by Aiano Nakagawa
AFO Content Writer
Growing up, I was into most mainstream, consumerist, branded holidays and Valentine's Day was no exception. The pink, the hearts, the romance of it all. But over the years I stopped participating in most of these holidays because of my complete disdain for mainstream American culture, which is rooted in capitalism, white supremacy, cishet patriarchy, and colonialism - all things I fucking hate.
However, in this last year, in the midst of a global pandemic, the land around me literally burning down, the air being unbreathable, and the most uncertain circumstances I've ever lived through, I’ve decided to embrace this manufactured Joy as a small escape from the current reality. Like, I went all out for Christmas this year with a (fake) tree, lights, a few gifts, and lots of food. And I had a great fucking time. I felt so much joy and feel like even if it is manufactured, I am looking to cultivate Joy in any way that I can. And yes, I know… I’m also sitting with the reality that these hyper-commercial holidays are in fact a product of the very culture that created the conditions I’m attempting to escape. I get it. It’s complicated and I’m trying to hold a “both and” perspective for this one.
But with Valentine's Day right around the corner, I’m reflecting on what about this day was so special to me as a kid and I think a lot of it revolves around the idea of romance. Out of every Valentine's Day I ever celebrated in elementary, middle, and high school I only ever had a “Valentine” once. It was in fifth grade and it was way too much pressure. I was also a baby gae and confused about why I was not into this boy LOL. However, every year, without fail my mom would write me and my sister a sweet card and have a little treat waiting for us in the morning before school started.
This got me thinking about all the ways in which we can cultivate romance in contexts outside of sexual or romantic partnerships. How do we create romance when we are not in a romantic partnership? How can we honor the romance that exists within platonic friendships? How do we express and experience romance when the people we are in partnership with are aromantic? How do we nurture romance when caring about people's livelihood means being alone?
In addition to how we cultivate romance, I’m also reflecting on ways to cultivate joy on this day that doesn’t (all) revolve around spending money. What are ways I can manifest the same sense of joy, magic, and wonder that I once felt, without giving in to the problematic, harmful, and damaging aspects of these holidays? Is it possible to reclaim these days as a dedicated time to reimagine and establish our relationship to said holiday? In this case, the romance associated with Valentine's Day.
I'm definitely still reflecting on this but in the meantime, here’s a shortlist of ideas of ways to cultivate joy and romance this Valentine's Day.
You can try all or none of these, or come up with a list all your own! Comment and let me know what you do!