the pandemic still looms, the impulse is to lay this day of love at winter’s cold and viral doorstep in the spirit of social distancing.
But not so fast. Living through the pandemic is disheartening, like an arrow shot through the heart. However, we’ve decided now is the perfect time to show our love safely and virtually with our gal pals in a Galentine’s Day celebration, a phrase used by Eudene Harry, M.D.* She’s a medical lifestyle expert with more than 20 years of experience in both emergency medicine and holistic integrative medicine, who says, “The pandemic has brought with it a new degree of isolation for many and sometimes holidays like Valentine’s day can be feel even more isolated for some. This is when a ‘Galentine’ girlfriend can be invaluable for our health and well-being.”
Dr. Harry points out why gal pals are so important, especially during the pandemic and on this special day of love. “We all need to feel a sense of belonging, purpose, support and know that someone believes in us. No one does this better than someone who understands our base challenges being a fellow woman.”
Here are some of the benefits of friendship, according to Dr. Harry:
- Longer life with less chronic illness. Women with early- stage breast cancer are four times less likely to die if they had a good group of friends;
- Strong social ties because they:
- Boost happiness and sense of purpose, belonging;
- Reduce the risk of depression, high blood pressure (lack of friendship doubles the risk of high blood pressure) and dementia;
- Affect your health in a positive way that is twice as strong as exercise;
- Help you deal with stress. Reduce stress hormone levels;
- Encourage and support positive changes;
- Improve self-confidence and self-worth.
In nurturing our female relationships on Galentine’s day or any day, Dr. Harry suggests:
- Pick up the phone and just catch up on each other’s life. Most friends love it when you call just to say hi. Call it a temperature check in to see how you’re doing.
- Together you might reminisce about things you have done, plan what your next big trip is going to be or simply play that “cozy (Danish) conversation game,” Hygge. In fact, she says, “I received it for the holidays and loved it. It is all about feeling connected in a time when physical connection is limited.”
- Send a special gift that you know will mean something to your friend. Maybe it is a snow globe with a scene of your last girlfriend trip or maybe it’s card that lets her know how much her friendship means to you. Gifts and gestures are not limited to romance.
This year Barbara plans to spend her Galentine’s day touching base by calling several gal pals who are single; they live in different parts of the country. She’s also made a list of possible classes each might want to take with her on the travel/cultural site contexttravel.com. She has already taken two classes—one on Southern Italian cooking and one on the art of Cezanne and Van Gogh in the South of France. She’s taking a third about portraits with a friend in the future and has found such classes offer a break in her work routine and good information. She’s also remaking her cinnamon baked doughnuts that she plans to drop off at a gal friend’s home.
Margaret started her Galentine day weeks ago in a phone chat by walking her daughter and partner through the steps of prepping and making a roast chicken. She expanded the menu. What about a salad tossed with a Roasted Red Pepper and Onion Vinaigrette? As an accompaniment, why not whip up some popovers (recipe below) served with good butter and a high-quality strawberry jam? Finale: A bowl of fresh raspberries and cream.
For herself, Margaret plans to Zoom with close friends just to gab and gossip and will then prepare for herself eggplant parmesan with a homemade red sauce. A friend suggested that she try making it in an air fryer without oil. It eliminates the soggy version of this Italian favorite. For dessert, she will make sugar cookies in heart shapes decorated with red and pink sprinkles to leave at the front doors of some neighbors and family members in New York City.
Whatever your V- or G-Day plans, whether in person or virtual, uncork a bottle of a spicy, smooth or earthy red wine such as a Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinot Noir or a sparkling rose that’s so apropos for this special day.
A dozen other safe ways to connect with your besties this V/G-Day through technology or to do a little self-love are:
- If you cannot physically travel, try to do so with your meal virtually. “We are lucky to be able to explore continents at the table,” says Hannah Beech in a New York Times piece (Jan. 2, 2021), “Conjuring Up the World Through the Sense of Taste.” Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day so make each dish have something in it that’s “red.” For example, try a taste of Italy with tomatoes as the centerpiece of affection, perhaps, a bruschetta. Just before a tomato bursts its skin it is at its best, like the early days of a love affair. Try a caprese salad with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil, chicken parmesan with a homemade red sauce and, for dessert, big red strawberries with mascarpone-infused whipped cream or dipped in melted dark chocolate.
- Work on yourself. A little self-love. Go online and order some new red blush or an expensive bright red lipstick to wear when you pop on the screen to share virtual hugs and kisses as well as culinary tips with your girlfriends. Don’t rule out polish for your fingertips or toes.
- Start a new exercise workout. Barbara has been trying out virtual exercise classes, which she doesn’t like as much as a real in-person class, but which suffices on days when she finds it too cold to walk outside. She’s done yoga, pilates and dance ones and plans to keep going until she feels safe going to her gym again.
- Take a cooking class virtually that relates to the holiday theme, so you might bake a heart-shaped red velvet cake or any red cookies. Or set up a video chat with friends and have a little kitchen competition with extra credit for anything heart shaped. This less structured and casual virtual prep and eat will stir up some good conversation and stories as well. Harry suggests even planning a special Galentine preselected meal with wine and then meeting on a video platform such as Zoom to cook the meal “together.”
- If you have a willing girlfriend, both of you might take an online dance class together. Swing along together, or just turn on the music and dance together to your favorite rock or show tunes.
- Sing your heart out. Consider the tune, “My Funny Valentine” with virtual karaoke. Everyone gets to select their favorite V-Day tune and belt it out. There are online YouTube versions of Valentine’s Day karaoke.
- Have a romcom movie binge. Re-watch “Love Actually,” as one friend of Margaret’s is doing, or rerun the movie versions of “Pride and Prejudice” or “The Notebook,” “You’ve Got Mail” remains Barbara’s all-time favorite, especially that meet-up in Central Park.
- Declutter and reminisce. It doesn’t sound terribly romantic or fun but going through old photos and scrapbooks and sharing the findings can be a joyful pastime with friends. Barbara found an old scrapbook from high school with images of Sweet 16s of long ago, along with invitations to parties, thank you notes and so on. She is still friends with several from that period and plans to share the findings with them.
- Transform your bathroom into a spa just for you. Take a long luxurious bath using the best oils and bubbles. Turn down the lights but add some soft candlelight with a candle with a nice fragrance for a peaceful Zen setting. Bring out your fluffiest towels.
- Get away. “Bike” to another country virtually on a Peloton with virtual routes, if you have one. You can mountain bike in the Moab or ride a Tour de France, all from the comfort of your home. If you are more sedentary, pick up a travel book or a novel that takes place in a favorite city such as Paris with “The Paris Wife,” “A Room with a View” set in Italy and England, or “The Mapmaker’s Wife” set in the Amazon. Then dial up the girls and discuss.
- Game it. Schedule a Zoom and join members together for a word or card game, a movie marathon or to just hang out.
- Plan your next “real” trip. Barbara is doing so by making her list of 10 destinations where she wants to travel once it’s safe. She likes asking her gal pals where they’ve been or where they’re going to help her decide and have good conversation time with her friends. Top on Barbara’s list is Newfoundland since she loved the books and movies about Anne of Green Gables, including the last version, “Anne with an E.” She also hopes to venture to a painting retreat with a painting pal. Where will the new safer year take you?
Before the holiday is over, remember to throw some kisses on screen to your nearest and dearest gal pals knowing that soon you’ll be able to do so in person post vaccination and look forward to a happier, healthier future together. Many of those you toast are the ones who helped you get through these last 11 very tough months. Cheers, l’chaim and lots of love.
Perfect Everytime Popovers
3 tablespoons of melted butter, divided
1 cup of milk or half and half, warmed for 30 seconds in the microwave
1 cup all-purpose flour (or use bread flour to make the popovers rise even higher)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Using a pastry brush, coat eight muffin cups with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.
Put the tin in the oven for five minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the eggs in a blender until light yellow.
Add the warmed milk and blend.
Add the flour, salt and remaining melted butter and blend until smooth.
Pour the batter into the warmed muffin tin and return it to the oven to bake until golden, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve warm.
*Dr. Eudene Harry has been featured in and is a regular contributor to Forbes, Elite Daily, Bustle, Woman’s Day and Thrive Global. She continues to appear on television nationwide on HLN, Fox, ABC, and NBC.