Muller Marginalia

What is Love? New Approaches to Valentine’s Day

Published: Feb 15, 2023  |  

Writer, editor, performer and self-producer

If you’re reading this: you made it! It’s now the day after Valentine’s Day, which I vaguely recall some folks back in the prime era of Maxim Magazine and The Man Show calling “Blowjob and Steak Day.” (This was the invented holiday for celebrating hetero-couple love in the acceptably masculine way, so that women got Valentine’s Day, and this was for the bros—because all women want is chocolate, flowers, gift cards, stuffed teddy bears and a candlelit dinner, and all men want is dead cow and mouth stuff, am I right?) Breaking news: men can be vegans, like chocolate, and maybe even be romantic, and women can like mouth stuff, too!

[Side note: unable to turn off my editor’s brain, I did a quick search for the aforementioned day—apparently I misremembered the order of words and the date: according to the internet authorities, “Steak and Blowjob Day” is March 14. I have two notes: why would you want to wait an entire month after Valentine’s Day to get your toxically masculine version? Second, why would you list steak first? WRONG. Lead with your strongest suit. Also, I’m not including a hyperlink to the day’s “official page” because I’m pretty sure it’s sponsored by porn.]

I’m happy to report that, over the past few decades, we’ve evolved a bit beyond the old stereotypes of “what women want,” “what men want,” and even what anybody wants—eff the gender binary! So I appreciate how some of our New Thinking contributors challenged our audience to consider what romance and love are “supposed” to look like this Valentine’s Day. 

Both Amanda Deibert and Jaime Andrews pushed against the traditional concept of the holiday: Amanda encouraged readers to use the day as an opportunity to celebrate all kinds of love,  while Jaime suggested we embrace whatever definition of romantic love makes sense to us individually. Valentine’s Day is, after all, just another holiday: as Amanda pointed out, there really isn’t a “right” way to do it, and it can be whatever you want it to be for you. I especially liked that she included the holiday’s ancient Roman origins, where proto V-day, or Lupercalia, involved public nudity and whipping. (Those calling for a return to “traditional” holiday celebrations might need to read their history books a little closer—though I’m fairly confident there’s a robust group of folks who would be super into celebrating a “traditional” Lupercalia. They’re just probably not the same people complaining about a “war on Christmas” every December.)

I loved how both Jaime and Amanda encouraged us to really think about how we engage with the day, rather than seeing it as some rose-hued greeting card nightmare foisted on us yearly. Love, after all, is a many-splendored thing—in all shapes and forms. Why should only straight monogamous couples have all the fun? (Something the divorce rate and a prevalence of jokes about sexless marriage already seems to disprove.)

I’ve had asexual friends for whom the idea of romantic love was just not in the picture… at all. I’ve had polyamorous friends for whom monogamy is the opposite of love, and can’t imagine sharing their life with fewer than three intimate partners. I’ve had friends who thought they were just not built for the traditional romantic hetero couple life, only to meet one person and realize “oh yeah, that’s me, I guess I’m going to be a monogamous straight married woman now, weird.” (That friend was me, in case you weren’t sure.) 

My asexual friend celebrated “AV Day,” which literally was just hanging out with friends, not trying to bone. My poly friends celebrate with their respective partners however works for them—usually with the help of an elaborate shared Google calendar, so no one is left out of the fun. And for me? My Valentine’s Day was always for family, since February 14 is my Dad’s birthday. So I always thought it was an awesome time to get chocolate and make your dad heart-shaped pancakes. As an adult, my V-Days often include making heart-shaped pancakes for my husband, because that is how I roll. And maybe also mouth stuff and beef at a later point in the day. In that order. My Valentine’s Day, my choice.

The whole point is, whomever you are, if you’re solo, coupled, throupled, asexual, celibate, or any other option out there, you are deserving of love and that love is worth celebrating. This can be romantic love, sure, but it could also be horny carnivorous love, chaste brotherly love, radical self-love, or good old-fashioned friendship. 

Fittingly, I just remembered that the day before Valentine’s Day is another unofficial holiday, thanks to the genius show, Parks and Recreation. Yep, I’m talking about Galentine’s Day, which is dedicated to the glory of female friendships. Take that, toxic Y2K masculinity! So even if you missed it, maybe go celebrate belatedly by giving your besties (of any gender) some TLC.

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