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Imagining Love

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

Cis-Heteronormativity and white supremacy have ruined relationships.

The cookie cutter, “2 kids and a dog” thing is white people shit. It’s cishet, white people shit. The gender roles. The performing. The expectations and rules. The monogamy as the highest, most virtuous form of love; the knight sweeping a damsel in distress off of her feet is CISHET WHITE PEOPLE SHIT. And we, assuming you are not a cishet white person, have bought into it (and actually, let me push further. Assuming you are a cishet white person, you too, have bought into it).

Why? It’s not realistic, it’s not sustainable, it’s not true.

So, how do we move beyond it?

I recently heard someone say that Black people have lost our imaginations; or rather, that the necessity to move out of survival in a system that seeks to destroy us has stolen our imaginations. If you could use your imagination, what would love look like to you? How would it feel? Where would you carry it in your body, what parts would it illuminate and fill with warmth? How would it vary and how would you prioritize it? Who would it look like and how would they speak to you, and of you, to show you that you are loved? How would it differ from what is - from the expectations about what love is "supposed" to look like? How would it destroy the current standard of love completely?

When I think of love I feel it in my entire body. A smile on my face, a steady heartbeat, a tingle in my lower back, a warmth in my belly, my feet on the ground. It encompasses me fully to experience what I consider safety. Security.

Confidence. Sureness. It looks like being hyped up by my best friend – I know when he tells me I’m the baddest bitch on the fucking planet, I am THEE baddest bitch on the fucking planet. When he says the worlds: brilliance and genius and inspiration and admire and proud I feel it in the core of my being. It looks like him showing up with a bottle of henny without me needing to ask because he knows my love language. It looks like being vulnerable in ways that embarrass me to think about and him reminding me, “bitch, you better let it out.” So, I do. Love looks like my mother taking time to talk to me throughout class periods while little kids shuffle around in the background trying to see who that Black lady is on her phone. It’s her being ever-present, forever. Always and in all ways. It’s me watching her struggle to work through 60 years’ worth of trauma because I asked her to – it’s a slow process but she’s trying. It’s empathy for her and the realization that she’s doing the best she can even if the best isn’t enough. It’s what she’s able to do. It's her version of giving it her all.

And lovers feel like moonlight. Like, the first 60 seconds of Une Barque Sur L’ocean or a Lucky Daye song. Lovers love feels gentle and patient, holding my hand as I dip my toe in the water because I’m too scared to jump in. That it’s too deep, I’ll surely drown. It’s the reassurance that I can swim. I could write poetry about laying with lovers and feeling their hands on my face, I feel like the world in their hands. I am the world in their hands. Lovers looks like a ballet – like, a pas de deux.

I am held.

This is my experience of love without my imagination.

With it?

With my imagination chugging away I think immediately of my needs. Instead of approaching and exploring and labeling love as “boyfriend” “girlfriend” “fuck buddy” “friend” “mother” I think of: what do I need? I think of the many ways that I feel seen, heard, validated, held, affirmed. Words of encouragement. Being in a lovers’ arms at night. Someone listening to me, someone reading my work. My imagination tells me to build. It says, “all of these things are not in one person and don’t need to be.” It reminds me that instead of hoping someone can be all things, that I can honor in them what they are. And that, in return, I can be exactly who I am without being expected to be someone else.

Using my imagination means completely destroying monogamy. It means lovers providing many things all at once, in harmony – a partner who is powerful, another who is artistic, another who is spiritual, all loving me deeply. It’s respect for one another. It’s devotion to communication and boundaries. It means burning hierarchies to the fucking ground and defining myself completely separate from my other. I am whole without a lover and my partner’s partners do not suggest a deficit in me. I am no better or worse than her, no more whole or broken, no more important or irrelevant – that’s not what this is. That’s not what love is. It also evolves as we go and looks like checking-in when changes need to be made, “I need more of this and less of that, can we make this work?”

It means stepping outside of the roles I was assigned as a woman to create what works for me. It means I don’t have to be the nurturer. That silence doesn’t have to be a requirement. It means recognizing that I make more money than most of my partners and interrogating how I can function ethically and equitably in partnerships where my partners have less than me. It means replacing monetary expectations with gentleness and thoughtfulness.

Imagination means creating a world where platonic love, familial love and self-love are just as important and prioritized as my romantic love(s). Building a village of people who love me; who I love too. Nigga, it means having options for who and how I want to be loved and not just relying on a “him” or my mother or my best friend. It is giving the same level of attention, care and devotion to friends as I do lovers. I’m establishing a life with them, too.

Most importantly, imagination looks like me. In the mirror in the mornings pointing out all the things that make me feel cocky. Or if I can’t manage that, thinking of all the ways my body functions for me. It’s being present in my body when I’m feeling joy, to hold onto that feeling as long as I can and leaning into my body when it’s telling me to take a break. It’s sleeping until I feel rested and eating that goddamn guava and cheese croissant because holy fuck, that shit is good and I deserve good things. It looks like finding what creates a light inside me and chasing that, giving myself the opportunity (even if I’m terrified) to do what brings me joy and pleasure. It means saying “no” when I want to fucking say it and calling off of work to day drink and be irresponsible. It means centering my healing and wholeness.

And using my imagination is letting this all dissolve and be built anew if that’s what I so please.

What about you?

What does love look like if you moved from a place of love? If instead of thinking, “what could go wrong” you choose, “what could go right?” If, instead of fear and expectation, you let your imagination write the story?

Raquel Savage
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