This essay is a selected submission from Street's Love Issue personal narrative contest. Read some of our other favorite pieces here and look out for new pieces as we publish them throughout the week!
I’m lesbian. I’m polyamorous. I’m a serial dater. And I’ve never been in love. Mind you, I’ve been in a wide variety of relationships in my day. Good ones, bad ones, abusive ones, and so on. Sure, I loved my partners, but was I in love with them? I’ve never understood what love was supposed to be, or what it was supposed to feel like.
Quite frankly, I don’t really care. I don’t care that I’m alone on Valentine’s Day. Honestly, from what I’ve seen, being in love seems like a lot more energy than I have to give right now. Believe me, there are other, more urgent things I need that energy for. I stayed in a relationship that was very abusive for over a year and a half because I thought I was supposed to be in love. I was waiting for it to happen, but it never did.
Now, I know this sounds pretty bitter and cynical thus far, but bear with me. Sometimes it seems as though people think love is going to fix all their problems—from their sexual frustration to their depression. Because of that, people spend so much time wishing for someone to be in love with.
You know what the fucking truth is, though? Romantic love is not some sort of ultimate prize. It isn’t the reward you get after a boss battle with life. It isn’t the highest form of love. It won’t fulfill you on its own. It won’t take your pain away. You have to work towards that sort of stuff. You have to work towards being loved and being able to love others.
The easiest way to do that work? With friends.
I know the intention of this essay contest was to put a magnifying glass to romance at Penn. The thing with that is, I don’t know what romantic love is like at Penn. What I do know is that platonic love goes far too under–appreciated here. I’m not talking about that shallow, fleeting "omg ily" type of platonic love. I’m talking about the type of people I would consider family—people I’m committed to and always want to be there for.
A wholesome friendship? One where I can be vulnerable and raw? One where I can seek mutual support without judgment? That is the sort of shit that I’m looking for from my experience with love at Penn.
I like to say that my platonic love is passionate. I can think of several people whom I love so much it makes me genuinely emotional. I have been in tears walking down Locust because a friend of mine texted me that they loved me. There are at least three people on this campus who can make me happy just by sitting silently beside me. That’s a number I’m hoping to grow for as long as I’m here. That sort of love is so pure and uncomplicated. It makes me feel weak and strong at the same time.
Being a Penn student often forces you to give up your choice to be vulnerable. Before I made real friends here I had to look strong in front of everyone. "Strong" meant I had to do a lot and make it all look easy—nothing could hurt me because I didn’t have the time or resources to be hurt. Maybe these feelings are unique to me, or maybe you find this theme relatable. Either way, having people to be weak around is valuable regardless of if you’re also fucking those people. So, to all the single homies out there: you’re not as alone on Valentine’s Day as you think.
Cass Phanord is a sophomore from Miami, FL. They are a staff writer for Street.