It’s the month of love, which climaxes, of course, with Valentine’s Day – a day when people around the world celebrate romantic love. Around this time, many gay people panic or resign themselves to the belief that they are unworthy of love and to be loved.
This month of love can come as a sudden shock, unceremoniously forcing us to face up to facts. Jokes dry up and streams of tears well up as the truth is made bare; that most of us fear expressing our need for love. We don’t give love a chance while we’re busy chasing dreams or climbing up that corporate ladder, hoping for fulfilment.
On Valentine’s Day we frantically search for ex-lovers or hook-ups we can connect with – someone who might express some emotion during a random lovemaking session.
When we rise the morning after, we let out a sigh of relief that they didn’t rush out of bed as the sun spilled in. At dinner parties we can at least boast about not having been alone on lover’s day.
This Valentine’s, however, I’d like to raise a challenge to find another truth about love, beyond the fleeting experiences many of us settle for.
Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare makes a few bold assertions. In it, he says that love “is an ever fixed mark,” it “is never shaken” and love “is the star to the wandering bark”. The point he’s making is that real love is a permanent fixture, that it’s unchanging and an unwavering guide to the lost – if we just choose to follow its light.
In more direct terms, author Paolo Coehlo states: “Love is always the same, it is people who change”. Love has always been available to us; we’re the ones who don’t open ourselves to it.
Gay people often live the first stages of their lives alienated from their feelings, and that could explain why we take too long to acquaint ourselves with love. A psychologist named Maslow maintained that, “those who have reached self-actualisation are capable of love”. Could it be that our inability to love reflects our emotional underdevelopment?
Our discomfort with love and to be loved also jeopardises all other kinds of love that we might experience in this lifetime. Robert Sternberg describes these kinds of love through three components; intimacy, passion and commitment.
He believes that the key elements of Romantic love are intimacy and passion, which cannot sustain commitment. Friendship love can be defined by intimacy without any intense passion or long term commitment. Companionate love is intimacy and commitment, ideally shared with family. Lastly, Consummate love is defined by intimacy, passion and commitment. Consummate love is perhaps the complete form of love we all wish for.
Along the path to realise my artistic dreams I rejected opportunities presenting love to me on more than one occasion. I closed myself off to love and instead dwelled in my financial challenges. I cannot blame love for lacking when I chose to overlook it.
The love and dedication we have to our careers sustain us momentarily but they fail to completely validate our lives. Love is more than a lifestyle afforded by the elite. Love is an essential need, irrespective of class and race. Love is there to give meaning to our lives.
After the commercial madness of Valentine’s Day, let’s teach one another to overcome the fear of giving and receiving love. We need to understand that love is a fixed mark, love is not shaken, love is the star to the wandering bark, and that love is always the same, it is people who change.