February 14 is always a confusing day for the single and coupled-off alike. Valentine’s day. A fearful day for some, and for others, a day that promises flowers and chocolates. Whether it's deciding how much money to spend on friends and lovers, trying to walk the line between corny and cute, finding the right restaurant reservation or the appropriate pillow to cry into, the whole day can leach the love and mental energy right out of you! And yet, as a strong independent woman I still feel compelled to walk around smiling.
That’s because this year brought new excitement on the fourteenth of February: Ash Wednesday. It’s the day that marks the beginning of Lent. For all of you who haven’t gone to Catholic school since you could walk, that’s why everyone’s foreheads looked a little dirty earlier this week. Ash Wednesday also comes with its fair share of rules, but at least the Catholic Church was considerate enough to write down this guidance and not leave us with endless questions on how to act on Valentine’s Day.
On Ash Wednesday, interpreting the rules of fasting can be tricky. Two small meals and one big one is straightforward enough, as is the ban on meat, but what about those tricky half-food-half-drink items? Does a milkshake from Addie’s break the fast? What about guzzling a twelve pack of coconut La Croixs? Does that count (#AskingForAFriend)? Not to mention that the only thing Lower was serving was steak and cheese sandwiches and BBQ. Now, take all the Ash Wednesday concerns, cross them with the usual Valentine’s Day lack of direction, and set it on a Jesuit campus, and well, Houston, we’ve got problem—or so I thought.
With the approaching Holy Day and holiday, I was nervous. First of all, the best of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday (Galentine’s Day and Fat Tuesday) were subsumed into one. A celebration of female friendships and an all-out eat fest (which I say I'll diet after) are characteristically the same. That said, I would really have liked two separate opportunities to eat my weight in breakfast food with my favorite girls; however, thanks to an unfortunate collision of liturgical and secular calendar this year, I only got one.
A second reason for my ever growing nerves was when it came to the Valentine’s/Ash Wednesday mashup, I didn’t know how the community would react. Would some religious zealots actually try to enforce the rule banning co-habitation on campus? Would every Catholic kiss taste like catfish? And would chocolate be well received or treated as evil temptation in light of the fast? My fears were deep-seated, but I resolved to be brave.
By the end of Wednesday, I was a bit surprised that nothing had gone wrong. My chocolates gifted to roommates were appreciated, and the ashes on my forehead served as a clever coverup for my sad singleness. Mostly, it just felt like Wednesday, and for that I thanked God.