The Best Worst Holiday: On Love And Naming What Is
A friend of mine has been amused and surprised to learn that I really don’t like Valentine’s Day. She was surprised, I think, because I generally support Valentine’s day-esque sentiments. I am a wholehearted endorser of the things we say that the day is about—love, cute things, snuggling. I’m a sucker for food made into the shape of hearts.
I think it’s just that I find the whole idea of Valentine’s Day to be generally unromantic. Romantic gestures shouldn’t be obligatory. They should be freely given and from a place of expansion, rather than a last minute gesture to placate someone’s expectations. Which isn’t to say that genuine love and affection can’t be expressed on good ol’ February 14th, just that I find one miserly day for love to be a sad way to operate in the world.
Valentine’s Day isn’t really a day to celebrate love. Its a day to celebrate a very specific kind of love. Namely, (and historically, at least) monogamous, hetero, cis-gendered sexual romantic love. I don’t want to celebrate love that small. We don’t have very good language around bigger, other, or definition-opening love that lives in us, too.
What do we call our ride-or-die friends, the ones who we have named family, regardless of whether we’re related?
What kind of love is the love we feel for the neighbor we’re worried about, the one we overheard crying through our apartment walls?
What do we call the heartbreak of a long-term platonic relationship?
How to we communicate our love for the aunt who’s technically not related to us but is definitely family?
What do we do with the old relationship that taught us something important about being human?
What kind of love is the love we have for God or the universe or the things we believe in that are bigger than ourselves?
How do we express the affection we feel for a friend who shows up in life-saving ways?
I don’t really believe that Valentine’s Day is a real holiday because it’s not real enough to hold what real love looks like. Messy. Weird. Sexy. Awesome. Hard. Absolutely worth the effort.
What I do believe in is enacting gestures of love as a practice, so that we don’t forget or take for granted kindness or affection when it comes our way.
I believe in saying I love you. I miss you. I’m sorry. I forgive you. I believe in love letters. Queer love letters. Platonic love letters. Romantic love letters. Dirty love letters. Letters to yourself. To your childhood. To your friend. Letters that don’t get reciprocated. Letters that do. When we choose to practice love, we reclaim the vulnerable, important work of choosing others. The work of choosing ourselves.
So. How are you choosing love today? How are you letting love choose you?