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Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk: Celebrating with intent

A custom-designed sticker for the author's birthday party shows a human butt, clad in purple underwear, emerging from a treasure chest. Sticker designed by Carlos of BloopMerch.
A custom-designed sticker for the author’s birthday party shows a human butt, clad in purple underwear, emerging from a treasure chest. Sticker designed by Carlos of BloopMerch.

“If you bristle at the idea of celebrating yourself or others, take some time to think about why that is.”

Welcome to my birthday month, readers! Welcome to Pride month! I love a good, well-curated party/event and each year for my birthday I have to assess what kind of capacity I have to celebrate making it through one more lap around the sun. 

As a fat Black queer disabled woman, in the words of Lucille Clifton, every day something has tried to kill me and has failed. And after two years of pandemic survival, I think many of us are feeling the importance of celebrating life, love, and the people around us more fully. I believe in celebrating yourself, your achievements, your survivals, your milestones, and yourself generally, especially queer and trans folks in June. I encouraged my younger cousin to have a graduation party this year to mark and celebrate his finishing high school in the middle of a pandemic. I also took him to his first Pride this year! 

Now, celebrating you and yours doesn’t always mean a big party, but it does mean doing something joyfully and intentionally. I find that when I make a point to celebrate myself and others, to take in and be present with the good, it fortifies me for the harder moments, enhances my resilience. A friend of mine refers to it as the personal playback reel, the memories you intentionally create that become reminders of the pleasure and satisfaction that is possible for you.

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I happen to love a lot of summer babies, so I’ve been involved in planning and executing a lot of birthday celebrations lately. Here are some things to consider when planning a celebration intentionally:

  • Scale: how many people do you want involved? Do you prefer something intimate or larger for this particular celebration? How long will the celebration be? What capacity do you have for planning and executing something? If you’re running low, plan something low key like going to an existing event with people you care about. 
  • Resources: How much money and time can you put toward this celebration? What free/cheap resources exist in your network that could be used toward the celebration, like a friend with a nice backyard or a family member with a community pool they can rent in their neighborhood?
  • People: Who will attend and who can assist with planning as well as day-of tasks like making a dinner reservation, buying a cake or being your designated driver?
  • Vibe/Theme: What sort of vibe do you want for the party? Family friendly? Sexy? Silly? Wild? A theme can help encourage that vibe. The theme can be as specific as my choice for my birthday this year, which is Pirate’s Booty—see above the custom stickers I had made for the party, by Carlos of BloopMerch—or as loose as the theme for my 30th birthday which was “Play It Again” where I encouraged people to wear something they already owned that they had only worn once or twice before. My friend Julia wore her wedding dress! For non-birthdays celebrations, think about intentions if theme doesn’t feel quite right.

Understanding pleasure as a practice means that experiencing pleasure is a skill that you develop and hone over time. It’s intentional de-programming from the capitalist, religious, patriarchal, and other oppressive scripts we’ve been given before. If you bristle at the idea of celebrating yourself or others, take some time to think about why that is. What harm is there in it? Who benefits from you denying yourself and others intentional celebration? Next time you question celebrating yourself a little, look in the mirror and say “I’m a badass bitch who deserves to be celebrated,” then go do it. Happy Pride bbs!

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