By Emma Speer
Originally Publish in Yale's The Herald, February 2017
I love love. It is the Earth’s greatest renewable energy. Despite this fact, many people live like love is this precious resource, as if every February 14 is 1849—only instead of rushing to California with a sieve, everybody is whipping out their credit cards at Jared’s or Walgreens. And if you can’t find someone willing to lick whipped cream off of your nipples, then Valentine's Day easily makes you feel like a failure. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
I have lots of Valentines. So many, in fact, I can’t choose between them, and I don’t have to. Some of them make me laugh. Others know me better than I know myself. And all are just this perfect combination of sexy and cute. To illustrate my point, here’s a text I received from one of my Valentines about another one of my Valentines, after I asked her to deal with my insurance claim:
“Yes! I'll do it after I make your sick sister some oatmeal....she pooped and threw up at the same time.....the cherry-on--top....is she got her period, too!!! LOL!!!! Love, Mom.”
I challenge you to find a message packed with more love. Who needs chocolate when you have Mom-made oatmeal? Who needs flowers when you have two daughters love-sick for you in their own unique ways? Who needs a love-story when you have real love?
We seem to value true, romantic love above all else. Anything less couldn’t really be a fulfilling life. This is especially true for women. An older female who lives alone only has cats to mask her deep malheureusement. A woman with a successful career and flourishing friendships is a shame because she’s not a wife, too. A woman who doesn’t want this must be lying to herself. Chimamanda Adichie asks, “Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?” The connection between female and wife has been so naturalized that even we females (even feminist females!) determine our value based on whether or not a man wants us. This binary causes us to “to see each other as competitors… for the attention of men.” By binding ourselves to marriage, we blind ourselves to friendship.
My favorite movie is The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared. The film is about a one hundred year old man, who, after spending years stuck in a nursing home, climbs out a window and disappears. The movie shifts between the old man’s adventures in real time and flashbacks to his his wild past, and features German work camps, American physics laboratories, murder, mental hospitals, castration, espionage, explosives and elephants. It’s essentially a Swedish Forest Gump on retirement.
I watched this movie with my mom over Christmas. After we LOL’ed our labias off, I was haunted by this thought: my mother could never be the hundred-year-old woman who climbed out of the window and disappeared. Women can’t disappear. My mom is a single mother of five, working three jobs to support us all. And, maybe more important, she has nowhere to disappear to-- because women’s stories must end in romance. An old man can say ‘fuck it all’ and frolic off with a fellow senile Swede. The female equivalent inevitably ends with a male savior: the life-changing (or, as is often the case, life-ending) romance. My mom laughs amongst the family, home, and life she has created, yet she remains convinced that it’s all worthless without a man to share it with, just like we’re all convinced that Valentine’s Day is a pointless holiday if you don’t have someone to put whipped cream on your nipples.
I was this way until very recently, when I realized that not only do I know so many people who would put whipped cream anywhere I’d like, but that I wouldn’t even need to remind them to bring a dairy free option. These are my Valentines, because these are the people I love in my life. These are my friends.
Now, I’m still into mating, but only in the Australian sense. A conventional romance may be a “source of joy and love and mutual support”, but it’s not the only one, and it may not even be The One. The Ones may be many. The Ones are the people who send you GIFs and say “lol story of my life.” The Ones are the people who will walk with you to Walgreens on February 15 for cheaper chocolate. The Ones are the people who will cook you oatmeal while you poop and throw up at the same time, and then they will laugh at you. The Ones may put whipped cream on your nipples, but they also may not, and that’s okay, because honestly what kind of value system rests on Cool-Whip-Nips anyway?
So, this Valentine's Day I’m back on that second-grade status, handing out shitty yet earnest love to my friends. Thank you gals. Let’s give a whole new meaning to V-day.