J.W. Wiley

Justice for All

"And so when a person meets the half that is his very own ... then something wonderful happens: the two are struck from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they don't want to be separated from one another, not even for a moment." — Plato's Symposium

As we approach Valentine's Day, here's a romantic-themed offering for all-consuming lovers who may desire some intellectual engagement that day as a precursor to physical expressions.

Yes, some couples like intellectual seduction before they intimately retire for the evening. Consider this a gift from a college professor who teaches a "Romance, Sex, Love & Marriage" course and who has loved and lost, and luckily loved again.

So, before the lights are dimmed, before Phyllis Hyman's "The Answer is You" and Glenn Frey's "The One You Love" are downloaded as mood setters, here's a possible mood breaker that may eradicate eroticism — or an aphrodisiac of sorts for those couples who enjoy making love to each other's minds before they embark on a consensual anatomical adventure.

Valentine's Day is a day we engage diversity.

What? You didn't know? I hope that fact did nothing to lessen your state of arousal.

However, the day is still approaching, so there is ample time to recover. There is time to make chocolate-apple-raspberry martinis, time to acquire the perfect lotion for that tension-relieving massage where even her/his toes are slightly trembling in anticipation of your warm hands massaging them too.

If the way to Valentine's Day euphoria for some is through the mind as well as the body (not forgetting the soul), then perhaps this thought can serve as intellectual stimulation.

Diversity includes conversations about our diverse realities, multiple identities and varying perspectives.

Conversations about, and situations involving, "romance," "sex," "love" and "marriage" especially occur on Valentine's Day.

All romantic scenarios are diverse realities.

Flowers, cards and candy choices are personality influenced and therefore diverse.

Any shared moments of romance, sex, love, and/or marriage involve our multiple identities.

Our ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, religion, ageism and privilege all affect who we see and how we're seen.

How we engage our lover, romantically, sensually, how we express our love and whether we ever choose to marry are all related to how our identity is processed while we process others consciously, subconsciously and cautiously.

Yes, hesitation to enjoy a public display of affection is more culturally relative than the pet peeve we believe it is.

The way we romance, our open or clandestine approaches toward coitus; who, how, why and when we love are all as socially constructed as the anxieties we have around certain problematic "isms."

Most of us accept that we are taught to be sexist. But thoughts about love being a dysfunctional lesson, we've learned, is not something most of us have ever considered.

Traditional notions by men of women necessarily indoors cooking while men are outside working are often viewed in 2016 as Neanderthal.

Perspectives on gay couples necessarily playing male/female roles in their relationships are also prehistoric.

However, feeling it necessary to reply "I love you too" to someone informing us of their love for us, when we are only deeply "in like" with them, is not us conforming to traditions we've been socialized to accept? Right!

"And if we insist that love must be reciprocal, is there not the very real danger that our model of love may have built into it a ferocious form of competition, summarized in the almost always destructive comparison: 'Do I love you more than you love me?'" — Robert Solomon & Kathleen Higgins

I'm suggesting a very different evening, where couples unaccustomed to the joys of verbally fondling one another can consider disrobing each other's intellectual attire.

On Valentine's Day, try something different.

Ask her or him what message was received or intended in that lengthy kiss?

Take a moment or two or three to get silently lost in one another's eyes.

Mutually agree to make each other's happiness the priority on Valentine's Day.

In doing this, you may have just inadvertently reinvented Valentine's Day as the first day of your romantic lives.


J.W. Wiley, Ed.D, is chief diversity officer for SUNY Plattsburgh and director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion. Email him at wileyjw@plattsburgh.edu

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