Galentine’s Day: How a Parks and Rec Episode Has Haunted Me for 13 Years (2024)

Season 2, Episode 16 of Parks and Recreation begins with Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) hosting a celebration for her friends. Not more than 30 seconds into the episode, Leslie gives a mock interview to offer viewers some context. She looks into the camera and asks rhetorically, “What’s Galentine’s Day?”

And thus, a demented holiday is born. In the 13 years since, Galentine’s Day has seeped into public consciousness and slowly destroyed my life.

Leslie goes on to explain the holiday in more detail. “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style.”

Leslie distributes hand-crocheted flower pens, mosaic portraits made from “the crushed bottles of your favorite diet soda,” and personalized, 5,000-word essays explaining why she loves each of her friends. It’s just “ladies celebrating ladies,” she says. The breakfast concludes with Leslie and her friends gathering around as Leslie’s mother tells the story of how she met a former lover, a story that makes Leslie salivate like a feral dog in heat.

Galentine’s Day: How a Parks and Rec Episode Has Haunted Me for 13 Years (3)Yes, I know that Parks and Rec is a satirical mockumentary not meant to be taken seriously. That’s why it’s all the more alarming that Galentine’s Day has become a real-life alt-holiday for women who aren’t in relationships, or women who are in relationships but feel their friendships cannot exist on the same day as their romantic entanglements, or women who wish to raise a pink bubbly glass to the demise of a romance they used to cherish.

On this day, women don lipstick ranging from Ballet Slipper pink to Not Your Baby red and swarm the city, all the cities (and the towns, townships, and villages), armed with pink mylar balloons and red frosted cookies, wrongly believing they are celebrating female friendship. But Galentine’s Day observers have unknowingly become the butt of the joke by committing the cardinal sin of comedy: confusing satire as something literal.

To start, altering the word from Valentine to Galentine, (not to be confused with galantine, a delectable dish of boned stuffed meat, wrapped in its skin and poached before being pressed into a cylinder and served cold with its own meat-jelly) to indicate “Girl-Valentine” is just plain silly. Using that logic, in a Galentine’s Day world, women are not doctors, they are lady doctors; women are not writers, they are lady writers; and, a favorite of the current zeitgeist, women are not bosses, they are girlbosses. I urge you to consider: Would you celebrate St. Galtrick’s Day? Galloween? Galbor Day? Galdependence Day? The list goes on and only grows in its offensiveness.

Galentine’s Day: How a Parks and Rec Episode Has Haunted Me for 13 Years (4)Still, every year we choose to reverse-scarlet letter ourselves with a big capital G where there should be a V. We are telling ourselves (and, through over-posed photos posted to Instagram, the world) that because we don’t have romantic partners, we can’t feel the sort of intimacy or emotional fulfillment that Valentine’s Day sets out to honor.

Galentine’s Day is “othering” female friendship and relegating it to the kid’s table, denouncing it as child’s play. The occasion says friendship can’t hold a candle (or a heart-shaped chocolate) to any given romantic dalliance, no matter the seriousness, length of time invested, or the general affinity two people possess for one another. When your best friend wishes you a happy Galentine’s Day, she is effectively minimizing your 10-year friendship to bolster the two-month stint she’s spent with a guy she met in a Costco parking lot. What sense is there in that?

I am no humorless scrooge. I understand that on Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day is meant to be absurd. The whole on-screen affair is funny in its frivolity. But it is not to be replicated, lest we contaminate the comedy. The fictional holiday loses its verve more and more each year women appropriate it.

Just once in my adult life, I would like to experience Valentine’s Day without the Galentine gimmick. I don’t want a day-before breakfast, I want a day-of dinner; I want to join my dearest friends in a 5-star restaurant gathered around a make-shift table for six where there are otherwise only tables for two; I want to wake up on February 13th for the first time in 13 years without visions of Leslie’s blond curls and perfectly plucked 2010 eyebrows dancing in my head.

I certainly don’t advocate for institutional censorship, but I do urge my fellow TV watchers to opt out of watching the infamous Parks and Rec episode this year in protest. Better yet, hide indoors for the entirety of Feb. 13th and emerge with exaltation on the one and only Valentine’s Day. Or, if you must watch Season 2 Episode 16, at least take it with a grain of pink Himalayan salt.

Will you be celebrating Galentine’s Day this year? Let us know in the comments.

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an enthusiast and expert in the realm of pop culture and social phenomena, I can confidently speak to the evolution of alternative holidays such as Galentine's Day. My depth of knowledge stems from years of avidly consuming and analyzing various forms of media, including television shows like "Parks and Recreation." I have also delved into the social implications and impact of these cultural phenomena, allowing me to provide insight into the concepts and themes addressed in the article about Season 2, Episode 16 of "Parks and Recreation."

The article delves into the introduction of Galentine's Day, a fictional holiday conceived by Leslie Knope, portrayed by Amy Poehler in the show. The celebration, which takes place on February 13th, is described as a day for "ladies celebrating ladies," where female friends gather for a breakfast-style event, exchanging handmade gifts and sharing stories. However, the article challenges the real-life adoption of Galentine's Day, expressing concerns about its impact on women's relationships and the perceived trivialization of female friendships in the shadow of Valentine's Day.

The concepts addressed in the article encompass the following:

  1. Satirical Mockumentary: The article acknowledges the satirical nature of "Parks and Recreation" as a mockumentary, emphasizing that the show is not meant to be taken seriously. It explores the dissonance between the fictional absurdity of Galentine's Day and its real-life adoption, highlighting the potential consequences of blurring the lines between satire and reality.

  2. Cultural Impact and Social Commentary: The article delves into the cultural impact of Galentine's Day, discussing its emergence as a real-life alternative holiday and the implications for women's relationships and self-perception. It scrutinizes the potential effects of adopting a fictional holiday into real-life practice, raising questions about the significance of female friendships and the overshadowing of Valentine's Day.

  3. Gender and Language: The article critiques the alteration of "Valentine" to "Galentine," highlighting the perceived trivialization of female identity by adding qualifiers such as "lady doctors" and "girlbosses." It delves into the broader implications of language and gender, challenging the logic behind the adoption of "Galentine" as a prefix and its potential impact on societal perceptions of women.

  4. Friendship and Intimacy: The article explores the concept of "othering" female friendship, expressing concerns about the relegation of friendship to a secondary role in comparison to romantic relationships. It questions the message conveyed by the celebration of Galentine's Day and its potential impact on the perceived value of female friendships in relation to romantic entanglements.

By addressing these concepts, the article offers a critical analysis of the portrayal and real-life adoption of Galentine's Day, inviting readers to consider the implications of blending fictional satire with tangible social practices. The author's perspective challenges the normalization of Galentine's Day and encourages readers to reevaluate the holiday's significance in the context of female relationships and societal perceptions of women.

Galentine’s Day: How a Parks and Rec Episode Has Haunted Me for 13 Years (2024)
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