Today is Valentine’s Day, the holiday where Americans celebrate love. At MIT, we celebrate the holiday in various fun ways. Of course, couples (yes, there is dating at MIT!) will get all dressed up and venture off to some of the many romantic restaurants and sites in Boston and Cambridge. On campus, there’s the Valentine’s skate (ice skating is an excellent date idea, for those of you who need suggestions), romantic movie screenings (such as Shakespeare in Love), flower sales, and candygrams.
One of my favorite Valentine’s Day traditions at MIT is the serenade. Various MIT performance groups give students the opportunity to buy a serenade for their sweetheart, or friend, or professor. For example, I remember sitting in class my freshman year, listening to a (differential equations?) lecture, when, out of nowhere, come the Muses, MIT’s all-female a capella group, to serenade some guy in the first row. At the end of the serenade, he was given a rose. The Muses ran off, and the lecture continued. A capella group serenades are probably the most popular. This morning, walking from the subway to my office, I ran into the Logarhythms, MIT’s all-male a capella group, on their way from one serenade to another. But some of my favorite serenades aren’t traditional serenades at all. I once was there when Roadkill Buffet, MIT’s improv comedy troupe (think Whose Line Is It Anyway?) did a hilarious one; I think that was my senior year. You can also get a Shakespearean serenade from the Shakespeare Ensemble (if you’re having a bad Valentine’s Day, they also give the option of sending a harsh, anti-love sonnet).
Also related to Valentine’s Day, did you know that those little candy hearts with sayings on them (e.g. “Be Mine,” “Sweet Talk,” and, yes, “Email me”), until 2002 were made at the Cambridge headquarters of NECCO (the New England Confectionery Company), right next to MIT’s Random Hall dormitory? Ah, many of my finest memories of walking to class in the morning from my dorm were on days when the wind was blowing just right so that you’d get a sweet candy smell the entire stroll. Actually, Cambridge was once the center of America’s candy universe, with 32 candy factories (including those for Tootsie Roll, Necco Wafers, and Squirrel Nut Zippers) in the city. Sadly, many of those have moved; NECCO moved to a nearby Boston suburb several years back (its site is now home to Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, so while the sweet toothed students are sad, those looking for even more in the way of biomedical internships are quite happy). Tootsie Roll, however, is still made just off MIT’s campus, and it is a nice treat to smell their candy goodness while walking the streets of our fair city.
Finally on the topic of V-Day, I’d like to put in a plug for MIT’s production of the Obie-Award winning play The Vagina Monologues. I know many folks involved with the production of the show, and one of my housemates is featured on pages 78-79 of Eve Ensler’s new book Vagina Warriors. I know the name of the play and book is somewhat, well, different and challenging for many, but the cause of V-Day is an important one: to stop violence against women and girls. I hope many of you will check out a production in your town this year or at your college next year; it will be produced at 700+ universities this year and in 400 communities.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your loved ones!