This Valentine's Day, many of us spoke about reclaiming romance for our own selves. We declared that we would give ourselves what we needed - whether it's a bouquet of roses, permission to take a well-deserved break, a massager for which we pay in installments while also prioritizing our pleasure over all other demands in our life, the list could be endless. That was empowering for some of us. We wrote away the need for a 'romantic partner' to cherish us, in order to feel cherished.
But is self-love enough by itself? Right after V-Day, I shared a message on my Instagram Stories validating the grief that we all feel when we don't feel belonging or haven't found our community. We don't have somebody to enjoy a quiet moonlit night with, or the presence of our co-workers to banter over the water-cooler, or somebody who'd insist that the last bite of the dessert was ours to eat. These are not necessarily romantic or sexual liaisons, but simply the sense of having a village around us. People to go shop groceries with or watch a show on Netflix together, after a long day.
Esther Perel once wrote: "As almost all of our communal institutions give way to a heightened sense of individualism, we look more frequently to our partner to provide the emotional and physical resources that a village or community used to provide. Is it any wonder that, tied up in relying on a partner for compassion, reassurance, sexual excitement, financial partnership, etc. that we end up looking to them for identity or, even worse, for self-worth? Combine that with the commodification of love, the increasingly omnipresent “is there somebody better?”, and we have a recipe for decreasing the perceived “cost” of love. All the while increasing our expectations on our partnerships, and even adding more to the list, without really understanding what we’re asking."
In the same vein, if we claim to fuel our lives solely or primarily through self-love, then the immense burden that we are putting on ourselves feels quite contradictory to the act of self-love itself.
As we move on from this year's V-Day hullabaloo, I hope we give ourselves the space to yearn, desire, and seek relationships with others, freely. We are well within our right to ask for space and consideration in another's world - even if they were to decline it stating their boundaries. There is no shame in wanting the forbidden, and in sharing that desire in spaces that feel safe and capable of holding the tension that sometimes even if we are entitled to what we want, it is out of our reach due to various personal as well as systemic barriers.
About the author:
Tejaswi is a media professional and researcher focused on pleasure & joy in areas of public health. Their attention is captured by post-colonial human relationships at a time of the Internet of Things.
Tejaswi is autistic and identifies as queer in more ways than one.