This isn’t probably supposed to be as deep as it sounds, but over Valentine’s weekend The Guardian published 3 articles along the same lines that I found interesting, both individually and collectively.
The first article was from their regular “A Letter to…” section, and was a letter written by an anonymous author to “All the men I have ever slept with“.
In the letter, the author details the positive impact these men have had on their life. There is the one who made them “feel adult, sophisticated, safe and wanted”; the one taught them to say no and feel better about themselves for it; the one who made them feel desirable; the man who taught them how strong they are and the man who taught what it is to be loved.
The letter is finished with:
To all the other men I have ever slept with – for teaching me how to love myself, to love other people, to value and feel valued, to pick myself up and dust myself off and to do the same to others …
It was an interesting read of how even some of the men the author slept with out of seemingly only physical attraction and the relationship with these men taught something on an emotional level about what it is to be self, especially with the use of words like “valued” and “wanted”. Irrespective of the number of people the author slept with, they list a value that an individual taught them.
Somewhat in opposition, Gary Nunn published his piece the day after entitled “Single? Write out a thousand times: you are a whole person“. It’s a decent read with a decent meaning, although a little flawed in some of what he writes. I wonder if some of it might be lost on me because of Nunn’s knowledge of a thesaurus – “the argot is antediluvian”. You mean “the sentiment is outdated”?!
Nunn lists the modern Valentine’s Day terms implying that one’s self can only ever be whole as part of a couple.
They perpetuate the idea that self-discovery and definition can only be fulfilled within a relationship, when the opposite is preferable.
He lists possessive terms such as “you belong to me; you’re mine; I’m all yours; the girl is mine” and ends with one that rather ruins all his previous good work – “my guy”. I may be being overly critical, but in a sentence seeking to call out possession, the important one of those two words is surely “my”. If saying that we shouldn’t think less of our single selves, is Nunn saying that I can no longer refer in such simplicity to my family, my colleagues, my cat, my education, my experiences, my friends and other things that have molded my life, morals and self-definition?
“Do you want to go out tonight?” “No, I already have plans with Erin.” “Who’s that?” “My girlfriend.” The word is simply used as an identifier that Erin isn’t a friend’s girlfriend, a colleague’s girlfriend…
I might be being overly fussy. The reference to “my other half” does clearly highlight vernacular completion, the difference in connotations around being a spinster and being a bachelor do highlight the linguistic anomalies around singledom and the fact that a bride is still “given away” on her wedding day can be seen by some as misogynistic rather than a traditional honour that the new partner is now formally taking some responsibility for the best interests of their bride so as to, at very least, not let her down.
While one can moot the idea of possession in a relationship, it’s in conclusion that I don’t get Nunn’s arguments. He talks about the poly-amorous community thus:
Like many groups and subcultures on the edges of conventional society, their argot gives them identity, definition, self-justification and dignity. But most of all, it gives them power.
Agreed. But why is it OK for the poly-amorous to achieve “the full gamut of romantic, sexual, intellectual and emotional needs” by having relationships with many individuals with different roles, and “preferable” for someone single to be a strong person and meet all those needs on their own, but not understandable for one to get some of those things from a monogamous relationship with a singular individual?
The third article is from Eva Wiseman completing a “Love Is…” list. This moves away from using a partner to define ourselves, to what really defines that partnership. Some of the lines are great!
Love is… telling someone when they have crap between their teeth. Love is… them hanging around after the first three months despite the lies you told with your underwear. Love is… really trying to be independent and fierce and then getting home to them and just going: “Screw it.” These are the little things that we all want. Love is… taking years to unpack their neuroses, then using the space you’ve made to store your own.
Where the articles agree is that people do take something from others in their lives whether that’s good or not. That “something” that we take can be selfish or it can also be unselfish. It can be big, or it can be small. It can be physical or it can be emotional, or both. In my opinion, that’s natural. If we don’t, why do we seek out relationships at all? If we’re great on our own, why do we need someone else? We surely seek relationships to grow ourselves and, when someone can help us, yes, we do seek them out to fill holes. (Stop sniggering at the back.) The number of people I hear about wanting to find a “partner in crime” or someone to share fun times with… This isn’t necessarily finding the missing piece of the jigsaw but someone to work on the jigsaw with. We’ll still work on the jigsaw ourselves because it’s fun, but isn’t it more fun to have someone else to do it with? That’s why it hurts when they’re not there anymore – things aren’t as good as they used to be.
‘Cause you can’t get what you give
If you don’t give what you get.
What Is Love by Alex Band