Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and however you feel about the holiday, it’s hard not to have an opinion about it. Tackling conversations about love can be difficult. They run the risk of falling into sentimentality; we might worry about annoying others or drawing ourselves into pits of rumination. Especially on Valentine’s, it can feel as if there is a concrete hierarchy of love, with romantic love reigning supreme. Whether you find yourself in a relationship or not at this time of year, Valentine’s can come with a lot of pressure, either to be more or to be different than who you currently are. Love talks also have the tendency to fall into exclusive terms — sometimes tending towards heteronormativity or conflating love and sexual desire, excluding asexual identities. The Editorial Board wishes to embrace the broadest definitions of love and explore how it takes shape at Amherst.
People constantly have conversations about romantic love culture on campus. Some people might say Amherst has a hook-up culture, but others will say that a lot more people go on dates than you would think. Some people complain that Amherst students are either in an all-out committed relationship or completely uncommitted, with no in-between. However you might theorize the state of romance at Amherst, there’s a tendency for many of us, at some point during our college lives, to obsess over pinning down just what our dating culture (or lack thereof) is. Statistically, there is likely a way to explain or define Amherst’s culture in somewhat objective terms. But on this front, perhaps our community is also more diverse than we give it credit for. Different segments of the population all have different conceptions of what their norm is, and people hold varying assumptions about the norms of other social groups that they observe from the outside.
It’s easy to fall into our heads and imagine that Amherst has only one predefined love culture. To some extent, this may be true. Specifically, there are certainly many damaging, problematic aspects to this culture that enforces male privilege, the power of which should not be minimized. But it is also true that there are certain ways in which we do still have choices, and that we do not have to let the dating culture define how we move through Amherst campus. There are ways in which we can disrupt perceived norms and make choices for ourselves, in spite of what it might feel like Amherst is telling us to do.
These discussions about love are unresolvable, in the sense that they will never reach a concrete conclusion, just like the people on whom they focus. Our friends, including those we feel closest to, constantly reveal themselves to us in different ways again and again. The moments in which we share secrets or even the most ordinary facts about ourselves give rise to a relation between bodies that is something more precious and alive than our individual selves. Psychoanalytic theory inspires us to imagine our conception of selves as entirely constructed by such relationality. The Editorial Board believes that this turn leaves space for radical growth and intimacy. As we move to disrupt relational norms, let us do so in a way that is expansive.
With the first round of midterms rolling in and evergrowing symptoms of “spring angst,” it also helps to find a love for place, to remember to think about ourselves and how we relate to our physical surroundings. It’s been snowing heavily, and the temperature has dropped down again from our unseasonably warm January. While many of us might be thinking back to the sunny days on the first-year quad, there’s also something special about the winter weather. On the evening of that first snow-day email, you could hear the sounds of people reading and responding across Frost and a growing buzz of release, as we all reveled in our kid-like selves for a moment. Perhaps, at a place like Amherst, where our time is so excessively managed and structured, the best gift is unstructured, unexpected time, which feels like it is truly meant to be spent on yourself.
Even without more days off, the ongoing snowfall might still be worth some loving. It’s satisfying to see the snow build up and know that it will sit there undisturbed until it is pushed away come morning. There’s something about walking quickly out of a warm dorm into the cool air, and suddenly stopping to catch your breath because it’s dark and cold, but the security lights are shining through the flakes, and it feels like you’re diving underwater. There’s sledding on Memorial Hill and the accidental destruction of dining hall trays. In Valentine, we complain how much we hate the weather with our red faces and windburn. But there’s something beautiful to be had in loving these moments for what they are.