It is a week until Valentines day. That date that nobody really likes, despite how bitter it could sound to admit it. It puts couples under pressure, single people under pressure, widowed or divorced people out of sync and those who don’t define to traditional monogamy to feel slightly out of place, (Disagree? How many big table bookings at Valentines day do you see? Full of a large poly families? Exactly.), The date has given the colour pink a bad reputation and timing wise it couldn't be more awkward, coming straight after January, that terrible month where everyone is broke, ill, depressed, recently dumped or grieving. January didn’t get the tag of Death and Dump month by accident.
St Valentine probably wouldn’t have approved of the amount of pressure people have to go through to prove their love in his name. He was well known for being stubborn and not doing as he was told, defying tradition - so I doubt he would have given into advertising to book an extortionately expensive three course meal in a badly reviewed Tripadvisor restaurant surrounded by other skint couples as they all drink crap proseco and think about the homes they can’t afford. He was an outsider and an orator. If you really want to pay homage to the guy, try and cure blindness on Wednesday. That is what he famously did, before he got his head chopped off.
We get too focused on the ‘romantic’ aspect of Valentines day - without considering that as St Valentine was executed due to his unconditional love for God, there might be OTHER types of love the day is meant to be celebrating. I’m not saying you should devote the day to an ethereal being if that is not your style but there is little proof to suggest that the love that Valentine had for the blind woman he sent his final note to with ‘Your valentine’ famously written on it, was romantic or ‘eros’ - erotic love. The love could have been of any type - it could have been ‘philia’ - affectionate love - the love of friendship, or ‘storge’, the love of familiarity and kinship. As a die hard Christian, the latter two make more sense. He, like the girl, was an outsider.
The Ancient Greeks are always worth coming back to when looking at love. As a polyamorist and queer lady who often has to explain my relationships to people at house parties and at church services, I find the Ancient Greeks a huge source of inspiration and wisdom. They had at least six definitions of love as they understood there were multiple ways of loving someone. Definitions included ’Ludus’ - playful love, ‘mania’ - obsessional love, ‘pragma’, enduring love, and two of the most important types -‘philautia’, self love and ‘agape’ - selfless love.
This valentines, rather than focusing solely on the eros and the philia. Celebrate the 14th by sending letters of praise to your friends, your family, to yourself, to the world itself. As Ru Paul famously said: “If you can’t love yourself how the hell can you love somebody else?”.
I am doing Love Songs to Guinea Pigs on Valentines day and will be dancing and celebrating at Vault Festival afterwards. If you don’t have anything planned and you fancy coming, you can join me in the bar afterwards and we can celebrate loving ourselves and loving the world.
I am a huge music lover and I find sometimes music best communicates all the feelings I have which bubble in my body like broth. Here is a playlist of carefully selected and well loved songs to do with love - of all types. I hope you enjoy them. Let me know if you have any faves!
Lots of love,