Columns, Opinion

Modern Beauty: My college valentine

We met in an Allston fraternity house basement.

The place was diseased. Cracked, empty solo cups pooled around my feet as I gasped for air in the overcrowded space.

“Come on Becky, get your coat from the microwave and let’s leave,” a blonde screeched from behind me. “We need to get to the PIKE mixer.”

I had lost my very last brain cell. Defeated, I turned to go up the steps to the first floor of the house and head back home when a hand shot out from the crowd and pulled me back into the pit.

“Emily,” my friend shouted. “Meet Danny — isn’t he cute?” She then gestured to the guy standing next to her.

And he was. Tall and laid-back looking, he stuck out his hand and I met it with mine in the space between us. It was warm. He had the best grin. Like, picture the most perfect Hollywood smirk you’ve ever seen with a thousand creases near the corners of the mouth. Dan’s smile was 10 times better.

We’ve been dating for two-and-a-half years now, and this will be our third Valentine’s Day together. Many find issues with a college relationship that lasts a long time, and I understand them, but few see the positives.

A huge benefit of having a boyfriend includes a better understanding of my worth. Before my fellow feminists come at me with their bralettes in a twist, let me explain.

I know that I don’t need a man to validate my beauty, but unfortunately the freshman year version of myself didn’t fully comprehend that. Dan gave me the confidence to see my inner and outer beauty. For the first time in my life, someone told me I was beautiful even though they didn’t have to.

My parents have to tell me I’m beautiful because they’re my mom and dad — it’s their job. Friends need to tell friends they look perfect in that jumpsuit, even though it makes them look fat, and the mirror isn’t actually warped.

Constant positive comments from him built my confidence exponentially. It made me see my value and see what makes me beautiful and showed me that I deserve more than I thought.

“You look beautiful today,” he’ll say when smeared mascara tattoos my cheeks from last night’s TITS festivities. He says it all the time. When I’m sweaty from the gym. When I fail an economics exam. When I don’t get the final round interview.

He sees my strengths and acknowledges them. Growing up, I struggled with realizing my successes, which led to self-doubt. I could blame it on my cultural background. My mom, while loving, made sure to keep me humble by carefully choosing her praises. Her Japanese-influenced modesty rubbed off on me, allowing me to overlook my aptitude in and outside of the classroom.

My boyfriend sees how hard I work for a B on my assignment and congratulates me for it. He notices how great I am at flicking out my eyeliner. He even perceives my weaknesses as something to behold because they, too, make me who I am.

On top of using his words to build my confidence, he uses his actions to tell me how he thinks and feels.

Let me illustrate this for you. I had a terrible time at work one day last year because I accidentally deleted an entire spreadsheet for a project due the next day. I was also dealing with major body insecurities because of mass OliToki consumption. OliToki serves Korean fusion food in Allston, and it makes some great stuff, but it goes right to my thighs.

Spreadsheet-less and thick-legged, I went home to wallow in my problems. When I opened the door to my living room, flowers bloomed from the empty wine bottles that lined my windowsills. Dan bought four bouquets and a salad from Sweetgreen for me just to turn my day around.

His actions said, “despite pitfalls, you still deserve the best.” I believe him more every day.

Don’t get it confused, though. We fight, and our relationship stands far from idyllic. But he’s done so much for me. Because of him, I have the courage to love who I am. I’m better for it.

I’m not saying everyone should go out and scour the streets of Boston for a partner, but I am saying there lives value in having a college relationship. This Valentine’s Day, celebrate your person and the times they’ve been there for you. Celebrate lessons learned.

Happy Love Day, everyone! And I love you, Dan.


  1. Well done Emily. –Mom

  2. Intro is incredible