Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why this year I love Valentine’s Day

A couple of nights ago one of my friends told me she hated Valentine’s Day because it’s a foreign holiday and it has nothing to do with our national traditions. Also, she said she will only celebrate our own holiday, called Dragobete. This is celebrated usually on the 24th of February and is an equivalent to tomorrow’s American holiday. Boys and girls used to pick the first flowers of spring and then sit around fires on top of the nearby hills. At lunch time, the girls would run away and the boys who liked them would try to catch them. If the girl also likes the boy, she can kiss him in front of everybody, this sometimes meaning they are engaged for an year or even longer. Unmarried girls would gather the last snow and use the water for beauty rituals and other spells throughout the year and the older people would avoid killing any animals this day so as not to spoil their mating season. The girls who would not meet any boy this day was “cursed” not to be loved by anyone that whole year. It’s a lovely holiday and I adore all the symbolism it implies. I will celebrate it as well, even if maybe only for the rituals. But I don’t feel that this tradition is any closer to my heart than the other one, since in my family’s village nobody knows much about it and they have never celebrated it. I remember many magical holidays and rituals my grandmother would perform, she even had her own spells and ways of understanding nature and reading a calendar. But none of those she taught me about was a celebration of love.
I’ve usually been single on Valentine’s Day, I had this really interesting habit of breaking up with people just before. At least I saved them some expenses. But I always spent it by myself, daydreaming and eating chocolate. I felt free and full of hope, like the whole world is laid down at my feet and I considered it to be a day I cherished all the love I had received and all the love I was going to enjoy. So I never felt lonely or sad on Valentine’s Day. Just pissed, because I used to condemn the commercial feel the whole holiday was infected by. But now I know they would always find something to sell and a reason for people to buy it. So why not enjoy the new decorations kicking out the snow flakes, why not welcome all the warm colors that invite spring in? I’m really happy when I see a lot of people carrying flowers and being more attentive and tender than usual, even in public places. When people say they can love each other all year, I couldn’t agree more. But they should be encouraged to publicly love each other just a few days a year. So I pardon public displays of affection on love related holidays. It beats the hell out of winter’s ass and it brings a feel of hope all over.
So this year I’ll be having a pretty uneventful Valentine’s as well. But I’ll be happy for every couple I see on the street, I’ll buy myself flowers and treat myself to a nice evening of music and maybe wine. Because this year I have something special to celebrate. For the first time in a really long time I feel there are some great people out there and that maybe I’m ready to give it a shot. I caught myself thinking one night that good things don’t happen to me. And just switching that mindset has made me realize I want those nice things and I think I’m finally able to enjoy them. So this year I believe and that’s a wonderful reason to celebrate. Chances are the road is long, but I enjoy walking and I have to thank my dirty Cupid for pushing me forward. Just the thrill of giving it a try was enough to get me to ask myself the right questions.
Valentine’s Day is not just a holiday the corporations use to creep into our lives. It’s a good reminder to invest a little more in our romantic lives, a boost to define where we are in this respect and whether we want to sit on the side or dive heads in. After all that time when the more Valentine’s approached, the better I knew I wanted out, I’m in a great place now and I finally believe it can only get better from here. So you people enjoy being in love every day and know that tomorrow I will not be engrossed by any of you groping and slurping on each other’s faces on the street or the bus. Happy spring holidays!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Initiation rites

Coming home from an African art exhibition today I got to thinking about rites of passage and how they play the role of landmarks and boundaries in people’s lives. And I realized they’ve been blurred and transformed so much we don’t know when we’re past a milestone anymore. Where is that ceremony for entering adulthood? How do we know that society welcomes us as full contributing members? And are there different rites for different aspects of our lives?

Of course, the most classical ones remain the coming of age parties. Some have a sweet sixteen, we have a big eighteen party, other cultures have full-fledged rituals of initiation that include separation from the family and learning what adulthood is all about. But in our society, are we really made privy to grown-up life? Not really. It’s a great thing that we are encouraged to figure it out on our own and build our own definitions of being an adult. Crossing to the other side might happen when we leave our parents’ house, or when we get a family of our own, or when we get a job or finish school. Or whatever we choose to see as a landmark. Finishing school, by the way, is a pretty common one. As I wrote a while back, it’s when former generations expected they would find employment, move into their own homes and start a family. But people now are marrying older, are traveling a lot or studying for a longer period of time. So it doesn’t really apply to as many people anymore. Although, if I may make a short comment, even this view is a bit too centered on our own cultural experience. In some cultures marriage comes first, at a very early age and it’s a rite of passage to adulthood as well. In others it’s strictly a question of coming of age and all the rest can follow only after being introduced to society as an adult.

But what about love life rites of passage? I amused myself trying to figure out when did I actually start dating. Because if it was when I had my first “boyfriend”, it means I’ve been doing it for a really long time. When I was in 5th grade a classmate sent me a piece of paper asking if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I wrote back yes and a while later he sent me a Valentine card and we went for a walk around the block. And that was it, we didn’t even hold hands. Could it have started when I had my first kiss? Or my first “I love you”? Or my first date? That would be weird, because I had a couple of committed long term relationships before I even went on a real first date. So when did it start? And moreover, is it going to end? Not making a big deal out of serious dating anymore, as we are no longer pressured by time or society to marry in our 20s, we’ve grown to treat it so shallow. We “try on” people, see if they fit. We actually run from commitment because we are scared of ending up with the next best thing. It’s a great thing that we are allowed to choose and experience, but the question is if we see the larger picture and whether we actually choose to enjoy all the opportunities that cross our path or we just ended up in a vicious circle of bad choices, when all we wanted was somebody to cross the borders with.

I’m not saying I want to live in a rigid society. It’s just that some sense of tradition would be nice and I’d like it if there were some rules and boundaries I can then choose to rebel against. I know that they haven’t disappeared completely and that we still have unwritten rules we live our lives by. But now the limits are so much wider this freedom feels overwhelming sometimes. Or it’s maybe just me, after all I am just a conformist little girl…

Monday, February 7, 2011

Soul mates

When it comes to looking for the love of their lives, many people say they are searching for a better half or soul mate. But I’ve grown to believe that the latter has little to do with the rest. Our soul mate could also be a parent or a friend or a child, a sibling, even a pet. We don’t necessarily have to be in love with our soul mate and there’s little chance if we are now that we would be forever, although it might help. It’s not very likely that we could be in love with a person forever, but that’s another story for another post. However, a soul mate is forever. No matter how much we love or hate them, these are the people we cannot shake off. Ever. A thought that is both comforting and terrifying.

I have days I hate my soul mate’s guts. And days I keep telling him how much I love him. It’s a weird kind of love and hate. Some soul mates are joined by common interests or blood ties, some are just so good together they can’t breathe in each other’s absence. We are more like astral twins. Somehow we're so much alike it’s annoying, because we can smell each other’s bullshit. But we’ve developed in different environments and maybe we play different games. I slip through the fingers and hide. He goes out there and drowns his bad days in the crowds. We both feel alone sometimes and we’re in a strange way together through all that. Inexplicably, we share moods or we’re on the extreme opposites, but never on asymmetrical positions. I guess we still resent each other for all the chances we didn’t take, for letting our love story fail and for giving other people what we owed each other. And we still believe in the back of our heads that whenever other options fail, we’ve still got each other. If I’d have to pick a literary reference where I can see a resemblance, it would be Mircea Cartarescu’s (Romanian postmodernist poet and novelist) “Gemenii”. However much things have changed, I believe we have an absurd symbiosis, we don’t “match”, we “melt”. It might sound strange, but sometimes it feels like we inhabit each other. Funny thing is we still can’t have a decent conversation without dancing our stupid cha-cha. Two steps forth, three steps back. I’m the one with the steps back. I guess I still can’t lose my grip. So acknowledging the big place he still has in my heart is a first step.

However, I still want to underline there is no point in assuming a soul mate would make a good partner. At least in my case, sometimes I think we’ve hurt each other so much, there is no more room for trust or any sort of joint plans. But mostly, I really believe people find great soul mates in their friends, because they are there through so much more than lovers. Bros before hoes, right? Friends make great soul mates because we pick them, they are the family we choose and in time they are some of the best investments we can make.

I may be pushing an agenda here, but seriously, you don’t need to be sexually attracted to somebody to share the deepest spiritual and intellectual connection. It’s actually a pretty shallow criterion. And whatever cultural stereotypes we’ve been fed by the romantic literature and movie industry, we have to let go of. Because they just create absurd expectations. Lovers don’t have to be our perfect matches and soul mates don’t have to be the love of our lives. They can be annoying sweethearts we can’t ever let go of because some day, under the same stellar conjunction, we were born twins from different mothers.