On a personal note, by virtue of opinion and objective analysis, I am concretely opposed to the idea of Valentine’s Day. Capitalizing on romantic love, the inherent insinuation that romance needs to be a part of everyone’s life and the associated negative feelings that come to those who do not have this idealized love to celebrate on this day, and the general heteronormativity of the day are the reasons that I am opposed to Valentine’s Day. However, as a human, I am prone to irrationally contradict my beliefs, so I love Valentine’s Day. I always imagine these fantastical situations where I meet the man of my dreams and spend an unforgettable day with him – and am constantly disappointed when this is not the case.
This year for Valentine’s Day, I controlled myself. I said, “Self, you are not in a position to find love, and you should just live this day like any other.” So, I decided to treat myself and go see the new film Black Panther. (On a side-note, this film was absolutely amazing. I am not a fan of action movies nor superhero movies, but this film was so much better than I anticipated, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone.)
I did some research and decided that on this Wednesday night I would go to Strasbourg, watch the movie and come home. Fast-forward two days where I meet not exactly the man of my dreams, but an interesting and fun guy. I decide to invite him to see the film with me and he accepts. I am, for the first time in my life, going to have a date on Valentine’s Day. Also, he is French, so this also provides an opportunity for me to practice my French and see what dating is like in France.
On Valentine’s Day, I wake up, go to class, rush home to primp, and then head to the train station. My unnamed companion said he would meet me at the train station after his dentist appointment. (I know! Just like in the movies.) So, I put on my best outfit head to the train station. Because I was ridiculously nervous, I got to the station an hour early—a full 2 hours after his dentist appointment. When I get there, I send him a message to let him now I am there and that I am excited. (At this point, I feel compelled to tell you that I am generally needy and stress out over radio silence. Friends, family, no matter who it is, I cannot stand being ignored.) I sit in the Metz train station, pedaling the bike powered charger, trying to read, and anxiously checking my phone. 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes drag by without a response. I tell myself at the 37-minute mark I will follow-up, just to make sure that he has received the message. Of course, I cave and send a follow up message at the 28-minute mark. Time slowly passes without a response.
Now counting time from my message turns into counting time before the train leaves. At the 15-minute mark, I tell myself he is going to stand me up. At the 13-minute mark, I invent an elaborate plan on his part that includes showing up with flowers. At the 10-minute mark, I board the train. At the 5-minute mark, I send a last message asking if he is coming. As the train takes off, I realize that I finally had a Valentine’s Day straight out of the movies. However, instead of the romantic gesture and unforgettable evening I imagines, I realized I am in the middle of the romantic comedy, where the couple faces an obstacle that causes heartbreak. (Not really heartbreak, but it sounds better.)
I get to Strasbourg, eat a quick kebab (nothing has changed), go see the film, which, it bears repeating, was absolutely amazing, and head back to the train station. But, as if the evening could get worse, I realize I grossly miscalculated the time of the movie and the necessary time to return to the train station and I have missed the last train to Metz. I end up getting a room in a youth hostel, spend a quiet evening reading, and head back to Metz the next day.
This story, while it is fun to laugh at (no worries, I am able to laugh at it, so you can too), also opens the door for some more emotional or meaningful thoughts that I can share with you.
The first one I want to talk about is being gay in a foreign country. I am so fortunate to have an amazing support system and unending, unconditional (albeit suffocating) love from my family. But, that doesn’t mean that being gay is easy. I worry about being open with my sexuality in the States, despite this amazing support system, so traveling abroad can be especially daunting when it is coupled with being gay. (It shouldn’t be ignored that this abroad experience is still an incredibly privileged situation. I am a United States citizen, traveling with a university program, in countries where being gay is relatively well accepted.)
Being gay in France is definitely different than in the States. France legalized gay marriage in 2012 and French people are often known for their open and accepting attitude toward love. However, there are definitely other barriers in France. One of those is that French people guard their private life (la vie privée) sacredly. Whether it is religion or sexual orientation, French culture has a self-imposed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. There certainly are not student organizations that create spaces for gay students (or students of color, etc.). It’s not as harsh or strict as I have made it seem, but it is there nonetheless and incredibly difficult to explain or describe. Transitioning from my community in the States, where I am very open with my sexuality, to French circles makes me feel as though I am hiding a part of myself.
However, these are largely theoretical and internal barriers. The community of students at GTL are extremely accepting, and I have not run into a single problem! Also, all of my French friends that I have met are accepting and welcoming, although surprised by the casualness with which I reference my sexuality and how it influences my life.
All this to say: Valentine’s Day is a scam.
I know I usually don’t add a phrase of the week for the mid-week posts, but there is a phrase that goes so well with this post that I have to add it! Lucky you! “Ça ne tombera pas plus bas.” Literally meaning “it will not fall any lower,” is used to mean that the situation cannot get worse, you can only go up from here. This is what I said to myself as I got stood-up, only to find that “Ca tombera plus bas encore.” And I would miss the train home!