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Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk: Spread the love

Illustration by Rodney Lambright II.

Giving more kinds of love in more kinds of ways.

It’s February, cold, and still real COVID-y out there, so pleasure can be hard to come by for many of us. This month is also the month of Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day, a time where capitalism tells us that the best way to show our love for people is through purchasing expensive gifts and our patriarchal monogamous culture tells us that romantic love (especially for women) is the ultimate achievement or goal. That we are incomplete or nothing without it. Well, I’m here to say fuck that. Love comes in so many forms and can be expressed in so many ways. When we give more kinds of love in more ways, it helps us be recognized, appreciated, and receive more love in more kinds of ways. And that, my dears, is pleasurable to me. When I increase my capacity to give and receive love, I increase my capacity for pleasure as well. So this month’s pleasure practice is spreading love in all kinds of ways.

First, think about the people and animals in your life you love, care about, adore, or have a crush on! Make a list. For me that includes myself (I’m great!), my romantic and sexual partners (yes partners plural yay polyamory), my close friends, my diva cat Madam Alice CJ Walker, my niblings, and some of my mentors and organizing comrades. For you that might include siblings, parents, aunties, children, lizards, or that one really cute bookseller at A Room of One’s Own who helped you find your new favorite queer novel. When I talk about love here, I mean it not as romance or commitment, but in the way the late bell hooks talks about love, as an action. I have this now well-used quote from hooks as an art print above my bed: “love is an action, never simply a feeling.” In her series of books on love, hooks writes about love as a willingness to extend one’s self or act to nurture the growth and well-being of one’s self or someone else. Love is intention put into action. So once you have that list of people you love, people whose wellbeing and growth you want to help nurture, choose a few you would like to purposefully and intentionally love on this month and think about what that would look like.

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Photo: bell hooks’ reminder that “love is an action, never simply a feeling” is printed in capitalized, black letters with a pattern of pale orange chevron arrows in the background, in a black frame on a light yellow wall.

Here are a few small ways you can spread the love:

  • Cook for or bring snacks/treats to someone (make sure to ask about allergies/food restrictions and/or label for ingredients clearly if homemade)
  • Make your own Valentine’s Day cards (glitter highly encouraged) and hand deliver them (or let USPS do that for you, but plan for the timing on that!)
  • Send a virtual note of admiration or appreciation
  • Bring flowers if they like flowers (and support local florists in the process, like Naly’s Floral Shop)
  • Give them a book you love or that has been impactful for you
  • Invite them to an event (in-person or virtually) and then talk about it together after
  • Offer to take a task off their plate, especially one you would actually enjoy doing for them or one you’re especially good at doing. For example, I hate car shit so if my partner who loves car shit offers to take my car for an oil change, it feels like such a gift and not like I’m burdening anyone.
  • Go on a walk together and bring hot chocolate and/or hand warmers for them

Whatever you do this month to love on yourself and those around you, just remember that joy begets joy, so don’t do things out of obligation, but because they bring you pleasure and you want to share that pleasure with someone you love. Love exists outside of capitalism and monogamy as well as outside of societal state-recognized and valued relationships. There are so many ways and so many people to love on, including you! You’re a lovable and loving badass bitch and don’t you forget it!

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