By Mona Malacane
Ah elementary school Valentine’s Day … No matter how unpopular you were, you were guaranteed at least 10 generic cards, probably with Wile E. Coyote or Garfield saying some cheesy friendship-love quote, and a box of Sweethearts. And then you go through the romantically tumultuous middle school and high school, where your popularity (and self-esteem) is pretty much measured by how many anonymous roses you receive. Now fast forward to graduate school. Sadly, none of the professors are going to pause class to give us 15 minutes to deliver candy-grams to each other’s construction paper V-day mailboxes, nor are they going to decorate the hallway billboards.
But if you visited the grad lab on Friday, fully expecting to walk into the same stark-ish table and ever-evolving white board mural, you may have felt transported back to those elementary school days, thanks to Michelle Funk – our resident cupid.
“I love that we have a holiday reserved for love – just love. Not love for a country or love for God or love for a specific family member, but the act and feeling of love itself. That’s just so damn cool to me. And it’s been going on for centuries, since the (admittedly bloodier and ‘rapier’) traditions of pagan civilizations. It wasn’t always about fertility and procreation, though. It was about emotional connection.”
If you know Michelle at all, you have to admit you’re a little surprised. (You know I love you Michelle, but I wouldn’t exactly call you very emotive.) But that’s one of the reasons why she gets excited about Valentine’s day. “My enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day is admittedly a little manufactured because I had a very self-aware moment where I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be hilarious for my character if I suddenly got way too into Valentine’s Day?’ I think people see me as cynical and moody sometimes, so it’s always fun to see people’s reaction to finding out I’m a huge V-Day fan. Maybe it started out manufactured, but I can assure you that the enthusiasm is REAL now!”
She also loves Valentine’s Day because she arguably would not even be alive if it were not for the holiday. “[My parents] were both the leaders of two different singles’ groups in St. Louis, and they had a phone conversation to organize a Valentine’s Day dance between their groups. They wound up staying on the phone talking to each other all night! So really, I wouldn’t be here without Valentine’s Day. It’s like a pre-birthday.”
Michelle even has love and empathy for V-day cynics who think the holiday is manufactured. “I think people really hate on Valentine’s Day a little too hard, and I do get it. It’s rough to have a day devoted to love if you’re going through a tough time in your romantic life,” she explains. “Some people call it a shallow holiday because it’s pushed on us by marketers to ‘get our money’ by buying cards and flowers and making expensive dinner reservations. Still, without this Hallmark Holiday, I wouldn’t be here. And I try to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a way that gives attention to all types of love – platonic, romantic, etc … I think I fall in love with everyone I meet, but that love manifests itself in different ways – friendship, dating, and even a weird appreciation for the villains in my life.”
In addition to spreading the love in the grad lab, Michelle also set up one of her neighbors on a blind Valentine’s Day date this year. All she needs is a quiver of heart-tipped arrows and a few lessons from Whitney and she could be Cupid.