The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved – loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
– Victor Hugo
Perhaps this entry seems belated, but I decided not to grace February 14th, a holiday glorifying materialism and heteronormativity under the guise of love, with the effort.
It feels wrong to celebrate a day when men are pressured into lavishing expensive gifts of flowers, chocolate, and jewelry on their significant others, and women flood the dressing rooms of Victoria’s Secret searching the perfect ensemble to entice their partner, in an attempt to confirm their affection, while others are simultaneously ostracized, condemned, killed for who they love.
Yesterday, while some couples were enjoying romantic dinners by candlelight, a 15 year old boy, Lawrence King, died in St. John’s Regional Medical Center after being shot by a 14 year old peer because he was openly gay.
Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox declined to discuss a motive in the shooting or why prosecutors added the special allegation of a hate crime against Brandon McInerney, who was charged as an adult. But classmates of the slain boy, Lawrence King, said he recently had started to wear makeup and jewelry and had proclaimed himself gay. Several students said King and a group of boys, including the defendant, had a verbal confrontation concerning King’s sexual orientation a day before the killing.
This story makes me sick to my stomach. Beyond the obvious horror at a tragedy of this magnitude, I feel so angry with myself. For every moment that I have spent complaining about being single, or even the times when I was in a relationship and ranted about its flaws– people might question my judgment, but never my right to be with who I choose. I might not have had someone to send me flowers at my office yesterday, but I know that someday in the future, if I decide to get married, my country will support that decision, and I, in turn, will be able to support my family.
We live in a society that characterizes an emotion through the exchange of material goods while simultaneously denying the basic Constitutional rights of people who truly love each other. We idealize heterosexual couples in Hollywood romances and perform the traditions fueled by consumerism and commercial industries while turning a blind eye to issues of domestic and sexual violence, exploitation, and oppression. We dedicate one day out of the year to love and fill the 364 day remainder with intolerance– or apathy. Or we put so much pressure and meaning into a single 24 hour period that we carelessly forget or undermine the value of less traditional forms of love.
Yes, I don’t have a boyfriend; but I have wonderful parents to send their love over e-mail while I’m away at school, friends who write me kind words thanking me for my friendship or who take me out for a glass of wine late at night so I don’t have to be alone, and I see with clarity for the first time in my life how many previous Valentine’s Days I wasted with the wrong guy or worrying about meaningless concerns.
So… no. I decided not to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day yesterday. The people who celebrated the occasion probably had enough well wishes from their significant others. Instead, I applaud the rest of us; those who survived a day which fundamentally tells us we don’t belong because we are single by circumstance or choice.
I offer my support and admiration to the marginalized people who have the courage to love with honesty and entirety every day even when it puts their lives in jeopardy. A community that understands that love is a basic, natural, human necessity and right— not something that can be trivialized by a Hallmark card or necklace from Tiffany’s.
Perhaps if we spent less time picking out cute paper Valentines for our children to bring to school and put more effort into educating young people about love as appreciation and respect for others– even those who are different from us– Lawrence King’s family would remember February 14th as something other than the day they took their beloved off of life support.