Beyond Cards

Reflections on love that extends romantic relationships

If you read one thing this month, it should be All About Love by bell hooks. I picked it up as a celebration of both today, Valentine’s Day and Black History month.

The first Valentine’s day I can really remember I was in the 3rd grade. I got the chicken pox and I was bed ridden all week. I still got the red and pink envelope with all little candies and cards from my classmates. I remember thinking how cool it was to still get all those even though I was out all week. I felt acceptance and validation, though at the time, my nine-year-old probably would have labeled it love.

However the real love that week came from my mom who diligently took care of me both physically, helping me with the god-awful smell of calamine lotion and helped me stave off boredom by teaching me how to use email and create an single-page website. It was pink, and had a visit counter on it.

I remember this because my first love came from the love from my parents, which is the greatest privilege I think anyone can have. In bell hook’s All About Love, she explores what it means to be in a loving home, and what it means to find love in romantic partnerships.

Hooks explains that the pillars of love are not just care and affection, but honesty, communication, and respect. All things that I was raised will and value in all my interpersonal relationships.

Love is a lot of work. It’s difficult and there are so many mixed signals about love, its difficult to know how to get there. I remember avoiding many possible romantic relationships because they all felt lacking in communication or honestly, even when the chemistry was there.

The love present in all my relationships—familial, romantic, or platonic has made me into a better person. Love teaches patience and understanding and eventually it cultivates a deep sense of empathy that can be carried to any human interaction.

Valentine’s day is so much about buying cards for the people consider romantic attachments. With that, its hard to remember the other kinds of love there are.

So happy Valentine’s Day not just to my amazing partner of six years, but to my mom and dad, other family, friends and communities I’m grateful to be part of.