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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day & The Freedom to Love

I never liked Valentine’s Day. Well, that’s not entirely true. When I was in grade school, we used to have these fun parties where every student would write a Valentine’s Day card for every other kid in the class. Then we’d put all our cards inside a special Valentine’s Day mailbox, and our teacher would play postman, showering us all with shallow yet sweet messages of love, often with animal themes like: “Owl be your Valentine” or “Bee mine” or “You’re Purr-fect!”

That’s what I liked about Valentine’s Day back then—it was so inclusive. Everyone got a Valentine. Everyone felt loved.

But then I got to high school, and there was no longer a teacher to make sure our expressions of love were democratized. During homeroom, the popular girls would be deluged with multicolored roses from not only their boyfriends but from all the guys who wished they were their boyfriends. And me? I got nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. (Except the year my best friend and I decided to send each other a rose so we’d feel less like losers. It didn’t help.)

So basically I’ve hated Valentine’s Day ever since it started feeling like a holiday meant only for the beautiful and the popular. Valentine’s Day made me feel unworthy, unlovable, like I’d never be able to partake in the festivities of flowers, chocolates and candle-lit dinners in the way my more socially savvy peers did. Valentine’s Day seemed like a holiday for the few, and my exclusion from it left scars.

Now that I’m happily married, it shouldn’t matter anymore. In fact, my husband and I have boycotted Valentine’s Day since we first started dating. And despite not receiving a pink card or a heart-shaped box of chocolate every February 14, I know that I am deeply loved. I know that I am married to the man I love. And I know that this is because I’m free to love whomever I choose.

But just like in my high school days, I can’t help feeling that this privilege of loving is still doled out unfairly. I usually don’t blog about political topics, choosing to focus on oh-so-important matters like Doctor Who, swoony love interests from YA fiction, or shameless acts of self-promotion. But California’s Proposition 8 was just ruled unconstitutional, a major victory for marriage equality. And yet our country still has a long way to go. Yes, our country, which was founded on the principle of equality and which prides itself on its diversity and tolerance, has only six states that allow same sex marriage. We will never be a truly enlightened nation until we grant all our citizens the right to love, and to marry, any person they choose, regardless of sexual orientation.

And just because I love her, here is Ellen Degeneres addressing critics who think she shouldn’t be a spokesperson for J.C. Penney because she’s gay. In her inimitable warm and witty style, Ellen captures what’s at the heart of this issue in the last thirty seconds: “Here are the values I stand for. I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you'd want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That's what I stand for.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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