Feb 15, 2012 3:34 PM GMT
From Queer Libido:Today is Valentines Day and you pretend that you don’t care about it (even though, at some level, you do). Today you will find yourself increasingly bitter. You will hate the couple engaged in intense titanic meets glacier PDA in front of you (a little more than yesterday, that is). You feel like you are oppressed, like you have been denied something. Today you will think of all of your ex lovers and you will remember the tenderness of their skin, the allure of their promises, and you will hate them a little bit more. This, this essay for you.
I think I understand what you are feeling.
These days I find myself looking for love on dance floors at gay clubs. I find myself looking at that old gay guy, the one leaning up against the bar eyeing the shit out of me. I find myself hating him because I am afraid that one day I will grow up and be like him – that being queer (and of color) is a death sentence because I am doomed to be forever alone – some creepy trick in a bar.
It is in these spaces that I find myself thinking about loneliness the most. I become aware of the fact that I am ‘single,’ and that some of my friends aren’t ‘single’ and that therefore I am ‘alone.’ I am interpellated; I become hailed as ‘Single’ — an identity that I didn’t consent to, an identity that makes me feel insignificant. I will text my friends emotional things (even though I’m not drunk), I will write pathetic poems about love and fantasize of the day when I meet him (errr, or her, or ze…)
Today is Valentines Day again but this time I am a different person. I am a college student writing a blog in a library instead of doing my homework. I’m supposed to be writing a paper about Marx and instead I’m thinking about love (and realizing that they’re actually more connected than I thought).
In this post I hope to provide a queer critique of ‘love’ (or at least how our society understands it). I want to draw from lessons from post-colonialism, lessons from asexuality theory, and lessons from queer activism to generate a politic of Singlehood. I will show you how ‘Single’ is actually a site of radical queer resistance and I will deconstruct the methods of power that make us feel what we do today. This is not my attempt to justify myself (okay maybe it is). This is really an attempt to make you (and me) reconsider the systems of power that have come to enforce this dreadful day on us. This is an attempt to show you that you are capable of being loved (in fact, that you already are). Before embarking on this project I want to admit that I am anxious. What does it mean for me to deconstruct the very affect, the very mood I am experiencing in this moment? It feels perilous and I’m bound to make mistakes. But in the spirit of today, let’s rip cupid’s arrow out of our spleen and use it as a pen.
What does Single Mean Anyways?
I’ve always thought it’s fascinating what Facebook believes is important about our character: our gender (only two options!), our religious/political views, our sexuality (can I choose none of the above plz?), and our relationship status.
Facebook is merely a symptom of a larger ideology. It is this discourse of this ideology – expressed through mechanisms like Facebook — that conflates single with being alone.
Dictionary.com defines ‘Single’ as only one; not one of several. Okay, doesn’t that mean we’re all Single (last time I checked most of us aren’t physically connected, all do respect to our Siamese twin siblings out there)!? Our other options on Facebook are: “In a relationship,” “Married, “etc. It appears that we are ‘Single’ because we have some sort of lack – because we are simply not one of these other categories.
But does that still mean we’re not in a relationship? Last time I checked I’m in a relationship with many people. I am my mother’s child. I am my friend’s friend. I am my teacher’s student. Last time I checked I’m in a relationship with many objects. I adore my clothing (and take a particular fondness for bowties!). I’m in a relationship with space, with the environment, with the floor, with all things around me.
Yet, for some reason FB – and our culture more broadly – wants me to be in a very particular type of relationship. And because I’m not intelligibly in such a relationship, I am ‘Single.’
Not only am I single, but I am ‘alone.’ When I catch up with friends who haven’t seen me in a while they ask eagerly, “So, how’s your love life?” The assumption underlining their curiosity is that my ‘love life’ is the ultimate litmus test for my happiness, for my social well being. I perform accordingly. I am still Single – it SUCKS!!! In this moment I become aware that I am ‘Single’ and I remember that I am supposed to want somebody (one body) in my life and began to mourn the fact that I don’t.
This, to me, is a particularly queer condition. A very particular type of monogamous relationality is enforced on our bodies. The social actors around us police our relations ferociously. “Are you dating him?” “Do you love him?” “Did y’all (okay maybe I’m the only one that says y’all) sleep together last night?” they ask. Those bodies that are not in this system of relationality (presented to us in media typically through two ‘monogamous,’ able-bodied, white, heterosexual, attractive bodies) are made to feel insignificant. In the same way that I used to want to be white, to be straight, to be rich, goddamnit I want to be in a relationship.
It is my contention that the imperative to be in ‘a relationship’ is a mechanism of power. This imperative ignores the relations that we are all a part of. Thank you, Facebook, but I am in a relationship.
I am learning how to be grateful for my mom after benefiting from years of her gendered labor and unyielding compassion. I am learning how to respect my father and feel comfortable being compared to him. I am learning how to love my culture, even though I am afraid that it has no space for me. I am learning how to be a better friend, how to actually be there for others instead of just saying it.
Thank you Facebook, but I am in a relationship. I’m in a relationship with myself and each day we are fighting and each day I am trying to convince her/him/ze/it that her/him/ze/it is beautiful and capable of loving.
This narrow comprehension of relationality is perhaps a product of the Western world. When my grandfather died, my uncles and aunts began to house my grandmother (without hesitation). Now she lives in an apartment complex with all of her brothers and sisters in laws. She is not ‘single,’ she is not ‘alone,’ she remains connected. She is part of a culture, of a tradition, of a family where this type of individualism (a prerequisite for the Western understanding of ‘Single’) makes no sense. I, too, feel connected to my South Asian culture and people in deeply profound ways. I remember this when I’m the only brown body at an Indian restaurant in the trendy immigrant part of London and I get called bhiya (brother). I remember this when I hear Hindustani music and begin to tear up because it reminds me of dinners with my mom when things were more simple, when I felt like I had a people, like I had a home.
Yet, the fact that I – as a person of color — continue to valorize a particular type of relationship and relegate romanticism and sexuality to one facet of my relationality is profoundly sad to me. How much we have lost! How narrow-minded we have come to understand our bodies, our capacity for love and desire. Why am I expected to be unhappy (why do I feel unhappy) because I don’t have this type of relationship?