Army of Lovers sign with heart-shaped paper valentines via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Finding Love in New York City on Valentine’s Day with the Army of Lovers

Those who know me know that I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. In fact, I kind of despise it. And it’s not just because I don’t buy in to the carefully orchestrated marketing frenzy of overpriced gifts and experiences leading up to the holiday. It’s because something about glorifying coupledom has always rubbed me the wrong way. Sure, I can acknowledge the value of taking the time to appreciate your significant other, but that should really happen more than once a year, don’t you think? Justin and I have never been one of those couples who only hangs out with other couples. In fact, we have many friendships with individuals who happen to be unattached. And, surprise, they are no less spectacular because they haven’t “found the one”, “met their soulmate”, or “made the perfect match”.

Army of Lovers founder Erika Anderson holding up a paper valentine via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Army of Lovers founder Erika Anderson

Handmade paper valentine with Love Yourself for Army of Lovers via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

When we heard about the Army of Lovers and their cause, we knew we wanted to be a part of it. Six years ago, Erika Anderson was in a somewhat “undefined” relationship, which left her wondering if she’d be celebrating Valentine’s Day. She walked into a drugstore and was inundated with all the unsold Valentine’s Day paraphernalia that had been regaled to the clearance rack. Rather than lament her situation, Erika armed herself to the teeth…with Hello Kitty valentines. But instead of showering Mr. It’s Complicated with them, she filled them out with a simple “To: You, From: Me” message, and gave them out to strangers on her subway commute.

And the response was overwhelmingly positive.

She continued her Valentine’s Day crusade year after year, and her Army of Lovers continued to grow. Through press from outlets like BuzzFeed and organic growth from social media, people have reached out from other cities and countries to say “Hey, I want to be a part of this.” Based on the the simple notion that we all deserve to be loved whether we’re in a romantic relationship or not, the Army of Lovers has reclaimed Valentine’s Day for all of us.

Craft table with a bowl of heart-shaped stickers for Army of Lovers via Handmade paper valentine with Love Yourself for Army of Lovers via Mad Hatters NYC BlogCraft table with stickers and craft supplies for Army of Lovers via Mad Hatters NYC BlogHandmade paper valentine with Love Yourself for Army of Lovers via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

On a rainy Saturday night, we signed up to join Erika and her friends for a crafting party. In a quiet room at a Lower East Side community center, we sat at a table chock full of colored paper, stickers and stamps: the weapons employed by the Army of Lovers to create their handmade valentines. At our station we met Jim, a four-year veteran of the cause who enlisted after meeting Erika in an East Village bar. We swapped stories and colored markers as we scribbled messages like “You Are Special” and “You Are Loved” on cards that would eventually reach the New York City masses. I loved the idea of brightening someone’s commute, but if I’m being completely honest, I found the process of cutting out paper hearts and throwing a bunch of stickers on them pretty cathartic too.

New Yorkers have a pretty bad reputation and are often considered hostile and rude (yes, we’ve even topped lists). But meeting Erika and her Army of Lovers simply proves something I’ve always known: New Yorkers are pretty awesome.

Lynn holding up handmade paper valentines via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

So no matter where you are in the world today, I hope you’re one of the the lucky recipients of an Army of Lovers valentine. And if you’re not, know that we still think “You Are Purr-fect”.

You can learn more about Erika and her Army of Lovers on her website here.

Pair it with:

Dinner at The Butcher’s Daughter

Cozy interior with hanging fruit over the bar at Butcher's Daughter via Mad Hatters NYC BlogAngel Hair Carbonara with Spaghetti Squash from Butcher's Daughter via Mad Hatters NYC BlogBlack Bean Veggie Burger and Potato Wedges at Butcher's Daughter via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The Butcher’s Daughter is somewhat of a misnomer, since the only things getting slaughtered there are vegetables. But the name isn’t the only thing that will cause you to scratch your head. The Butcher’s Daughter appears to offer vegetarian and vegan fare that even meat eaters want to devour. Throngs of them. Just pop by on a weekend morning to see the ridiculous brunch lines for yourself.

The bright yet cozy cafe has a Head Juiceologist on staff and Smashed Avocado Toast on the menu, so it’s easy to write off as a hipster joint. But the Executive Chef started his career cooking meat then developed a passion for using the best, freshest produce. As a result, The Butcher’s Daughter has a creative, robust menu offering items like Beet Deviled Eggs and Angel Hair Carbonara with no sacrifice in taste. As mentioned before, the wait times here can get pretty ridiculous. But if you happen to be coming from a crafting party late one evening, and it happens to be raining cats and dogs outside, you just might win the food lottery. Not only did we get a seat immediately, we had the communal table almost entirely to ourselves. So we did what any rational human being would: we ordered a spread big enough to fill most of it.

19 Kenmare St and 581 Hudson St

Daily 8 am – 10 pm

– L.

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2 years ago

Oh this is so great! I love this idea too.
I hadn’t heard of Army of Lovers! Thanks for sharing.:)
And Buthcher’s Daughter = Delish!

2 years ago

“Stupid cupid, stop picking on me!”

2 years ago

This was such a fantastic post! I always appreciated how you and Justin were so open to hanging out with my non-attached self and for never making me feel like a third wheel. And what a GREAT project! I wish I would have known about it or I totally would have joined in – I LOVE arts and crafts, but generally need the direction of someone telling me what to make – it’s hard to go free-form, for me at least. Maybe next year! <3

2 years ago

I love this idea! And I wholeheartedly agree that if you are part of a couple and want to “celebrate” your love, you should do it every day. Thanks for introducing us to Army of Lovers 🙂

2 years ago

I would love to join the Army of Lovers next year! That looks like so much fun! Although, I know that I would hesitant about giving out that first card. Thank you for exposing me to this great idea. And the Butcher’s Daughter is on my to go list. I was planning a visit with my niece for Monday but we chose somewhere else. And I don’t celebrate either. Great job as always, Lynn!

Alice and Jon
Alice and Jon
2 years ago

Enjoying your NY blog. Yes, we have found New Yorkers to be very friendly and helpful to visitors. Miss you guys. Possibly, visit NY in a couple of years.

2 years ago

The Army of Lovers sounds like a very admiral cause. I read this post this morning and was hoping that I’d see someone in the subway giving away Valentines. Your posts always impress me with how you find these places and then at the end, you make me hungry!

2 years ago

What a lovely idea. And I’m sure the nostalgia of cutting construction paper and gluing stickers will never go away. I was so happy to see also that the restaurant is vegetarian and vegan. The décor is beautiful, a nice mix of warm and cool, and now I like it even more.

Cynthia | Adventuring Woman

What a great idea. Another example of nice New Yorkers! I’ve always included all those I love on Valentine’s Day; it’s kind of an old-fashioned tradition, I think. My parents and grandparents always sent me a Valentine’s card. In the past I’ve gotten the pack of cards and given them out to friends; random strangers on the subway is even better. Thanks for a unique Valentine’s post.

2 years ago

Love that this has been going on, and that you promoted it – and I love your opening statement. Cheers!