Monday, February 14, 2011

On Valentines Day

Today is Valentines Day. I'm not playing. I'll tell you why. I may sound cynical at first. I may seem that I'm passing judgment on others.  I am not.  Bear with me as I explain what "not playing" means.

In the past, I've had more than one love. I am, by nature, polyamorous. I've sometimes had more than one intimate friend aside from those loves. Some I called loves because we saw each other that way and some I didn't because we didn't feel the word is appropriate yet, if ever. The distinction isn't really that important.  What is important is what being poly taught me about this holiday and what love means to me.

So...Love and Valentines Day.

The labels, the expectations, the baggage that comes with using the L word aren't really necessary to express a relationship. I don't need to say "I love you" for my partner to know I do. Oh, I still say it.  It's fun and beautiful to say. The thing is, I don't need to. They don't need me to.  Why?  To me, love is not expressed through words.  It is expressed through my actions, though my attention, caring, closeness.  Anyone who has ever watched a silent couple, clearly in love, understands this concept.

Words aren't love.  They are merely the wrapping and bows on the true gift of our affection.

And a 'holiday' built around Love feeds on those expectations around speech. In our monogamous society, where Love is everything, Love rules our expectations, Love is misunderstood, Love is misused, Love is a hammer to some, Valentines Day points out the inherent problems with speech (I'm equating shallow actions as speech too) *as* Love.

And this is me, poet and songwriter, who has written poetry for love and learned to play the guitar so I could sing my poems of love.  Speech is not love.  Physical gifts are not love.

While words are indeed nice, they cannot make my actions what they are not. A crappy present all dressed up in pretty bows and paper is still a crappy present. I could not make up for 364 days of inattention, not keeping commitments, not being focused, not being involved, not being present, with a triple heart diamond ring from the Shane company that has been stuffed up the butt of a cheap teddy bear. That is what we are told we are supposed to do.  There are news stories for weeks about the perfect gift, which chocolate is better, why gold is better than silver, which flowers are best, how you have to get your order for flowers in right now, before it's too late...and so on.  Hurry, before it's too late.

There is such a big commercial deal made of Valentines day. It's business.

 There are Valentines days sales at jewelers, florists, *car dealerships*, everywhere. We are supposed to consume to express our Love, as some sign, some validation of our relationship. One year I did that for three of my partners and after it was complete, I recognized the trap. You see, if you have one love, you buy them their gift. Since you are giving this special gift to no other, as you are supposed to with your heart, no comparison can be made in either. You are supposed to have one valentine -- one love. However, if you have more than one, and if you follow the monogamy model of the 'holiday', you buy separate gifts for each. As I was shopping, in the almost Christmas crowds, I realized that these gifts, however appropriate, were not my love. So, what the hell was I doing? Why was I playing the "I'm proving that I love you and don't love another more than I love you by giving you a special gift" monogamy game?

Many years have passed since that day. My relationships have changed somewhat,  as is my energy and outlook towards being able to expend my emotional energy much beyond my Kerry. My outlook on this holiday has not changed and I'm very fortunate indeed to have a partner who understands what love is truly about.

Kerry and I are not playing today.  No flowers, candy, diamonds, cars, or presents.  We agreed on this without being asked.  I figure that, the best present I can give her, as my good friend Ted posted, is to love her today no more than I do any other day.

So I'm left standing here, watching the monogamy game play itself out, with people rushing about for their various reasons. I'm also watching my single friends, some feeling left out, some rebelling in their singleness against the onslaught of Valentines Day-ness.  Of those participating, some of them are simply using this special day to acknowledge their love and I think that's a great thing.  Others are using it to validate their relationship, or make up for neglecting their partner, or assure their partner that they aren't cheating, or aren't cheating anymore. Yes, that thought occurs to me. How many people are giving a partner a gift that promises monogamy and are currently cheating on their partner? But I digress..

My relationships are what they are. A single date in February, a charge on a credit card, a UPS shipping number for my gift on the way, the pretty wrappings around a bauble, do not those relationships make. My relationships with people I care about are made though my actions, expressed in my attention, my caring, my mentorship, sacrifice, dedication throughout the year -- including today.  Today is no different.

This is not a Hallmark moment.

This is my life.


  1. I prefer to choose when and how to show my affection to someone. This applies for Valentines Day, Christmas, anniversaries, and any other more-or-less arbitrary date. It could be argued that anniversaries at least have personal meaning.

    People trying too hard at Valentines Day reminds me of people who *really* need to tell you how bad homosexuality is, or how the bible says they are in the One True Religion.

  2. Love this. Valentine's Day makes me crabby, actually, for all of the same reasons.


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