Journey to the Center of the Self VI: Big, Beautiful Love
The Complexity of LOVE
The English language only has one word to encompass the wide scope of emotional connections that is love, often reserved for our closest family members and partners. But this limiting vocabulary has the power stunt our understanding of what love truly is.
When I was in high school (private, exclusively Lutheran), religion courses were a required part of the curriculum for all four years. This was frustrating and usually bigoted, which is not a fun time for a closeted gay teenager. But somewhere in the midst of those four years, one thing stood out to me. While discussing the universal love all Christians should have for their fellow humans, we learned of how the Greek language has different words to refer to different kinds of love: Agape, Eros, Philla, Storge, and Philautia.
Agape is unconditional love or the love for everyone, often associated with religion.
Eros is intimate, sexual, passionate love, named after our inspiration and cover star, Eros, god of love.
Philla is love amongst friends.
Storge is the love for family.
Philautia is self-love. (This can be negative, too, relating to selfishness and narcissism.)
Embracing and understanding love is liberating.
When I was growing up, in a conservative Christian community, we were really only presented one route for life. There was this unspoken checklist of things you had to do before 30: go to college, get married, get a good job, buy a house, and have kids, all very reflective of the white picket fence American dream ideal of the 1950s.
Holding myself up to this “white picket dream” was damaging because it wasn’t what I wanted, it didn’t fit in with my interests and personal goals. As I’ve gotten older, I learned that I do not need to be in a relationship to function, and that it simply isn’t a priority for me. My time belongs to me. I am comfortable being with myself but also sharing my love, and casual sexual dalliances are all that I am interested in.
There is more out there than traditional marriage, and it took a long time for me to figure that out. Polyamorous relationships, open relationships/marriages, long-term dating, domestic partnerships, and casual lovers are all valid forms of love. The heart does not to be shared with just one person, and you should never feel shame, or shame someone else, for taking the time to figure out where, and with whom, their interests lie.
We were also presented this idea (all from a cis hetero point of view) that men aren't as emotional as women, and that women shouldn’t be sexual -- if they are, there’s no place for them amongst The Good People ™ . In the world of my childhood and adolescence, men weren’t supposed to engage in emotions or offer affection to one another or, really, to anyone else. Feelings are gay and we were “No Homo”.
But so much of the love I have within me belongs to my friends and it is detrimental, to my well-being and theirs, to restrict my affection because some of them are men. For instance, my best friend, Kyle (Parker, Slaughterhouse’s resident Queer Historian and Illustrator) and I met in high school and have always been very close. On several occasions I was asked if I loved Kyle. And the only answer I can give is yes. Of course I love Kyle. He is my boyfriend, but not in the romantic sense. He is my sister. We share a deep Philla and Storge type of love. But that truth was lost on so many people, convinced that we were in denial, or straight up lying to them.
My friends are the wild, vibrant, beautiful lights of my life. These are people I spend all of my time with, who I create with, laugh with and cry with. It would be a disservice to their importance in my life to downplay how intensely I feel for them.
The Greeks also believed that in order to give the best love we have to the world, we must offer that love to ourselves. As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”
Part of loving ourselves is understanding what makes us horny, what kinks we may have, who we want have sex with, and who we are as sexual beings. Or whether we want to have sex at all! The acceptance of our own desires, or lack thereof, is so liberating.
But self-love comes in many forms, and not just sexually. We need to learn to love what we consider flaws, the physical things we scrutinize in the mirror. Something you dislike about yourself may drive someone else wild.
Love is a big, beautiful word with many identities and meanings, and if we’re going to force ourselves to stick with that one small word for such an immeasurable feeling, we must acknowledge all it truly is. Call your best friend, call your siblings, call your lovers, call all your friends tell ‘em you love ‘em.
“All you need is love” - The Beatles, “All You Need is Love”
“If you love somebody I promise you should tell ‘em” - Tierra Whack, “4 Wings”
“Journey to the Center of the Self” will continue throughout Slaughterhouse Volume II, but with some changes in comparison with Volume I. As with this article, I will be openly and candidly documenting my journey through life and my relationship with my mental health, hoping to connect with our readers through shared insights and experiences. I love you, we’re in this together.
Big love to my friends and family, Cassandra, Brittany, Kyle, Adam, Eva, Julie, Cate, Julianna, Austin, Deborah (Mom), Steven (Dad), Kyle (Brother), Natalie, Eric, Laura, Eric, Matt, Joanne. To all those who have enriched my life, even if things didn’t work out in the end. To all my past lovers.
And to my brother Eric. I love you so much and I miss you more than I could ever say.
Until next time,