I passed this Valentine's Day with little fanfare, alone for the first time in five years. Yes, five years. I am not a serial monogamist so much as a serial opportunist: I do not do well with being alone, and as fate would have it, I find that pairs of arms are often open to me. I have been called, by the same person, both extremely easy and extremely difficult to love. I have been accused of being a fixer-upper, one of the more upsetting things to be thrown in my recovering face, but I've also been told that I am very good at fixing other people, something I feel uneasy about because I've never intentionally tried to fix anyone. I don't really think I have the right to point out the dents and bruises I recognize in others, mostly because it takes one to know one, and scars are mirrors as much as anything else.
This year, I had four shots of my father's under-the-sink whiskey and made a heart-shaped pizza upon which I spelled I LOVE SEX with black olives. There was something defiant in the act, a denouncement of the holiday I typically spend making sure flowers are arriving on time and blowing my paycheck on an expensive massage for my partner. I wanted the pizza to mean that I was a strong and powerful person who did not need emotional connections, who could totally have unattached sex and perform unattached actions and still feel awesome about it! But the pizza looked at me and said, you are sad and you know you have a gigantic feelings boner, and you should eat me. So I ate the entire pizza with my dog, who hasn't seen me in months and has been stuck to my side like an extra limb this week. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for his warm little presence, following me around with more love than I've ever mustered up for another human. I wish I could write a thank you card to whatever early human first befriended a wild dog.
Unlike most twenty-somethings with a liberal arts education and a near empty bank account, I don't actually loathe Valentine's Day. Truth be told, I still await the holiday with the same flighty little hopes I entertained as a preteen, hoping someone would send me a rose in homeroom. Alone in the shower or standing half-naked in my kitchen, I curse aloud my completely ridiculous attachment to a holiday that so many have denounced as an economic manipulation of human relationships. I scramble my eggs and ask myself why it is that every year, as soon as the drug stores have filled one of their aisles with a shade of crimson that should be reserved for tampons, I start thinking about a certain person, usually not the same person as last year, and plot what extremely well thought out gesture I am going to use to declare my emotional attachment.
If you've read this column, you've probably come to understand that I have a bit of an obsession with the written word. I find that self-expression through language is very powerful stuff, and in the right hands, it can be positively erotic. I'm a Grade A sucker for love letters. My drunk texts are always sort of poetic, and when I'm done cringing at them, a few rereads usually reveal that I was touching on some pretty lovely imagery. I live in words that I have time to type out or scribble on the back of a napkin. It's a strange but good kind of living.
The truth is that I don't think I come across well "in person," whatever that means. My mouth never seems to keep up with my head, and my head is already sprinting to keep up with my heart. If I want to share a part of myself - and often it feels like this is what I was supposed to do, this continual sharing - I will be doing so via the written word. If I have a big confession to make, I will send it through the mail, or by email, or in a text message that takes an hour to read (and took me four hours to type). If I have a crush on you, check your phone for my intense messages about what the moon looks like and how a flower I saw growing in the sidewalk was so perfect I almost burst. I couldn't tell you about it if I were sitting across from you because the way you make eye contact makes my tongue trip over itself. My palms are sweating so hard in your presence that the puddle they're making drowns out any sound I could possibly produce. I'll probably write all this down in a letter later that I'll never actually send. You see what I mean, then.
"You really should go on a date," my friend suggests over coffee. Okay, not over coffee - over Bailey's, which is practically the same thing. "Not a real date, but a practice date. Just so you know what it's like to actually have to interact with someone on a date. Like, you know, in person."
I don't go on many dates. Okay, I don't really go on any dates. The most private thing I'm willing to admit on my OkCupid profile is that I've never been on a date with someone before sleeping with them. I have no idea what it's like to have to wade through awkward conversation and appetizer choices in order to figure out if the other person is a person I'd want to... I don't know. Want to what? I'm not here to find my life partner. I'm 22 and as much as I'm known in my social circle as the kid who is in love with being in love, I have considered getting a Casanova tattoo on my pubic line way too many times to entertain the notion of settling down. I'm not there to figure out if we're sexually compatible, because there aren't that many non-sexual ways of finding that out, and very few of those ways involve talking about where you went to college and how many siblings you have. If I'm just trying to hang out with someone, why did I go to the trouble of putting on this silk bowtie and ordering escargot, as if forcing another person to watch me eat snails is a better way of making friends than talking to them online about how much we both love Toddlers and Tiaras? And don't get me wrong; I love escargot. I just don't see it actively improving my social life.
Queer community is built in many different ways. It is built on the ground in activist circles that unite groups around singular causes. More often than not, it is built through complex networks of partners, lovers, fuckbuddies, friends, and all the people who fit in between those spaces or as a result of them. I think constantly about how my own generation utilizes the Internet and social media for these purposes, and how some of the strongest connections I feel within the queer community I found on Tumblr and Autostraddle. I wouldn't be able to speak to you and hear your comments and feel the things all of you feel without the online queer community. Community building is essential to who we are and how we are going to care for our own and care for ourselves. I'd never stand up in a crowded protest and speak to an audience, but here I am in your computers, spilling my earnest guts once a week and seeing who cries back from the din. This is thanks to the Internet, of course, and the way we've learned to communicate here. I have high hopes for what my generation continues to do with social media and its ilk. It's a good place for us queer folk. It's a great place for those of us who know no other way to share.