When I get to that part on the form that says ‘single’ / ‘married’ / ‘divorced’ /‘widowed’ I always get a bit confused. Even before, when I was in that loooooooong relationship, it annoyed me because where was the checkbox for ‘living together for a loooooooong time’ or 'wow, are you still here? its been what, 7 years?' or ‘it’s none of the state's fucking business’? These days, I still can’t find a box for me and also I'm puzzled because now they're setting IQ tests in the home affairs forms. At least, I think it’s an IQ test, one of those where you have to spot the word that does not fit the rest of the series. I take a deep breath and reason it out logically: married and widowed and divorced are various legally documented marital states whereas single - well isn’t every body single except for co-joined twins? So I tick that box and wonder when they’re gonna get round to putting a tick-box for ‘lives with friends. Not celibate.’ or ‘undocumented’ or ‘it’s still none of your fucking business’. I most often find myself chewing over this thought on Valentine's days, usually around the time the day's relentless saccharine sludge from the radio and TV reach the mouth and nostrils.
It’s not that I’m unromantic. One Valentine’s day, I made a card for a lover-comrade-brother. It was a concertina of heavy red paper, and on each leaf of the concertina was a different photo - Marx, Trotsky, Engels, a huge crowd of people on a demonstration, assorted local freedom fighters I don’t remember, and somewhere amidst all these the notorious white right winger Eugene Terreblanche. This was some 18 years before Eugene was to become world famous for meeting his just deserts at the hands of a pair of farm labourers, having by then left a trail of broken and dead black menial workers since his party’s mortal humiliation in Bophuthatswana, still a year or two in the future of the concertina card. Each person in each panel of the concertina card said – in a speech bubble cut out of white paper, meticulously hand-lettered, and pasted onto a photocopied picture pasted onto a piece of carefully measured paper and then photocopied onto the red paper which was then cut to size using a cutting knife and a metal ruler and many measurements and then careeeefuuuullllly pleated – each person on each panel said ‘I’d like to be Bob’s valentine’, except for the crowd who said ‘we’d like to be Bob’s valentine’ and except for Eugene who, predictably, muttered instead: ‘fokof man, I’m not a moffie’ (gay). The very last leaf was a photo of me, together with Bob I think, and I have no recollection of the punchline in my speech bubble because Bob got to keep the card and must have long ago discarded it.
So I’m all for a love day, but if the radio station can’t provide a free city wide love festival that could help me with my particular problem, could it at least be a bit more, you know, inclusive in the imagery so I can also get in on the party? Never mind the casual heteronormativity (my housemate can tell you what that means if you’re too lazy to look it up). What's with that relentless focus on 'The One'? 'The One', that lonely whip that holds too many fearful people in unsuitable marriages, and frightens off the boys with whom I want to have meaningful casual sex (who assume from my gender that I'll be desperate to marry and have babies). And what if I want some ones, not just one? And what if I haven't met any 'ones'? Recently a colleague who hadn't known me long asked, 'Do you live with someone?’ A sixth sense raises my hackles even as I answer innocently, ‘Yes. Two housemates’. ‘I mean do you have a partner?' she 'clarifies'. grumbles aloud: ‘Define partner’. Should have said: ‘Yes, plenty, but naturally I choose among them depending on the specific crime’. The problem is that a mob of sarky ripostes already gathered at the tip of my tongue knock each other down trying to get out, so that only the squattest and most graceless emerge as my poor colleague fumbles to explain the the coupled-uncoupled couplet while I stubbornly resist that lonely binary until the conversation grinds to an awkward halt. How is it that this single, narrow fact about my social existence displaces finding out about the web of relations I have with a host of humans who in various ways lift and lighten my life? Am I alone in the social world just because I am not connected to it through some form of checkbox 2 (married)? So here I am with my hands in the air, yelling at the radio, 'Where are the tipsy banquets where friends come together to raucously celebrate loves past, present and future, and if we’re lucky currently plentiful?'. Here I am, hands in the air, erased on love day.