Bite Back @ Valentine’s Day

As written for the BITE issue of Naked City.

Solo is Sensational

There’s nothing that bites more than being single this time of year. More than a simple day to force consumerism on the romantically entangled, Valentine’s has evolved into a full-on season. Even if you’re coupled, the Cupid hype can gnaw. The ruby-red pressure begins to mount as soon as the New Year’s Eve confetti is swept up. Nearly every store caters to the narrative that you’re nobody till somebody loves you– and is willing to spend lots of money on you. But you ARE somebody, and this February 14th, you should take the bite out of Valentine’s Day by biting into your own bliss!

It’s time to do that one thing you’ve always wanted. Is there a restaurant in town that you’ve been craving? You should go, and take yourself as your very special date. There currently is no local ordinance that prohibits an individual from dining alone on St. Valentine’s Day.  Is there a movie you want to see, but all your friends are on a date?  Go see it alone! The U.S. Constitution protects the right of single, adult individuals to publically assemble. Are you in the mood to dance? Venture out to a club, and sashay your sexy, solo self to the rhythm of the moment. While a legal Kansas marriage consists of one man and one woman, there’s no amendment banning single-sex dance floor movement…at least not yet!

Many are afraid of being alone in such situations, though, and that’s understandable. Several will cite fears of what other people will think of them if they are seen in public sans-partner. Others will claim personal uncomfortability with such bold public displays of self-solidarity. Why do we give other people so much power over our own satisfaction, though? And if you can’t sit down with yourself for dinner, what makes you think someone else will want to dine with you? Biting questions, I know.

The answers may be more tender than you think, though. Strong individuals make for stronger relationships. The more you know about yourself, the more you have to offer to someone else. Even if you’re partnered up, personal development is paramount. You have an identity and interest outside of your relationship that deserves cultivation.

Some of this language may seem supercilious, but isn’t the box we allow Valentine’s Day to put us into even more absurd? We’d all be a lot more fulfilled if we stopped waiting for someone else to make us happy and just acted upon the whims that bring us joy. Romance doesn’t define our existence. In fact, it’s the light that shines within each of us that is most attractive. If we don’t take time to fuel it, that radiance will dim.

So, bite back at forced romance, and get intimate with yourself this Valentine’s Day! Regardless of what your Facebook relationship status reads, V-Day is pretty much an over-hyped hassle for everyone. There’s bound to be something you’ve always wanted to do for yourself that you never have. There’s nothing that bites more than not doing what makes you happy!

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Mark Zuckerberg: Gay Rights Icon?

Zucks

Sure he's an accidental billionaire, but is he also a surreptitious same-sex savior?

Mark Zuckerberg is not just an accidental billionaire; Facebook’s founder is also a fortuitous gay rights pioneer. Though neither queer by orientation nor activist by nature, the creation of his social network has forever change the means by which homos, on and off the range, negotiate the terms of their lives. His digital quest for openness has picked the locks of closet doors for the last half-decade. In connecting the globe, he has enhanced the ability of LGBT individuals to connect to each other and reconnect with the world around them. Facebook’s impact on the gay movement is palpable on a personal and political level.

Social media has changed the terms by which gay romancing is negotiated. The chat rooms and message boards of the 1990’s gave rise to an over-sexualized hook-up culture. Those looking for mates could find their fantasy man or woman online via Gay.com or CraigsList.org. There were lots of awkward dates and one-night stands, but little lasting or meaningful encounters. That is because the mediums delivering the connections were devoid of the one essential ingredient for any kind of successful relationship—authenticity.  With Facebook, you are your imperfect, fully integrated self, and you are not hooking up with a random stranger. You are usually connecting with someone you already know. Thanks to that “Interested In” tab, you identify how well they might want to get to know you!

Ten years ago, it was fairly easy for gay people to live compartmentalized lives. Many of us were out to our friends, but perhaps not to our family or colleagues. With news feeds, relationship statuses, and photo tags, social media makes it pretty hard to hide the truth. As our aunts, fathers, and grandmothers become our Facebook friends, they are learning that a digital connection is also a holistic association.  No longer are we able to easily pick the parts of people we love. When you see a person’s whole life reflected onto a computer screen, you understand that it is the sum all their interests, likes, and activities that make them who they are.  Sure, privacy settings can safeguard you to some extent, but the genie is really out of the bottle; new media makes it very difficult to cling to old ideologies like “don’t ask, don’t tell” because it is an invitation to the world—or at least your world—to be told all about YOU. That is forcing significant progress in areas outside of our personal lives.

There is a reason that gays are now integrated into the military. Nearly eight in ten Americans believe that the ban on openly gay service members was unfair. That is a dramatic reversal from when the policy was adopted only eighteen years ago. The simple fact is that when people know someone who is gay, they begin to change their minds about gay rights. The issue becomes less political and more personal. People of all political persuasions have Facebook accounts, and they see happy pictures of their niece and her girlfriend on vacation and festive photos of their son and his husband decorating the Christmas tree. Polls begin to reflect this accepting sentiment; politicians always follow popular opinion. In twenty years when same-sex relationships are commonplace, it is Zuck we should be toasting at our weddings!

I doubt Mark Zuckerberg has ever fancied himself a gay liberation icon. Anyone who traverses so boldly across the frontier of openness, though, cannot escape the simple fact that when you open a digital window into people’s lives, you forever change the quality of life for those who had previously