Every year, mercifully far removed from the time when I am writing this column, we Americans endure the ritual known as Valentine's Day. Some people, admittedly, do like it. The giving and getting of Valentine's cards, the candy, the flowers, the hearts, etc. all remind them of how much fun it can be to express affection for another person and have that affection reciprocated.
Others hate it. As with so many American holidays it seems to be nothing more than an orgiastic ritual of capitalist consumption. It seems to require the expenditure of ever-increasing sums of money in order to "prove" that we love someone else. A moment's rational reflection tells us that this is not really so, but the Valentine's Day season brings on a bombardment of unmistakable messages and ensuing nausea. I confess to being in this latter group; I simply loathe the holiday and what it has come to ritualize.
Love it or hate it, though, one cannot deny that Valentine's Day is a celebration aimed at pairs or couples. To be alone on Valentine's Day is a scarlet letter, or so we might believe. The holiday celebrates one specific form of bonding, enshrines it with a status above all others.
Those of us not in that kind of bonding face a dilemma: how do we celebrate with our family? How do we convey the special feeling not just to one partner, but to all those who are important parts of our lives? We reject the notion that a man-woman pair is inherently any better or more valuable than other family styles.
Now flip your mind mentally forward to June, what we might call "Pride Season." In America, most towns and cities that hold Pride events do so in the month of June. Attending and marching in Pride is, for me, a joyous and uplifting event. I could spend a column talking about Pride, but the point I want to extract here is that at Pride we see a huge diversity of family types.
We see male-female pairs, of course, but we also see male-male and female-female pairs. We see dykes on bikes and dykes with baby carriages. We see triads and N-ads that I couldn't describe to you without resorting to some kind of silly molecular diagrams. The US Year 2000 Census tells us that Pride is much more representative of America. For the curious, I recommend a browse of www.census.gov (link opens in new window). It shows quite clearly that what we think of as a "family" is a small minority of the actual households in the US.
If that's reality, then, my question is this: how do we design a holiday for poly people -- a "poly"day, if you'll excuse the pun. Pride is a great celebration, but it is oriented outward. I would like to have a day that is oriented inward, towards those closest to me. At the same time I want that day to acknowledge that there is not just that one special person, but there may be more than one person sharing my intimate attention and affections.
In case it's not clear by now, I should tell you I don't have an answer to this question; I don't know what a polyday would look like, but I have some ideas, I think. For inspiration, I want to turn to another American holiday that is traditionally family-oriented: Thanksgiving.
I know, Thanksgiving has become just as laden down with cultural and commercial baggage as Valentine's Day. Dealing with blood relatives often complicates the event far beyond anything reasonable. But, at the core I think there's an intrinsic value worth extracting. Thanksgiving is a day of big gatherings. Now combine that core value with the Valentine's Day core value of expressions of love, affection and commitment.
I think that a Polyday would include a family gathering, where that family was one's chosen loves and lovers. And perhaps their chosen loves and lovers, out to whatever degree your endurance and dining room table can manage. I think that a Polyday would include expressions of love and commitment, perhaps in the form of the exchange of material tokens (I mean, who doesn't enjoy getting presents) or perhaps just taking the time to say to each important person how you feel about them.
Finally, I think a Polyday would not have a fixed date. One of the objections to Valentine's Day is that it is artificial to express your true inner feelings on some outward-dictated calendar. If Polyday is going to reflect our choice of different lifestyle then I think it ought to reflect our desire to be able to express our feelings when and how they occur.
So I invite you, dear readers, to have a Polyday. Have it once a year or once a month if you so choose. Take the bare bones ideas here and expand or change them to suit your ways. If you do so, please write and tell me what you did, how it worked for you, what you'd recommend, what you'd suggest others avoid. I'd like to do a followup column with your input.
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Copyright © 2001 Alan Wexelblat
The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.
Last modified: Mon Jul 30 17:49:19 2001