Personal, powerful, palatable: Mick Robertson rediscovers our fondness for food

U of T student premieres her short film Eating is a Very Tender Thing at TIFF Next Wave

Personal, powerful, palatable: Mick Robertson rediscovers our fondness for food

Michaela Robertson’s favourite time to eat is in the middle of the night. She likes to stand with the fridge open and about four different containers of leftovers strewn around her. She told me, with a chuckle in her voice, that she gets this from her father.

Eating is a very tender thing. It’s how we stay connected to our bodies, and, often, how we tell other people that we love them. That’s exactly what Robertson set out to document, with cinematographer Isaac Roberts and a set of DV camcorders.

As a part of the Battle of the Scores competition, an event that opened the TIFF Next Wave Festival, three filmmakers each created a silent film. Following this, six musicians performed original scores inspired by these films live at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on February 14.

Robertson’s three-minute silent film depicts her close family and friends eating their favourite foods, how and where they like to eat them. “The idea was to make it a love letter to eating,” she told me in a Skype interview — a fittingly grainy form of communication for talking about Robertson’s film, which she designed to look like a wedding video. Robertson was sitting in front of her childhood bunk beds with a smile on her face as she told me about all of the sparkling ideas that had shaped her project. 

The Varsity: Can you tell me a little bit about your film?

Micaela Robertson: My project is called Eating is a Very Tender Thing, and it was inspired by this passage from a play called Concord Floral by Jordan Tannahill, in which there’s this girl who talks about how she’s always felt like an outsider. And so she’s talking about how, at the cafeteria, she always felt comfortable, because in her mind, what she says is, “eating is a very tender thing. When we were apes we would all stand around and guard each other as we ate, because it’s the time when we’re most vulnerable,” and so I always really liked that. 

And so, when the opportunity came around, when I saw the posting for [the festival], I got excited at the prospect of being able to buy all of these people I cared about a meal, and then was hoping that I would be able to capture them eating the way that they love to eat, on camera, capturing them eating as comfortably as possible. And so, basically what my film ended up being is three minutes of over a dozen people eating some of their favourite meals the way that they love to eat them the most.

TV: If the film as a whole was a type of food, what would it be? 

MR: There’s one shot in it of a friend of mine eating a full brunch, but in bed. He’s eating takeout brunch, so it’s way too much to be eating while you’re sitting in bed, but he’s in bed in his pajamas. That’s the tone of the film. Or, honestly, noodles because [that’s] the image that I was really keen on trying to get at some point in the film. When I pitched it to TIFF Next Wave and Insomniac [Film Festival], I was like, “I want to have a film that has a shot of a big noodle going into someone’s mouth and slapping their mouth. I need some messy noodle eating.” I feel like messy noodle eating maybe encapsulates the film. 

TV: It sounds like there’s a lot of warmth in it, but there’s also a sort of a carefree aspect to it. Is that what you mean by the messy noodles? 

MR: The cinematographer for the film — his name is Isaac Roberts — used these old DV camcorders to shoot the entirety of the film, which gives it this feeling of [looking] almost like a wedding video. It looks sort of romantic in the way that it looks like it maybe wasn’t necessarily meant to be produced and shown at TIFF. It looks like it was meant to be shown on a TV screen to other loved ones. So, I think that that’s where the messiness comes in, because it’s shot in standard definition, which is so messy compared to the glory of HD. But it’s just the right tone for this film. It wouldn’t have worked, I think, if it was shot on a DSLR or anything like that.

TV: Would you describe your relationship with food as something that’s a bit romantic?

MR: This year, the Battle of the Scores falls on Valentine’s Day. So, the pitch had to be about romance. And so I think that my relationship with food is probably one of the most intimate relationships I’ve ever experienced. When I engage in that relationship it is just for me; it’s for nobody else. It makes me feel all sorts of ways, and I think that because the way that I love to eat is alone in the middle of the night, the only thing that surpasses the intimacy of those moments has been finding a romantic partner who also loves to eat like I do — in the middle of the night. All of a sudden, I’m comfortable doing this super personal thing with another person. And in that regard, I think it’s a highly romantic thing. 

TV: Were there ever any discussions, undertones, or thoughts about body image involved in the film? 

MR: I was conscious of how eating is related to body image as I was dealing with the participants. And so, before the participants were officially signed onto the project, they all filled out a survey outlining very necessary things that I said I explicitly needed to know about, like food allergies. But there were also areas in the survey in which I encouraged them, that if they wanted, they could share with me things that I might need to know in order to make this more comfortable with them.

I did make a conscious decision for this film not to be about body image, but in a way, to me, that makes it about body image in a certain regard.

My eating habits are insane — like, loving to eat until you’re really, really full right before you fall asleep is not good for someone’s body image, but nevertheless, it’s something that I love to do, and I do try to eat as healthily as possible. Therefore, I wanted to enjoy the fact that I really love to eat, and make a film that was about really loving to eat. Which, in a way, because of the way that it doesn’t give time to talk about the dark underbelly of [eating], it kind of is talking about it. It’s about trying to dismiss those dark thoughts in the form of a film. Like, it’s okay to love to eat late at night. It’s okay. So, that was the idea, to make it a love letter to eating, to highlight all the positives of it, rather than focusing on the negatives.

TV: How did you try to capture the different cultural approaches to eating communally? 

MR: It was more personal. Although, the thing that ended up happening was that there ended up being a focus on eating individually. That’s not a complete throughline in the film. There’s a couple of siblings eating together, actually. So, although that sounds like there’s a lot of people who eat communally together in the film, there’s actually way more people who eat by themselves. I think I was more interested in what people do when they’re alone and enjoying eating, just because I know that I have my own rituals that I perform when I’m eating alone.

Of course, a lot of that ended up being people watching TV, which is interesting in and of itself, but I did try to encourage some of the participants who I felt particularly comfortable with to try to engage in something that wasn’t watching TV. My friend Michael for example did a series where he photographed all these people eating brunch in his apartment. Right where his kitchen table is, there’s a skylight above, so all of this natural light floods in, and so for him, we kind of did this artificial thing where we got him to sit where his participants would have sat, and he just kind of sat and ate quietly.

With regard to cultural aspects of eating, communally or non-communally, that was the goal of the survey, to make it so that if people wanted to include culturally specific rituals around food or culturally specific food, they could, but that they also didn’t feel like they had to perform that for me. The goal was to acknowledge that food and culture go hand in hand, but the ultimate goal was for the participants to feel comfortable, and to feel seen as they appear most normally, or be seen as they would most typically be, or would want to be seen. And I really hope that everyone felt comfortable with that.

TV: There’s a growing culture of watching Netflix while you eat, or getting home late from a long day of work and eating. It’s sort of the ritual and system that we’ve built up, as opposed to some cultures in which it’s extremely important that you eat together. So, how did you diversify the film in terms of cultural expectations and individual behaviour?

MR: I tried to make sure that the age range was wide in the film. That being said, it ended up largely being people who are in their twenties. However, I think there’s something to be said about how people in their twenties are most often alone, because you’re not living necessarily with your family anymore, and you also might not have your own family set up yet. 

So, I think there’s a lot of normalcy in the people who are in their twenties eating by themselves. There’s also a lot of them eating in bed, which I feel is very typical because apartments are small. And, you know, usually, the dining space is a communal living area, so you’d rather eat in your bed. That said, the siblings we filmed eating together — both groups of siblings were substantially younger than I am, they were all under the age of 20. So, under the age of 20, people tend to still be living at home, and therefore be eating with their siblings.

Then, with my dad, he’s captured eating alone, but we faked that one a little bit because we had to tell my family to leave him alone so we could capture him as he would normally be once we’re all in bed.

Robertson’s film highlights the importance of cultivating a love of self through meditating upon what we put in our bodies, as well as using food as a vehicle to express our feelings to others. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Treat yo self 2019 by listening to this Galentine’s Day playlist

Really, every day should be Galentine’s Day

Treat yo self 2019 by listening to this Galentine’s Day playlist

Galentine’s day? What’s that?

Brought to us by none other than the legendary Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) of Parks and Rec, Galentine’s Day is simply a day for “ladies celebrating ladies.” This unofficial holiday, on February 13, is not only dedicated to gathering your gal pals and showing them some love, but also, a day for you to celebrate what you admire most in the women around you.

So, another Galentine’s Day has come and gone, but here’s a playlist of 10 songs that I hope will help you celebrate Galentine’s Day in the fashion that suits you — because really, every day should be Galentine’s Day!

  1. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, 1967

I strongly recommend blasting this classic as soon as you hop out of bed. The feel-good vibes that the legendary and well-missed Queen of Soul produces are guaranteed to help you start Galentine’s Day the right way.

  1. “No Scrubs” by TLC, 1999

What more can I say? You can’t celebrate this special day without some TLC. We’ve all had one or two scrubs try to holla at us, so why not make your special day 10 times better by singing along to this all too relatable tune.

  1. “Can’t Hold Us Down feat. Lil’ Kim” by Christina Aguilera ,2002

This song is the definition of women’s empowerment, which is why you must listen to it this Galentine’s Day. It not only calls out the double standards faced by women in society, but also encourages all women to come together and make it known that we can’t be held down!  

  1. “BO$$” by Fifth Harmony, 2015

Just in case you forgot how badass you really are, this catchy tune is guaranteed to remind you of your worth — it’ll also get you bopping your head and tapping your feet to the beat.

  1. “Girl” by Destiny’s Child, 2005

Galentine’s Day allows us to truly appreciate the times when our girlfriends have been there for us. There’s nothing better than the comfort of your girlfriends when you’re going through a tough time, especially when you’re dealing with a heartbreak, and this song is about just that.

  1. “I Don’t Need a Man” by The Pussycat Dolls, 2005

Dating or not, this upbeat tune is a strong reminder that you don’t need a man to make you feel good or get what you want. You can do that all on your own, and you certainly don’t need to rely on someone else to make your life complete.

  1. “Formation” by Beyoncé, 2016

Cue the beat:

“Cause I slay, I slay, I slay, I slay.

All day, I slay, I slay, I slay…”

I’ll let the lyrics speak for themselves.

  1. “Feeling Myself feat. Beyoncé” by Nicki Minaj, 2014

Need a song to channel exactly how you’ll be feeling on Galentine’s Day? I advise you to look no further than this ultimate collab from two of your favourite queens! I seriously recommend playing this song as you’re entering lecture. I’m telling you, it will make you feel so damn good about yourself!  

  1. “Wannabe” by Spice Girls, 1996

We’ve all gone through the phase where we’ve aspired to be like the Spice Girls upon hearing this song. If you’re celebrating Galentine’s Day with your girls, assign your roles and channel your inner spice! If you’re celebrating Galentine’s Day alone, no worries, you can still channel your inner spice. You can have just as much fun belting out the song by yourself.

  1. “Independent Women Pt. 1” by Destiny’s Child, 2000

Rounding out this playlist is none other than the anthem of womanhood. It is your ultimate Galentine’s Day song! You might as well forget the whole playlist and listen to this one song on repeat. If you opt out of playing this song on repeat for the whole day, make sure you listen to it at least once, because you cannot have a Galentine’s Day celebration without it.

(not) Overlooked: Romantic comedies

The best genre of film, fight us xoxo The Varsity’s A&C section

(not) Overlooked: Romantic comedies

Palpable and undeniable chemistry, long witty banter, brazen declarations of love, and unlikely pairings followed by actions laced with infinite empathy are just a few of the key pieces that embody the essence of a romantic comedy to me. Characters who seem emotionally incomplete without the affections of their person of interest — a habitually regressive trope that can seem rather fluffy in our recent era of heralding self-love, which is by the way also important and its about damn time — gets me every time. As I tell all my friends while planning my weddings with every guy who has ever returned a pen that I unknowingly dropped or held a door for me for an extended time, I can’t help it — I love LOVE.

My love of the genre can be traced back to my tween years in Nigeria as a fairly socially awkward schoolgirl. Being African, but specifically Nigerian, it was, and still is, rather bizarre to not be as abrasive and unabashedly confident as every other person you come across on a daily basis. So you can imagine how I stuck out like a sore thumb with my reserved nature and tendency to only speak when I needed to — a rare phenomenon back home. Instead, I used coming-of-age romance novels and the occasional Mills & Boon-esque books lent to me by my aunt — as inappropriate as that may sound — to escape into a world of stories that only I could imagine myself in. They ranged from summer love pieces and stories of best friends who unknowingly had feelings for each other, to fantasy stories about a princess recently hiring a stable boy who somehow constantly misplaced his shirt and needed her to keep him warm. I know, I know. But I went to an all-girls high school, so what we lacked in everyday interactions, we sought elsewhere. The whole romance thing fascinated me and I craved to understand and interrogate the nuances and intricacies of love.

The romantic comedy is as important a genre as any other, including science fiction, drama, and action. But, over the years, it has been afforded less cultural legitimacy than its counterparts. Romantic comedies are regularly degraded in favour of stories that highlight more heavy-handed topics. Though these lighthearted stories are equally as important, this stigma deprives the genre’s most ardent followers of the opportunity to be as openly self-indulgent about depictions of everyday romance as, for instance, Star Wars stans. Why should we diminish our declarations of love for one genre over another when, rather, we should be able to embrace them all without shame? Romantic comedies allow their audiences to delve into stories that touch on everyday human connections and the complexities of our interactions. Though it may be considered predictable or cheesy, there is a comfort in knowing what to expect, something that real life regularly fails to give us.

Nevertheless, the current sociopolitical climate has forced us to look at our most relished romantic comedies and re-evaluate what should be considered problematic. The recent box office successes of Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Warner Bros. Pictures’ Crazy Rich Asians sent messages to Hollywood about the lack of diversity in our most adored romantic comedies and that inclusive movies can be just as successful. The audience, including myself, craves representation on-screen. I grew up watching romantic comedies that mostly featured people who didn’t look like me, and that is a problem. Love and Basketball, The Best Man, and Think Like a Man stand out as some of the few features that encapsulated Black love on screen for me.

Having matured and experienced adult romantic connections, romantic comedies mean all the more to me now. Now, they are a reflection of lived realities, more meaningful than they were in past times of preferred realities. But I am now able to embrace myself, along with my awkwardness and its complexities, and forge my own stories outside of what I see in film. Romantic comedies served as an escape for a younger me to imagine a reality outside of my immediate world, and they are still just as significant to me now.

So yet again, it’s important to recognize that romantic movies are as important as the umpteenth period drama in the cinemas every year. Love is essential and even more special because it can be redefined in so many funny ways. Dismissing the quintessential plot of two unlikely individuals falling in love with each other in spite of themselves robs you of the comforts of revelling in the most basic of human connections. And that should be considered a crime in itself.

Need a hand getting started? Here is a list of my most loved romantic comedies, in no particular order — don’t make me do what I cannot do!

Also, the ’90s had the best romantic comedies, don’t deny it!

  • When Harry Met Sally…
  • Notting Hill
  • My Best Friend’s Wedding
  • The Proposal
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Jerry Maguire
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love

How to maintain Valentine’s Day flowers

Scientific ways to care for your bouquets

How to maintain Valentine’s Day flowers

If you are lucky enough to receive a floral Valentine’s gift, then you’ll want to keep it fresh and fragrant for as long as possible. This collection of science-backed tips may help.

Stem trimming

This is a common trick, but we must be particular about it.

Stems should be cut at a 45-degree angle in order to maximize water absorption by increasing surface area. They should be trimmed underwater to prevent air bubbles from forming and blocking the passage of water through the stem ends. Furthermore, trim according to the vase: adjust the length cut off based on the depth and shape of the vase, and re-trim every time the water is changed.

Keep away from heat and dampness

Recent studies from Horticultural Science and Technology and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest that flowers have a longer vase life when in dehumidified greenhouses and cool storage. So keep flowers away from radiators, heaters, and other damp conditions, such as near glass that is prone to condensation or in bathrooms with showers and baths.

However, ensure that they don’t become dehydrated!

Always keep cut flowers in water and store them in a fridge or dark cupboard whenever they do not need to be seen. Try to avoid harsh sunlight in general; a table beside the window is preferable to the window sill itself.

Change water daily

It may seem to be a basic aspect of flower care, but it’s important nonetheless. As flowers begin to use up their water, the stems take up less, causing them to become dehydrated and their petals to wilt.

Discard used water as it can contain bacteria, which can kill or damage plants, and refill the vase with fresh water, ensuring that none of the flowers themselves are below the water line. Remove all leaves below the water line to inhibit bacterial growth.

Don’t put them by the fruit bowl

Ripening fruits release small amounts of ethylene gas, which can reduce the longevity of flowers as it acts as a growth hormone. Place them elsewhere to avoid buds blooming too early or leaves shedding.

Prune regularly

Remove dead flowers and leaves quickly to avoid bacterial growth and reduce the risk of attracting flies or other bugs, which could eat parts of the plant or otherwise cause damage.

Love beyond romance

Make Valentine’s Day about family, friends, U of T, The Varsity, and yourself

Love beyond romance

Every February 14, the capitalist cisheteropatriarchy (we’re not social justice warriors; we’re being satirical, somewhat — we promise!) calls on us to perform, or yearn for, ‘romance.’ That is, lavish expenditures and material offerings for ‘the one.’ But love is much more than romantic gestures directed toward a single target.

Spreading affection to the broader community and to oneself ought to be the goal of Valentine’s Day. So we challenge you, U of T’s student body, to give your love to something different this year.

Love your family

The rigour of studying at U of T often results in a disconnect from what really matters: family. If you live on or near campus, you likely don’t see your family for weeks at a time. For international students, this might even be months or, god forbid, years. If you’re a commuter who still lives with family, it’s likely you’re too busy at school, doing extracurriculars, or on transit to spend as much time with your folks as you should.

In some ways, this is what we all dreamt of. University was sold to us not just as a pathway to better employment, but as an escape from home, to experience independence and responsibility. And this is an important step for young adults. But homesickness is a real phenomenon for many — it doesn’t take long to miss home-cooked meals, for example.

Remember, the number one supporters of what we’re trying to achieve at U of T are those whom you consider family, whomever comes to mind with that word. On Valentine’s Day, give them a call and tell them you love them.

Love your friends

Yes, friends do exist at U of T — and no, the library doesn’t count. During your time here, you are bound to have made some acquaintances, whether through your college, classes, events, extracurriculars, or the gym.

In any case, you probably have multiple social networks that fuel your enjoyment at this university. Whether helping you with homework, listening to you vent, or discussing how problematic that one professor’s views are, you were never in it alone. Take a moment to appreciate the community around you by letting your friends know how central they are to your university experience.

Love U of T

Okay, this one is controversial. How can you possibly love U of T, or even like it? After all, this is the school whose grandeur radiates alienation until you feel like a nobody, and makes you tired from walking so much. This is the school that refuses to close its downtown campus as early as its satellite campuses, leaving commuters to suffer. And, above all, this is the school that engages in contentious policies, be it the university-mandated leave of absence policy or investments in fossil fuels.

But, by the time you leave U of T, you’ll probably feel kind of cool for having gone here. I mean, what’s not to love about those emails you get about the school being ranked number one in Canada, yet again?

In all seriousness though, going to U of T, despite all its challenges, puts you right at the heart of a buzzing metropolitan city. There’s always so much to do and somewhere to be, and you can easily hop on transit to get there. Be an explorer, and learn to love the adventures and little pockets that you didn’t know existed. And there’s a world unto itself on campus, with plenty of activities and events to experience. So take the day to love what U of T has to offer.

Love The Varsity

Obviously, at some point, we’re going to ask you to love us, your student newspaper. To be honest, we get more hate than we deserve, especially when we’re accused of being biased and having a political agenda. We’d like to tell you that what we do is actually invaluable on campus.

First of all, we keep the student body informed about what’s happening on campus. When the university or a student union does something questionable, we communicate that information to you. On the bright side, when a theatre show, sports game, or scientific discovery is really worth tuning into, we let you know. And we provide you, the students, a platform to express yourselves.

We’re always looking for writers, designers, photographers, illustrators, copy editors, and more, so join us if you’d like to make a difference in how this paper is run. And if you’re a reader who wants to know what U of T is up to, pick up a print issue on a stand near you, or hit up our website.

Our doors are always open, so drop by on February 14 to say hi.

Love yourself

No matter how much you might be struggling with school right now, or stressing over getting into graduate, medical, or law school in the future, remember that everything working out depends on you taking care of yourself.

So get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and do things that make you healthy and happy. Life is short, but university life is even shorter. So take it day by day, and make sure that moving forward doesn’t mean leaving you and your needs behind.

On Valentine’s Day, remember that love starts with loving yourself.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

Opinion: Valentine’s Day is a celebration of capitalism

Corporate greed, gendered marketing fuel billion-dollar Valentine's market

Opinion: Valentine’s Day is a celebration of capitalism

If you watch enough Hallmark movies, then you’ll come to associate chocolate, a candlelit dinner, and a couple exchanging gifts with the quintessential Valentine’s Day. If you watch the markets and the stores raising prices, however, you’ll see it for what it truly is: a celebration of capitalism.

In the US, spending on Valentine’s Day is expected to exceed $20 billion USD this year, according to the National Retail Federation. It is also the fourth most lucrative event on the retail calendar.

The average American consumer will spend approximately $162 USD on Valentine’s Day. That is about two full days of minimum wage work.

The worst part is that corporations make people in relationships feel obligated to spend more than they can afford on gifts and fancy dinners.

Compared to their southern neighbours, Canadians generally don’t spend that much, but what does seem consistent in Canada as the US is that more people want to receive Valentine’s gifts than people who are willing to spend on gifts.

According to Google Trends, one of the most popular related search queries for “valentine’s day” in Canada is “single on valentines day meme.”

That must mean something. Honestly, who doesn’t want to feel loved and appreciated?

Marketing teams know this and prey on it. In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s, advertising usually becomes more gendered and prices go up.

Take Bath & Body Works for example. Its website features a huge banner ad with the words, “She’ll love love love you forever.” The focus on women for Valentine’s Day isn’t new, especially for brands with a predominantly female consumer base.

This aligns with the belief of 81 per cent of Statista survey respondents in Canada who “believe women tend to be more spoiled on Valentine’s Day.”

Valentine’s Day hasn’t always been a marketing ploy to suck money out of your pocket. Like many holidays, Valentine’s originates from a pagan festival, Lupercalia.

The ancient Roman festival took place in mid-February to celebrate the coming of spring. A ritual called for priests, known as Luperci, to sacrifice goats and a dog, then wipe blood off their foreheads with milk-soaked wool and laugh. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but the festival was supposed to make women fertile.

In later years, Pope Gelasius I replaced it with St. Valentine’s Day in honour of Saint Valentine, a priest who was martyred for marrying couples despite Emperor Claudius II’s orders. The truth of this story is unknown and there are many different variations, but, either way, for a holiday about love, its beginning is heavily rooted in death.

The act of giving valentines began in the fifteenth century with cards decorated with Cupid to stay within the Roman theme. Later this expanded to include candy and flowers, things we now typically associate with the holiday. Now the traditional rituals associated with Valentine’s drift from greetings cards to experiences and evenings out.

Valentine’s may not have begun as a capitalist construct, but corporate greed has turned it — like many other days — into a financial burden for many. While celebrating Valentine’s Day is a choice, businesses have already instilled a consumerist expectation on the day.

If you add it all up, think about how much money you could save being single.

 

The best date spots on campus, according to r/uoft

Does dating at U of T even exist?

The best date spots on campus, according to r/uoft

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and out of concern for my fellow students, I wanted to share some valuable knowledge. I decided to turn to that paragon of expertise, the U of T subreddit, to see what other students were deeming as our campus’ most romantic venues.

“Hoping you guys can tell me of some interesting date ideas and places to take a girl around campus,” posted one account about three months ago. They received a number of suggestions, ranging from restaurants and bars to activities and romantic locations on campus itself.

Some restaurants in the area mentioned by r/uoft included Thai Basil, Famoso’s, El Trompo, and Fresh. Activity-based venues were also suggested, like board game cafés such as Snakes & Lattes or Tilt, the arcade-themed bar on Brunswick Avenue. Users also mentioned that students have free admission to the Royal Ontario Museum on Tuesdays and to the Art Gallery of Ontario on Wednesdays from 6:00–9:00 pm.

Those willing to brave the cold might want to check out Philosopher’s Walk or U of T’s various quads, including those at University College, Trinity College, or Knox College. For those willing to travel a little further from campus, there were several areas mentioned as worthy of exploration on a date, like Kensington Market or the Distillery District.

Other students had more cynical responses to this query. “There is no dating at U of T, there is only pain,” wrote one user.

“There’s a pretty titillating 137 lecture with Alfonso three times a week,” wrote another, likely referring to Professor Alfonso Gracia-Saz’s calculus lectures, which take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from either 9:00–10:00 or 10:00–11:00.

Other users were more concerned about venues where they would be able to screen their potential dates. In response to a year-old query from one user, someone suggested Future Bistro. “I have started a ton of downtown dates at Futures; it is an excellent way to ‘make sure they aren’t a serial killer’ place.”

When they posted on r/uoft eight months ago, one user hadn’t quite made it to the ‘in a relationship’ phase, stating that they were an engineering student and had observed that there seemed to be more female students in arts programs.

“Is the dating scene such that you go up to a girl and ask for their number and text for a bit, then go on a date?” they asked. “Is it more complicated and do you have to try harder when it comes to UofT girls?”

“It’s common knowledge that UofT girls are vastly different from other girls,” wrote another user. “I’ve heard there’s some molecular biology research going on… the general consensus among the scientific community is that girls that go to UofT may share a different common ancestor than other ‘normie’ girls and could possibly even be, dare I say, inhuman.”

There’s no shortage of locations around U of T to take your significant other. The hardest part will probably be finding the significant other. I shudder to think of the state of Tinder during midterm season — but readers, go forth and prosper. I’ll save the ‘where to have sex on campus’ posts for another article.

Alone on February 14? Try ‘Valentine’s Slay’

The benefits of embracing singledom on the most romantic holiday of the year

Alone on February 14? Try ‘Valentine’s Slay’

With Valentine’s Day upon us once again, U of T students are beset by an intense urge to enjoy a nice, romantic evening filled with red wine, white chocolate, and pink heart emojis. In reality, this isn’t always an option. Many of us find ourselves single by the time February rolls around and must spend the day of love alone.

Valentine’s Day is an emotionally exhausting holiday. It’s common for people in relationships on V-Day to expect bitterness from single people or to look at them with pity — even if they enjoy being single. This can cause singles to wonder whether there might be something wrong with them.

Cupid is a pretty popular guy — most of society eats up all of his propaganda. Google searches show countless magazines, newspapers, and blogs running stories on “gifts for him” or “gifts for her” or “gifts for 2018.” This love-crazy and deeply consumerist holiday ostracizes those who are single and makes us second-guess our own lives simply because it’s so normalized in our culture to prioritize romantic gratification over other ideals.

We can challenge this climate together — and if we really examine the circumstances of being single on Valentine’s Day, we might realize that the situation can actually be preferable to the alternative.

First and foremost, it’s cheaper to be single. With Christmas and Valentine’s Day only a month and a half apart — not to mention the countless birthdays that might pass in between — these holidays always manage to hit us where it hurts: our wallets. Last year, I had friends ask to borrow money to buy Christmas gifts for their beaus, else complain that they needed to pick up extra shifts to cover holiday expenses. While Christmas spending feels more justifiable due to its selfless and family-focused nature, Valentine’s Day has no such excuse. Last year, Canadians spent an average of $58 on each gift, not including dinner or new outfits. This year, CNBC reports that over half of American consumers are expected to spend $143.56 each on Valentine’s shenanigans. Singles on Valentine’s Day, however, get to save every dime they can.

Those without significant others can also use this time to do special things for themselves. You can be almost certain that parties and friends won’t distract you on Valentine’s Day, with the majority of people too preoccupied with dating or moping about not dating. At Bustle, they suggest everything from “Galentine’s Day” to shopping to trying out new recipes.

As university students caught between social prospects and academic performance, we should relish the opportunity to be free of both sets of constraints. In this way, we can use Valentine’s Day as a period of self-actualization.

Finally, choosing to enjoy a Valentine’s Day on your own is empowering. A relationship is so much more satisfying when you don’t need it to validate your existence, or when the fear of being lonely does not motivate your attachment. Really consider what a big statement it is to just enjoy your Valentine’s Day instead of dreading it. We have no one to answer to when it comes to our singlehood. Our lives are fully our own, and we can take pride in spending the day by ourselves, because there is absolutely no shame in that. If we choose to accept our realities without excuses or explanations, we can forgive ourselves for not being where we thought we’d be or where society tells us we should be, and we can teach others to treat us with that respect and compassion as well.

The most important thing to remember about Valentine’s Day is that it’s optional. You can choose to spend it in whatever way best fits you and your current situation. Though it may feel disappointing to not have a significant other, there are so many significant people in our lives that prevent us from ever being truly alone. So enjoy your half-priced chocolate on February 15 and support your completely deserved, self-centred ‘Valentine’s Slay.’

Jenisse Minott is a third-year student at UTM studying Communications, Culture, Information, and Technology and Professional Writing. She is The Varsity‘s Associate Comment Editor.