Ah, Valentine’s Day! The holiday that divides people of all sexes, orientations and gender identities into one of two camps: Those who hate it with the heat of a combustion reactor and want to mow down anyone carrying a Whitman sampler and those who love it and get defensive about, well, protecting their precious little holiday from the big, mean haters.
OK, make that three camps. Needless to say, I tend to do a lot of ducking and covering with the rest of the Valentine’s agnostics as soon as Christmas clears out and Walgreens across the nation begin overstocking on red and pink M & Ms. I say agnostic not because I think the holiday is, oh my God, a big conspiracy to make us all buy Hallmark cards and cheep teddy bears!!!, but because I don’t like the misery it causes many single people — and many couples who wish they were single. And no, arguments that the lonely and dissatisfied should just treat themselves to a fancy dinner and candy, spend time with friends, or start their own Valentine’s traditions are really just another way of saying, “let them eat cake!” It’s a fun and sweet holiday, yes, but also one, I think, that deals far more in smugness, hurt and ill-will than a day dedicated to love ever should.
So, this Valentine’s Day I’m calling for an armistice, or a V-Day if you’d rather. Single and coupled, straight and queer, cisgender and transgender, let’s forget about sex and romance for a moment and talk about some forms of love I like even better: The love of whimsy, pranks and, ultimately, each another as members of a community.
And who better to show us what this is all about than the geeks?
Instead of coming to Utah to rant and rave about 8: The Mormon Proposition in front of Jacob Whipple, Eric Ethington and all a bunch of other awesome people attending Sundance to support the documentary, Fred Phelps and his ever-classy Westboro Baptist Cult decided they’d get a better reception in San Francisco. They went on a whirlwind picketing tour of Jewish organizations like the Contemporary Jewish Museum and then, for reasons unbeknownst possibly even to God, decided to wave their signs in front of Twitter, Inc.’s offices. Here they were met by a cadre of Dadaists, 4Chaners and other assorted geeks who favored some of the most creative ways of saying “fuck off, Phelps” that I’ve yet seen. These included unicorn costumes, accordions and signs reading such catchy non sequiturs as “I’m Tired,” “Build Prisons on the Moon,” and my personal favorite, the lyrics to Rick Astley’s 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”— a reference to an internet meme known as “rickrolling.” Take a look at some photographic evidence at tinyurl.com/phelpsgotowned.
Even though this counter protest (rick)rolled into the world roughly two weeks before Valentine’s Day, it was still one of the most (fun)loving things I’ve seen in a long time — and consequently, one of the things I wish the day could be all about. Of course, it’s important to celebrate our romantic relationships — undeniably so! I mean, I love spoiling my girlfriend on Feb. 14 as much as anyone does. But I also wonder why, as a society, we don’t really celebrate so many other loving relationships that are just as important, and just as powerful: like friendship, chosen families and camaraderie among those society considers a little bit, well, “queer” — not only us queerfolks, but the freaks, the geeks, the Goths, the losers and the lovers and all of us the mainstream disdains as “weird” and not really worth anyone’s consideration.
Because it’s often the outsiders in any society or culture who have the most to say about loving-kindness and respect, geeky ones. You need look no further than this creative, fun agitprop-y response to Phelps and his goony family to see exactly what I mean. On that day in front of Twitter’s offices, a bunch of strange people came together to tell a bunch of hateful people to shove it, and in doing so they demonstrated parts of geekdom I most admire: social consciousness, solidarity the marginalized (in this case, the queer people Phelps regularly targets), and an infectious sense of silliness.
If every Valentine’s Day could only feature rickrolling, unicorn costumes and absurdist social activism, I think that we could end this Valentine’s Day war once and for all. This year, when Feb. 14 rolls around, let’s try to make the holiday less about romance and more about agape love, geek-style.
Or, if we can’t manage that, let’s at least try not to eat too many of those Whitman samplers. I mean, what do they put in those, anyway? Crack?