Queering Valentine’s Day: Why We Should Deconstruct (Not Reject) Our Holidays

by: Johnny Gall

Today, I have the unfortunate task of defending Valentine’s Day. The easiest holiday to hate (with the possible exception of the 4th of July).

So, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, it serves as a reminder to single people that no one is buying them flowers and candy today. Yes, it’s used as an excuse for greeting card companies, flower shops and diamond sellers to make money off of us. Maybe it was even invented for just such a purpose. [1] And, yes, skeezy people sometimes use it as a way to take advantage of the desperately single. And yes, it’s a celebration of monogamy and all things heteronormative.

You know what else is used by skeezy people to take advantage of the desperately single? Everything. That’s what makes them skeezy. We can hardly fault the holiday for being so easily manipulated. I don’t recall the origin story terribly well, but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a part in which St. Valentine advised men to make women feel unattractive so that they could swoop in. That’s Desperation Day, and I will make no attempt to defend it whatsoever.

Also, you know what other holiday has been used by the capitalist structure to manipulate us into spending money. Fucking all of them. Tell me, the last time you went to the store, they had hearts and cards and chocolates everywhere right? In fact it’s pretty much been like that since January, when they finally removed the Christmas stuff. The Christmas stuff went up in early November right after the Halloween stuff came down, and the Halloween stuff replaced the back-to-school stuff. It’s always a holiday in the capitalist system, and when it’s not, it’s summer. Do me a favor: go to any store next summer. Shoe store, bookstore, Wal-Mart, whatever. [2] Now count the pairs of flip flops. Triple digits rights? Do the same with beach towels. I’ll wait. Also triple digits? Right. How far away from the beach do you live again? That’s what I thought.

The point being, it’s hardly fair for us to decry Valentine’s Day as a capitalist holiday because they’re all capitalist holidays. I don’t support that any more than you do, but throwing away your calendar isn’t going to do away with capitalism.

So, find a way to celebrate holidays that doesn’t support that. Don’t buy presents at Christmas, or at least hand-make them from stuff you already have. Don’t buy cards on Valentine’s day; find a cheaper, more genuine way to show your affection. Maybe a foot rub, or indulging that secret gravedigger fantasy your partner doesn’t think you know about. Don’t buy fireworks on the 4th of July, just put stuff in the microwave. It explodes just as well.[3] Don’t buy a bunch of alcohol on New Year’s, just…on second thought, leave that one alone. But see if you can find someone who sells moonshine near where you are. Twice the punch, none of the privileged guilt.

Now, as far as the day reminding you that you’re single, I feel your pain. I’ve actually never had a date on Valentine’s day. I’ve never even had a random hookup to make me feel better. It hits at the worst part of being single: no one else is single with you. You just have to watch other people make plans and try to surprise each other, and know that no one’s sending that your way. And if you need to wear all black, buy yourself five boxes of chocolates and watch The Notebook while crying to cope, I salute you. Do what you have to do.

But then, can we just admit that you’re upset at being single, and that you don’t hate Valentine’s Day on principle? It’s understandable. You have a right to be upset that everyone around you is dating and you’re not. But don’t get all arrogant about it, and try to pretend you’re better than all the worthless peons who have been brainwashed into celebrating their relationships. Cause that it’s going to get really awkward in a year, when you’ve been dating someone, and suddenly it’s your favorite holiday.

Finally, guys, do you know what I really love about queers? We queer everything. No, seriously. This past year, I spent all of Thanksgiving alone, in my apartment, in my underwear. It was the first time in years I couldn’t afford to go see my family, and it should have been awful.

You know what made it great, though? I spent half the time reading things on this blog about celebrating our families of choice, about staying in the city, getting drunk, and eating deep-fried tofurkey and deconstructions of the Holiday that point out exactly how messed up it is and why. I was so happy to see that we had taken a day which was hurtful to a lot of people—queers rejected by their families, those of lower classes who can’t afford to eat excessively and take off work all day, and whatever’s left of the Indigenous People who were here before us—and changed it. We deconstructed, talked about the parts that are messed, used them as a tool to observe and then we made our own occasion to celebrate. Seeing us queer Thanksgiving made mine twelve times better than it would have been.

That, and watching reruns of RuPaul’s Drag Race while ordering Chinese.

Why, then, aren’t we queering every holiday? Cause I’m a festive guy. There are few holidays on the calendar I don’t get excited about. I even kind of like to celebrate Groundhog’s Day–trying to convince everyone I know that I’ve already lived this day a hundred times, even though I usually haven’t. And I hate to see us throw out a good reason to celebrate, because we don’t have to celebrate these things the way we’re told. We spend pretty much all of our time re-defining things. Why not continue to do that?

And, when I say re-define, I don’t mean wearing black crepe over your face all day. That’s tacky and expected and everyone knows that you don’t really reject the holiday; you’re just upset that you’re not getting any, Ann Coulter.

Get creative. Celebrate Valentine’s day in your own queer way, whether that’s S&M fest, Grindr dates, deconstructing anti-feminist narratives in Romantic Comedies, [4] or just celebrating your own non-normative relationships. And honestly, I kind of really want to see poly people all start going out on cliché romantic dates with their entire web of romantic pairings. Think how great that would be. The normal would be so freaked out.

In the end, doesn’t everyone always try to make queer identities all about sex? Aren’t our relationships and desires the things that set us apart? Then, by God, if there’s a holiday that is unofficially built around relationships, desire and sex, we should be all over claiming this one. We can obviously call out the normativity, the monogamous implications and the inherent sexism. Deconstruct them, use it as an opportunity to speak out. And when you’re done with this change the dynamic; queer Valentine’s Day, however you can. Because why shouldn’t we have one more occasion to celebrate being queer.

To flat out reject it is the easy way out. You can do so many more fun things with it than that.

Johnny Gall is so, so very close to completing his B.A. from NYU in English and Creative Writing. He has hopes of moving on to seminary, and then to ordained ministry and works with several groups which advocate queer equality in the Methodist church. He is a feminist, anarchist, person of faith, part-time librarian and an all-around good guy.

[1] Snopes seems oddly quiet about this theory, but I know it’s out there.

[2] Don’t actually go to Wal-Mart. You don’t want to do that. Or at least, make sure you don’t buy anything and maybe, I don’t know, take a dump in the top of the toilet or something. Get creative.

[3] Or, actually, just don’t celebrate the 4th of July. Cause fuck nationalism.

[4] You could even make a nice drinking game out of this one. A shot every time it portrays the protagonist as obviously inferior to men, and seeking to reverse her fortune by finally associating herself to something male.

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2 responses to “Queering Valentine’s Day: Why We Should Deconstruct (Not Reject) Our Holidays

  1. Because Valentine’s Day is a terrible holiday for non-monogamous people (seriously scheduling is hard enough without external pressure to spend THIS ONE NIGHT with the “one” you love), I am having a ME DATE tonight to the new Mexican place in my neighborhood! Tacos all by myself, wearing a Snoopy Valentine tie, try to even beat that.

  2. One of my most memorable Valentine’s Day parties ever involved a porn party (it was more to mock the porn than for titillation) followed by a very active game of spin the bottle (I’m pretty sure I made out with everyone in the room). I guess my point is, I totally agree about the fact that peoria hate this holiday because they’re single – I used to be a bitter single V-Day grumbler, but I now realize that it is utterly true that couples don’t actually care *that* much more about this day than any other day. So, if you’re bitter and single, go out on one of the ten million pub crawls I saw advertised for this day and get laid. Or celebrate your love of your friends! It may not be the same, but it’s still pretty dang fun.

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