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Letters from Proxima Thule

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On Valentine's Day
heteronormative
catvalente
I posted this essay on Valentine's Day last year. It is everything I want to say on the subject, and I want to say it again this year. So here is the re-post, which will likely be annual from here on out, until everyone stops calling it a Hallmark Holiday. Here's wishing you all a happy Geoff-day.

***

I have never understood the desire to stomp all over Valentine's Day and snuff it out. Every year I look over my friends' list and it's a litany of "This is a fake Hallmark holiday and no one should celebrate it" and "I hate this day, who's with me?" and my personal favorite guilt trip: "If you REALLY loved your partner, you'd treat them specially every day."

I don't get it. I don't understand the fervor to destroy a holiday. To force others to see it through the same black glasses. To shame anyone who celebrates the 14th with anything other than bile, vitriol, and the occasional superior sneer.

I know that most of us were shunned on Valentine's Day in school. Believe me, my little cubby was empty, just like yours, and I yearned for a construction paper heart from boy after boy--and never got them. I understand that there is a history of trauma, and the standard geek reaction to past trauma is to organize the world so that there is no chance of that trauma re-occurring. Thus, Valentine's Day must be killed.

But here's the thing. This world is a beautiful place, but it is also often dark, and cold, and unfeeling, and life slips by, not because it is short, but because it is so difficult to hold onto. Holidays, rituals, these things demarcate the time. They remind us of the sharpness of pleasure and the nearness of death. They tell us when the sun leaves, and when it comes back. They tell us to dance and they tell us to sleep. They tell us who we are, who we have been since we lived on the savannah and hoped to taste cheetah before we died. I know we're all punk rock rebels, but the paleolithic joy of fucking in the fields and dancing around a fire doesn't go away just because certain of us would like to think we're beyond that. This world needs more holidays, not less. More ritual, the gorgeous, flexible, non-dogmatic kind that isn't about religion but about ecstasy in the sheer humanness of our bodies and souls. More chances to reach out, to sing, to love, to bedeck ourselves in ritual colors and become splendid as the year turns around.

And no, I'm sorry. It doesn't work to say "make every day special." First of all, most of you know damn well that you don't shower your partner with gifts and adoration and that most precious of things: dedicated, mindful time every day of the year. Even the best relationship is not a 24/7 orgiastic festival of plenty and perfect moments. No human can sustain it. If every day is special, none of them are. If every day is special, specialness becomes monotony. What makes days special is the time between, the anticipation of a the day, the planning, the surprises, coming together, cooking, playing, reveling in sheer time, watching the dedicated colors and rituals that wire our brain for pleasure spring up in the world to remind us that we live in it. The entire purpose of holidays is that they are a kind of otherworld we step into, full of special symbols, that informs and shapes everyday life--and some of life, no matter how some bloggers would like to deny it in their Grinchitude, is always everyday.

We celebrate the harvest. We celebrate the spring. We celebrate birthdays and death-days and the beginning of the year and the end of the year. We celebrate our parents and labor and Presidents. What in the world is so terribly wrong with celebrating love? I know not all of us have partners, but it is a rare soul who is without love of any kind. What kind of shrunken, sour heart does it take to insist that everyone else stop delighting in ritual and love? So few of us post about the magic of holidays--I think they're ashamed to. It's not cool to take unabashed pleasure in the silly and the soft-hearted.

As for the commercialism of it--well. It is commercial. So is every holiday, yet somehow we don't stomp all over Easter the way we tar and feather Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day is no more a fake holiday than any other. If I hear someone call it a Hallmark holiday I'm actually going to scream. I'm only going to say this once:

Valentine's Day, boys and girls, entered the Western mind in Chaucer's Parlement of Foules, fully-realized as a day to celebrate love via an obscure saint, with red hearts and everything. Yes, celebrated in an allegorical bird-nation, but guess what? That makes it even more awesome. I will take a holiday my buddy Geoff invented over almost any other. If I had my way, we'd start exchanging bird-themed gifts and ditch Cupid.

This is a great holiday. It's pure physical, sensual pleasure, divorced from any dogma at this point. Saint whatever. Pass the sex and food.

And as a medieval holiday, it has quite a long pedigree, thank you very much, even if you don't count in the Lupercalia (which you really shouldn't, unless wolf skins play a large part in your personal celebrations. If so, more power to you). The fact is, some human made up every single holiday there is. They're ALL fake. No one is more real or authentic than any other. At least this one was invented by a broke poet instead of a bunch of sex-starved priests. We live in a postmodern world--everything is what we make it. If Hallmark wants to force mainstream kids to buy jewelry they can't afford, they're more than welcome. I don't have to care about that, or take part in it. But I also don't have to get up on a soapbox and crush their joy in it. I know better. I know this day is an act of literature made flesh. But their world is not less valid for being Geoff-less.

And more than Geoff--think about it for a second. In the midst of winter, we are encouraged to come together and have sex (let's not be coy.) To escape the snow and ice in each others' bodies. The colors are red and rose and white--the colors of fire in the winter, of blood, of flesh, survival even in the barren times. We exchange hearts, the very vital core of our bodies. It is the last holiday before spring, to remind us that the fertile world will come again, with flowers and sweetness and love. Even surrounded by death, by blood on the snow, be it St. Valentine's blood or your own, life will win out. The traditional food is chocolate--which can be preserved through the winter and does not rot, full of sugar and fat which keep our bodies going through lean times. This holiday is as old as time: o world, even in the freezing storm, come together, make love, make children, feast, smile, and know the sun is coming soon.

Seriously, you have to stop trying to take that away. If you remove ritual from the world, you leave it greyer, and sadder, and all you have in its place is the triumph of having ruined something another person loved, which is a shallow and bitter triumph indeed. Get down off the soapbox, have a little chocolate, look out at the melting snow, and say something kind to someone you love. To be human is to take part in ritual, to demarcate the time with feasting and song and vestments and ecstasy. Life slips by, so very fast. Spend it in the practice of joy, not the destruction of it.

Happy Valentine's Day. Geoff bless us. Every one.


This is wonderful! I didn't know our buddy Geoff created the holiday. That only makes it better.

Thank you for the wonderful and powerful words.

This is beautiful. But the problem is that something can be beautiful for some people and not beautiful for others and that doesn't diminish its beauty one whit. It just means that it means many things to people because experiences are diverse. Saying "happy holidays!" instead of "Merry Christmas!" doesn't destroy Christmas, and I as a single woman getting irritated with the parade of beautifully dressed up couples looking down their noses at me doesn't make their LUVERLY SEXY TIMES any less luverly.

I am deeply happy for every happy pair out there who can take joy in this day. I begrudge not a one of them, and agree that it IS a terribly important day.

I try very hard to hide my own sadness on this day, not wishing to bring anyone else's happiness down. But sometimes, sometimes it's hard to bear. So for those like me, who are stabbed with bitter loneliness on this day, please don't shove your good fortune down our throats. It gets to be an awfully bitter pill.

That certainly was not my intent with this post.

Well, I think someone else said it best here: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=7136736&blogId=469672169

The bad is not a day to celebrate couples and love. The bad is the competition, the need to upstage yourself every year, that if you don't do something on that day then you're a bad partner (even if you make wonderful stuff any other day of the year).

I know not everyone celebrates it like that, but there *is* a social pressure, just like there is to have lunch with relatives on Christmas even if you can't stand them the rest of the year. It's silly, and it's grating.

Thank you.

I believe that too — holiday, the real feeling of holiday, walking down the middle of the road in the snow and singing out of sheer joy — is rare. Having a day and a time set aside has never taken away surprise and spontenaity: it has allowed them to happen. They don't always, but the holiday gives them a place to.

kouredios pointed me here, and this is so beautiful.

thank you for writing this. that is all. :)

please don't shove your good fortune down our throats. It gets to be an awfully bitter pill.

Much as I like you, want you to be happy, love your writing and want to agree with you, that is my experience of this post as well. Except that I am far more bitter and nasty than wolfs daughter, so I have no problem bringing other people's happiness down. You pay lip service to the idea that it's a rare person who is without any kind of love, but this post is about romantic and sexual love. I love my mother deeply, but if this holiday is about encouraging people to come together and have sex, my love for her is irrelevant, and I see no reason why I should be happy about this holiday when I'm still sitting here in the snow and ice by myself, as it were.

So what kind of shrunken, sour heart? Mine, and I prefer "bitter" to "sour," if you please. Romantic pairings get all kinds of material, moral, and emotional benefits. They can do without my approval on their day to show it off. Except for my mom and stepdad, who get all my loving approval.

And yet there is a whole culture dedicated to hating this day, almost as strong as the one celebrating it. So why is it wrong to defend it?

You can take the folkloric meat of this post and remove the sex, and just make it about warmth and food and fire in the cold times--though solo sex is also possible and should also be celebrated, can be no less cathartic and meaningful.

I read your recent post about these issues and didn't know what to say, because I adore you so much and think you're such a spectacular human, and hate any world that doesn't pile up whatever you want at your feet.

But it's still not wrong, in the face of being told to shut up and keep quiet and don't have this holiday because it's evil, to defend it a little, and enjoy it myself.

This post keeps bugging the crap out of me, and it's odd that it does so, as I'm largely indifferent towards the holiday.  (I have my sneerings about the commercialism, but that's holiday-regardless, really.)

I'm not trying to take the holiday away with my grinchiness, and so this post isn't for me, in the sense that I shouldn't be chastised.  I am in multiple loving sexual-type relationships, so this post should be totally for me, in the sense that I am where culture wants me to be for this holiday.  And yet, here I am, totally annoyed by this post.

It might be that it continues to defend something that really, seriously, fantastically doesn't need defending.  (Unless you are next going to defend Christmas, in which case, this is small potatoes.)  Or that it's the same old "you're dissing on something I like? then I shall diss it back!" thing.  In which case, eh.  That's back to high school-isms.

I dunno.  Maybe I'll come back to it later.

I think this is a problem with--I live on a small island and do not have TV. I have no contact with the world that encourages diamonds and such. What I do have contact with is a whole friends list full of people complaining about the holiday and telling other people to shut up about it.

So I react to the culture I see.

alexandraerin linked to this in one of her posts, and I must say--this was a beautiful post. I am not anti-Valentine's Day, and so, this made me smile. Beautifully written, like so much of your work is. :D

I like this post, though it fails to address MY long time complaint against Valentine's day: it detracts from the celebration of Groundhog's Day (which I love to celebrate since it is a delightfully ridiculous holiday).

Of course, Valentine's makes it easier to get reservations to a nice restaraunt for a romantic groundhog's dinner (The amazing people at the always delicious Carrie Cerinos even made us a Groundhog's Day cake when I told them that's what we were celebrating, free).

I am going to have to toss this post to some friends who delight in ruining things for people. Thanks for writing it, and I hope that you had a very pleasant Valentines this year, that Predident's day rocked, and that Mardi Gras is as big a party as it deserves to be. Man this has been a busy week for excuses to party (as every week should be).

Perfect! Thank you for saying so beautifully what I often think.

Hey, I'm a tutor at La Guardia college and we need short essays to help students take practice tests (in the new standardized tests they have to read a short essay and respond to it) and i was wondering I we could use a cut down version of this piece (and possibly other posts if you're cool with it) for students to read and write responses to? You will be credited and you don't have to do any of the cutting and we're not using it for anything that would make us money so I hope you'll say yes.
Thanks!

My friend snogged linked this to from her V-day post. Would you mind if I posted a link to this @ my lj?

This is beyond amazing.

Linked here from a friends page. My hair raised. What an intensely well-written post. Thank you so much for expressing last year and again this year what I don't have the skill to. Beautiful. I applaud you.