This past February I was invited by my friend Michelle to attend a Galentine’s Day celebration at her home. Just what is Galentine’s Day? I’ll let Leslie Knope, creator of this wonderful holiday, explain:
Michelle and I have been friends for close to a decade. We met when she became the director of an improv group that I was cast in. I have always known Michelle to be generous and positive. In fact, when we went out for lunch after this interview, she paid. After we were done she called me to say she was at Savers and was going to find a fiction book for me to read. So, if anyone is going to pull off an epic Galentine’s Day celebration that is specifically catered to her friends, it’s going to be Michelle.
We all gathered at her house on February 13th to eat breakfast food and have some much needed girl time. There were friends there that I hadn’t seen in years and I was grateful that Michelle brought us all together under such positive circumstances. It was very clear that Michelle had put an incredible amount of thought and time in preparing the gifts that she gave us. All the ladies received a bag containing five letters she wrote to be opened at various times, socks, literary tattoos, bookmarks, candy (disguised as “Sweetums”) and a few other surprises. Everyone also received two personalized gifts. The first being a resin necklace with a quote that she knew that person would love (mine said “Working on my night cheese”) and the second being a larger art related piece. The runner in the group received a medal hook display, another lady received a poster for a comedy show she had been in with Michelle and I received a DMX cross stitch with a quote from “Party Up! (Up in Here).” She gets me.
The original Galentine’s Day lives within her favorite comedy: Parks and Recreation. (Her favorite drama is The West Wing). For those that have never watched a Parks episode, it centers around Leslie Knope, a city parks department employee who endlessly crusades to make the City of Pawnee, Indiana beautiful while taking the needs of everyone into consideration at all times. It is a thankless job that Leslie feels very fortunate to have. So much so that when other political opportunities present themselves, she first thinks about how her moving on with affect other people first.
Parks and Rec has the distinction of being one of the only recent truly positive comedies on television. For a sitcom, the characters are complex and instead of their insecurities being met with ridicule from their colleagues, everyone lends their support in their own way. “We have to deal with so many negative people in real life. I use TV as an escape from reality and I want it to be the best of people,” Michelle said when asked why this show ranks among her favorite comedies. We came up with numerous examples to support this. Tom opening Rent-A-Swag, April looking for another job, the seemingly impossible events that Leslie planned and the entire philosophy behind Treat Yo’ Self.
One of the highlights of the series for Michelle was the open-ended way the show ends. *SPOILER ALERT* You know that either Ben or Leslie becomes President of the United States, but it’s never clear and it ultimately doesn’t matter. “I love that you don’t know which one of them becomes President. I love that they flipped a coin to decide who was going to run for office and then he decided to step back and let her go anyway even though he technically won the coin toss. The lady love in me wants to say that it was Leslie, but I also would’ve voted for Ben.” Michelle believes that Leslie’s Presidential platform would be similar to current Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. “I think she would run on a campaign of lets be nice to each other and take care of one another. We can make things that seem impossible happen if we stop being assholes to each other.” *OK YOU CAN START READING AGAIN*
The desire to throw a Galentine’s Day celebration for some of her female friends was Michelle’s own way of treating herself. She explained that she thrives on being able to bring joy to others and make them feel loved. “So much is put into Valentine’s Day and romantic love and I have not been very luck in that, but I have been amazeballs lucky when it comes to my friendships. And the idea that Galentine’s Day is ladies celebrating ladies is essentially what I have built my adult life around. My friendships with my closest friends are really important to me and the idea that I could celebrate them in a ridiculously over the top way was super great to me.”
Last year Michelle moved a little more south of the city and away from the majority of her friends, but she believes that if you build strong relationships, you can keep them going no matter the distance. “If you’re lucky enough that you live your life in such a way that you bring in really awesome people that you love and trust it doesn’t matter if you go more than three months without seeing each other.” One of the signs of a true, strong friendship is if you can sit with the other person and just be. You don’t feel the need to speak or interact, you can simply be comfortable enough to enjoy each others company without needing to communicate.
We also spent a good amount of time discussing her crush on Ben Schwartz, who played Jean Ralphio on the show. Whenever Michelle is stressed out she spends her time watching Jean Ralphio bloopers. Schwartz’s background in improvisational comedy is apparent on the show and is one of the major reasons why Michelle crushes SO HARD on him (the other being that he’s just really kissable.) Since she was concerned about sounding too creepy, I’ll stop the accolades for Ben Schwartz there and let her slight social media stalking speak for itself. (Come on, we all date our celebrity crushes in our mind.)
While I love the idea of throwing a Galentine’s Day of my very own and celebrating the important women I love with waffles and personalized gifts, I don’t think that I could do anywhere near as perfect a job as Michelle did. This particular event was so special for Michelle that she is conflicted on throwing another one in the future. “I don’t know if I will ever have another Galentine’s Day party. I can’t imagine a way that I would top it. The only way I could have another one is if I were to invite eight different friends. I’m super lucky in that I have a bunch of amazing girlfriends.”
I feel incredibly lucky to have been one of the original elite eight for Galentine’s Day. Seeing old friends and meeting other women that I had only heard about, but knew were important to Michelle was really cool. And, I won’t lie, getting some pretty sweet presents was also awesome (especially given how much the snow was ruining everyones life at that time). While my DMX quote is proudly displayed in my living room, I hadn’t opened any of my letters yet and told Michelle during our interview I had no immediate plans to do so. However, the day after our interview was an emotionally difficult day. We both woke up to the news that a former co-worker we adored passed away unexpectedly. Exhausted and needing some comfort, I dove into the pile of letters Michelle had written for me choosing “Open me when you need something beautiful.” Inside was a beautiful post card of a Monet sunset with a quote from A.A. Milne:
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
Michelle and I had a really great conversation about all sorts of things, but I apparently only recorded the first 22 minutes which set up the actual interview. Then we ate some Panera and tried it again, but I was too food drunk. We did it a third time (my food coma is apparent while Michelle is more energized…she actually ends up running the interview) and we also discussed our choices for first dance wedding songs, Christmas movies, people we want to make out with, choosing happiness and other television series finales (including Michelle’s scandalous opinion on the ‘Newhart’ finale.) It was so much fun, but I’m bummed I messed up the first one! Part One and Part Two!