Happy Valentine’s Day! I figured I’d come back in full swing with a nice little double entendre. Actually, I didn’t intend for that to happen. But I know you guys – and I know how easily I set myself up sometimes.
I’m sitting here eating a sleeve of Thin Mints, enjoying a soy latte, and occasionally sneaking excerpts of The Bell Jar into my daily routine. “But Haley,” you say, “Act Like a Stereotypical White Person Day is still months away!” I know, I know. But for me, the consumption of these simple pleasures (the cookie and lattes) as well as the somewhat strained cultivation of my literary knowledge (the reading of Bell Jar) are for the purpose of something that is often highly neglected: self care/love.
On this day, I have no doubt that many people, including many of those in relationships, are feeling a sense of self-doubt. It’s unfortunate that a holiday that began as an excuse for a bunch of drunk Roman guys to whip women with animal hides causes us so much anxiety. As if we aren’t good enough by ourselves. As if we need someone else to dote on us and make us feel appreciated.
All this talk of self-doubt reminds me of something that I was thinking of earlier this week.
I roam through social media quite frequently. Now that I have reincorporated Instagram into my life, I find myself peeking through the comment section of many prominent players in the digital world, from models to makeup artists to personalities who are worshipped to the tune of thousands of “Likes” for every impromptu car selfie or latte portrait they post. I also spend a decent amount of time on Twitter, where the whole world seems to congregate for news, pop culture happenings, and musings from certain political figures.
Almost without fail, every picture, tweet, or post that is remotely recognized will have someone chiming in with negativity.
If a girl posts a “before and after” style photo to show the hard-earned transformation her body has gone through over the course of some months, I will see a comment that calls her a “slut” for displaying her body or “fat” for god-knows-what reason – regardless of what her body looks like.
If that same woman posts a picture of herself dressed in a covered fashion with a bare face, someone will call her “ugly” because – get this – she’s not showing them her body or putting on makeup for them.
If a black person posts about Black Lives Matter, a swarm of dissenters will chime in with accusations of that person being “racist” or “radical” .
If that same black person stays silent on issues of black oppression, they’re an “Uncle Tom” or a “traitor”.
If a man posts a picture of himself in makeup, he’s called words that mock his sexual orientation.
If this same man posts a picture of himself espousing a traditionally “masculine” appearance, someone will say he’s “not fooling anyone”.
If someone identifies as conservative, they are immediately classified as a virulent, heartless, anti-gay war monger, because nobody has taken the time to actually ask about their views in detail.
If someone identifies as liberal, they are immediately classified as a virulent, idealistic, free-loading tree hugger, because nobody has taken the time to actually ask about their views in detail.
If we do one thing, we are punished. If we do the opposite of that, we’re punished. If we happen to Goldilocks our way into to the middle – sorry, still punished. Sure, loads of people might be happy that we voiced our opinion, and we might even be happy that we did that. But someone’s always going to speak out against us, especially in the age of ubiquitous social media presence.
I don’t need to go into detail about much harder it is for women, people of color, people of queer (including trans) experience, people who are disabled, people who are Muslim, or people who are otherwise not reasonably educated, well-off, white, heterosexually-identified males to avoid negative comments. But that’s for another post.
Keep in mind: this isn’t me being negative. This post might even cause you to laugh at how ridiculously hard it is to please anyone. And if you’ve been hurt by these types of comments in the past, you might be relieved that someone out there notices what’s going on – and is just as frustrated as you.
But I’m here to tell you: it’s okay.
Because the most important thing to do in our current climate is to do what makes YOU happy.
I know that by posting this, I will make someone unhappy. Guaranteed. That’s okay.
I know that my views inspire fear and anger in a lot of people, even people close to me. That’s okay.
Because I love myself, a lot of people love me, and I believe in myself and what I stand for.
All of this being said, I do think it’s important to apologize when we hurt people. I do think it’s important to thoroughly research (!!!) things before we try to publicly state facts about said things. And yes, I understand that it’s hard, even downright scary, to voice our opinions sometimes. Unfortunately, safety can be an issue when it comes to expressing ourselves. But to the extent that we can, we must still try.
So on this Valentine’s Day, be proud of you. Keep voicing your opinion. Keep fighting your good fights. Keep standing strong. The world needs you, even if it doesn’t know it yet. And it all starts with you loving (and pleasing [LOL]) yourself.
Oh, and while you’re at it, eat some cookies or donuts or something. You deserve it.