Love, solidarity and Valentine's Day
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.
My niblings (a gender neutral term for the children of my siblings) are getting to the age I was when one of my aunts started sending me ‘anonymous’ Valentine’s cards every year. I struggle with whether to start doing the same thing myself.
On the one hand, where is the harm? It’s a bit of fun, an expression of care. And yet, it also upholds the commercialisation of care and affection, the raising of romantic love above all other kinds of love, and heteronormative models of relationship.
All of these are aspects of culture, society and economy that I believe are deeply harmful: I don’t want to be part of inducting my niblings into them. And yet, I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I’m left pondering, what would a Valentine’s Day celebration need to look like for me to be able to participate and enjoy it fully, without abandoning my values? The answer might lie in my student days.
When I was in college, I was part of a friend group who had become close enough by our third year that we all sent one another Valentine’s cards, regardless of whether there was any romantic or sexual component to our individual relationships or not.
They weren’t joke cards. No, they were entirely sincere: hand-made, individually crafted, and deeply personal to the unique quality of the relationship of individuals to one another.
Each card let the recipient know that they were precious in some way to the sender; that their existence and presence in the sender’s life was celebrated; that they were loved not just by a romantic partner, if they had one, but by an entire community.
I’ve experienced receiving and giving that kind of Valentine with individual friends since then, but not as part of a community. Those college Valentines not only strengthened our individual relationships, but also our solidarity as a community. They showed us the web of interconnected individual bonds of which the collective was formed. They were evidence that each one of us belonged to one another, individually and collectively, through our love and desire, through our expression, and through our action.
Of course, it wasn’t all joy and roses. People, relationships, and communities are complex. But our love and solidarity was strong enough, at least for the remaining months until we all left university and scattered across the country (and in some cases the globe) to hold us in a web of belonging and support, to maintain our small, temporary, but very genuine community.
I wonder if elements of that experience could serve as a model for a Valentine’s Day that would further love, solidarity, mutuality, reciprocity, community, and belonging, for all of us. I wonder what world we can create, when we express, value, and celebrate all forms of love, appreciation, care.
Enjoyed this? Want more? Get writing like this to your email inbox, a week or more before it appears here! 👇