Julian Menjivar | February 26, 2018
Once upon a time, there was an age of innocence, when beautiful fantasies of love and adoration blossomed. And love was everywhere–from displays of affection by our primary caregivers and friends to the billboard signs announcing the romantic comedy/drama of the year. Love was in the air, and all around us. As we grew older, the meaning of love got complicated. Then, in a beautiful chaotic motion, so too did our understanding of the concept.
When it comes to Valentine’s Day, or any other occasion when love is at its most visible, we are bombarded with bright, colorful decorations, love songs, and delectable—and punny, wittily named—food. Such a time is of high value for many in love, and the celebrations to follow are the epitome of happiness and merriment. From the numerous online love quizzes, to the rows and columns of heart shaped boxes in practically every type of store, love, it seems, has lodged itself in every nook and cranny.
I love the displays of affection and adoration, as well as revelling in the stories of how couples met and fell in love, the testaments of love stories that endured tragedy and hardship, even how breakups and heartaches united future lovers. I am fascinated by how we, as a collective and as individuals, define and experience love, and the concepts that shape our views. However, the age of innocence and certainty has ended, replaced by a world where we become wiser, yet unsure.
I’ve had conversations converning many queer and gender identities as topics, but the one that replayed in my mind was Polyamory. In its dictionary form, it is ‘the practice or condition of participating in more than one serious romantic or sexual relationship with the knowledge and consent of all partners’, and has been described as ‘consensual, ethical and responsible non-monogamy’. Within Polyamory, I have heard other terms that are related to this concept, such as ‘Throuples’, ‘Polyandry/Polygamy’ and ‘Polyfidelity’.
It was then that I began to realize that I have yet to see anything or any place that openly includes a date night with a throuple or other polyamorous partnerships, such as a ‘3+ for the price of one’ special on a restaurant sign. Yet I have seen about a dozen or more promotions in bright red fonts and colors for ‘Two 4 One’ specials framed in hearts and stuffed animals in couples (usually cis-gendered males and females). Arrivals for the newest romantic movies of the year typically feature a heterosexual monogamous couple in some cheesy or highly dramatic plot in most cinemas. If there are movies that try their best to represent minorities in the romance genres, especially when it comes to LGBT+ main characters, they are usually distant from the mainstream.
Such events or romantic products arising from romatic festivities seem inclusive, and may appear to attempt to include diverse groups. Yet they often falsely & negatively represent these communities, or fail to appropriately cater to their needs, doing more harm than good. While we are becoming more aware of these groups and the issues that arise, progress still needs to be made.
I realised that these folks who do not fit the conventional mold of monogamy find it a challenge to thrive in the commercial aspects and the conventions that Valentine’s Day brings, or any other love-inspired holiday anywhere in the world, such as White-Day in Japan and Saint Dwynwen Day in Wales. While these events hold history and tradition, and are important to many couples, the fact is these events exclude anyone who does not identify as a traditional couple.
Interracial couples couldn’t get married due to the prejudice against the color of their skin, in times and locations where it was legal to deny them the right to be open and unified in society. Likewise, gay couples didn’t have the right to legally marry, and still don’t, and they too could not openly show their devotion and love in public spaces. Through perseverance and social change, these couples, regardless of orientation and race, have redefined love and how we see it. This begs the question of whether the evolution of love can go further. If a gay couple or interacial couple can eat at a restaurant with a two for one romantic special and engage with the fun that Valentine’s day has to offer, why not people who identify as polyamorous? If a couple wants to buy a cute plushy couple of teddy bears, why not make a set of five, gender diverse plushy teddybears, or even different animals altogether? Granted that discrimination still happens, romantic holidays, as a whole, do not really allow non-monogamous couples to have equal opportunities and the luxuries that conventional monogamous couples have.
Perhaps one day, we will witness this change. Perhaps we will experience the joy and love alongside polyamorous folks, to see them comfortably enjoy a Valentine’s Day meal special. Perhaps we will go to the movies with audiences of all sorts of partnerships, going totally gaga over a romantic comedy or drama about a person falling in love with many soulmates.
Hello, beautiful people! My name is Julian, and I am studying Medieval Literatures and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh. I am a Leo/year of the dog, my favorite colors are burgundy and black and my favorite dessert is dutch apple pie, especially with whipped cream. I love to study anything from the medieval era and literatures (though I also like other genres as well…), and my particular loves are Vikings, medieval mythologies, medieval women, medieval poetry, and analyzing social theories (Feminism, Gender, Class, etc.). And castles. Let’s not forget castles… I am from originally from sunny California, home of In-n-Out, flannels and bringing back vinyl and polaroids. I am so happy to be here, and I love everything in Edinburgh; the people, the buildings, weather-yes, even the Scottish winter!-, and of course, spending time with new friends from all over the world. Also, the key to making me the happiest person on earth is recommending a fantastic book, especially one that is inspiring to you, or exchanging a recipe.
Article edited by Sonia Garciadealba and Laurie Beckoff.