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It’s Valentine’s Day!

A day, when the obsession with romantic love is ramped up even higher than usual; when the feelings of failure for being single may be stronger than ever.

For women, finding love and settling down is the ultimate goal of societal expectations. It’s something that frustrates a lot of women: many who prioritise their careers, their education or anything else over what society deems a “good” relationship. Which is almost exclusively with a man and includes a whole lot more compromise on the woman’s part. Be independent but not too independent that he can’t feel like a man when he’s with you. He must be the most important person in your life but don’t be needy or clingy. Be ready to give up your goals for the sake of your family. Become the “cool girl” — as the famous passage in Gone Girl goes.

We organised this content call to find companionship in these frustrations. While we won’t be able to erase these expectations overnight, this Lazy Women Valentine’s Day special questions, challenges, ridicules and pokes fun at them. From trying to be the perfect girlfriend-wife-mother, through chasing the idea of love to please our families to becoming at peace with being single: there is something we’ll all relate to in this piece. We were amazed by just how many fantastic writers submitted their work to us. We thank you for your trust and generosity. A huge shout out to our illustrations team as well, who whipped up these beautiful graphics in no time. We hope you’ll enjoy it!


On The Inside by Olivia Onyekwena

I do not loathe love, far from it!

It’s right up there as one of my favourite emotions to explore and have conversations about.

What I do loathe is the way some people perceive love and how much a couple of these perceptions have affected this beautiful emotion and the expectations that have been attached to it.

I’m no relationship expert neither do I have any at the moment and yet there are people who only relate to love as something that only exists in romantic relationships.

Of course I understand that different people will see love in different ways but at the core point should be a feeling that we can’t quite explain.

I don’t know what to call what I feel for my family members because a lot of emotions crowd up at various times but love wins at the end of the day and no matter the back and forth that ensues, they’ll always mean so much to me.

For a woman, love should never have to hinge on the idea of a possible relationship with anyone.

It could be falling in love with yourself again, rekindling an old hobby or picking up a new one.

We live in a world where self care is as important as waking up to the sun because only then can we have enough grace to extend love outside of our own bodies.

With me, love never fades.

I know this because no matter how far people get away from my life, that tender feeling will always remain in my heart for them.

So I continue to seek love in the littlest of things, like in sunflowers, beautiful sunsets and a thrilling football match.

Perform your love for me by Cathy Lennon

A gauze-draped four poster, petal strewn.
Dim-lit, soft musicked, table for two.
Card shop cute teddy, pink heart in its paws
Fluffy cuffs, Rabbit, silky french drawers

Chocolates, candles, roses, Champagne
A ten foot high banner, towed by a plane
A ring you designed and had made on the sly
(When the heating, the kitchen, the dirt…make me cry)

No thanks,
But

You’ve cleaned up the cat sick. Made four hour round trip
to help my annoying mother.
Brought tea in bed. Let me sleep on instead.
Took the kids to their swimming lessons.
You’ve let me rant and rubbed my feet. Cleaned out the ash and set the fire.
Said I was ill, so I wasn’t the liar

Yes please, to all of these.

Poem written from the heart?
Ok.
Yes.
I’ll take that as love
Because of all you’ve done, above

Grand gestures come and go. I’ve had a few.
But what you do for me, I do for you. 
And though the world might be a stage
To us, a private love is true.

(Ok. I’ll have the knickers too)

Erica

When I moved into my boyfriend’s flat, I deeply feared becoming the trope of a woman that slowly infiltrates her partner’s space with her feminine products and cutesy aesthetic tendencies. I made sure to keep my drawers, revealing all my floral fabrics and silky panties, tightly shut. I kept my designated wall space simple and functional – a calendar, a few pictures of friends, a postcard he sent me. I left only my razor, shampoo, and some q-tips in the bathroom.

There was a sense of pride in how invisible I had made myself in his life. How cool it must be to have a girlfriend that doesn’t saturate your space with herself, right? But as I hid the material remnants of my being, so did the pieces of my soul start to evaporate and disappear. I stopped listening to any music that didn’t match my boyfriend’s taste, from Joni Mitchel to Sufjan Stevens to Ariana Grande. I stopped playing the Fiona Apple songs on the keyboard and painting tarot cards on Friday evenings with a glass of red wine. I stopped reading cheesy romance novels that my mother sends me. 

Soon any sign of myself – loose strands of dark brown hair entangled with the bedding, a drop of blood on the bathroom rug – became a symbol of shame. I loathed any trace of my own being. And as I faded into the permanence of my boyfriend’s flat, I started erasing myself entirely for his sake. Celebrating my accomplishments.

The tales they tell… by Gréta Csernik

For a while now I’ve wondered what the tales really meant
The tales, the little girl listened to till it was dark
Eyes slowly closing, wide, open mind.
Oh I so hated when mum pointed to the bed
and the stories were on hold for one whole night
My toes tingling, my brain electrified…

I thought love would look like that one day
I imagined the pairing of princes and princesses
To be the model for what was there to expect.
I was taught to dream dramas,
and then bow and bend 
In order to force them to a happy end

Oh how I wanted to love tragically, like a fool
Or in a weird way to make us cool 
Or just hate you for days in between sometimes…
It’s coded in me, to replicate the stories
It’s coded in all women, since we were girls 
“Wait for the prince, he will bring you pearls!”

I waited, one came, no pearls just pain
I waited, one came, no pearls just shame 
I waited, one came, no pearls again…
You were the next and you had the pearls:
Kindness, support, intellect and humour
The prince-image, the full set of shining armour.

Apart from that, the tales were of in many ways
Which now makes me wonder, is this love real?
No drama, no fight, no pain…
But the excitement is the same
Eyes slowly closing, just pull me close and tight
My toes tingling, my body electrified…

Sofía Aguilar

Latina women love hard. But they are always in each other’s business. Growing up, the women  in my life spoon-fed me the idea that who we are depends upon other people—daughter, mother,  aunt, sister, niece, girlfriend, wife. While knowing this shaped my identity and role within our  family, it now reminds me of Shakespearean times when the value of women depended upon the  most important male figures in their lives—father, brother, and husband. If a woman had none of  these, her breath was the only proof of her existence.  

It may not be the 16th century anymore but my family’s expectation for women to marry a man  and bear his children hasn’t disappeared. Once, I heard my abuela ask one of my cousins when  she was marrying her partner, despite them only dating for a few months. At every party, my tías  demand to know why I haven’t found a boyfriend yet, why I haven’t even brought a date but  reassure me that I will someday. We pressure women into labels, institutions, and ideals that are  both outdated and sexist while also speaking in heteronormative language when love has never  existed in binaries. As a bisexual woman, I deserve higher standards and more gender-inclusive  language than “Prince Charming.” Especially when fairy tales were written to turn women into  victims and passive protagonists to be saved.  

At 21, it still baffles me that my identity can depend solely on who I am, a Latina writer with a  budding career and not just a girlfriend or partner. Who may not be perfect at loving or getting it  right every time but is so good at demanding for better. I now know that I am more than my  relations to other people; I am my only identity. 

The pressure we put on our romantic relationships by Éilis Brennan

Back in the eighties (my mother tells me) the idea of romantic love was a lot simpler. People would meet, fall in love, get married, and eternal bliss ensued. Of course in reality close to half of marriages end in divorce, but her point is that back then people often got married so quickly after meeting that there really wasn’t time to deep dive into any and all expectations and existential questions about where the relationship was headed and whether someone was really “the one”- by that stage you were already on the package honeymoon, and possibly pregnant. 

In contrast, our expectations of romantic love today have never been higher. We expect our significant others to be our lovers, confidantes, therapists and best friends. The standard is unreasonably high and as a result non-romantic relationships such as friendships are often relegated to a rung below romantic ones, when in reality lifelong friendships can be the most constant thing in our lives. It’s unreasonable to expect to find in one person the fulfillment of every need, when we don’t expect the same from our friends and family. We all have friends with whom we only discuss personal issues, or friends we discuss work with, our childhood friends who we might see less often but provide a sense of cosy rootedness to who we once were. It’s time non romantic love was given as much weight as we give to our romantic relationships. This might result in less pressure on finding “the one” who fulfils every need, and we can instead focus on building a community of people around us, each person providing something different. We should never be so emotionally dependent on one person that to lose them would mean losing the entire emotional scaffolding of our lives. 

A daughter’s litany by Sneha Krishnan

Since birth my life is a reflection of my fears
and perpetual test of my abilities. 
To protect my honour, to uphold his virtues
I breathe, I live in between silences.
For years, I felt the need to prove myself worthy,
Worthy of his love, and respect of my father.
The one who birthed me saw me as an inferior.

I dreamt of dancing on branches of trees like a mynah 
and grasp the sky in my bare palms.
I learned to swim through the oceans and never stop.
For years, I felt the need to prove myself worthy,
I never made promises that I couldn’t keep,
I never hurt or let anyone weep.

My superpower was giving, keep giving onto others.
My legacy is my generosity, my mother reminds me
As I am decked up to be a bride.
I wished to be loved just once and forever.
Then, pray tell me why today do I hesitate?
When love is at my doorstep, why do I doubt and reflect?
I cannot put my mind to rest, nor will my strength to resolve this madness.
There are possibilities and yet I waver and falter.

Why am I being sacrificed at the altar for his promises?
Father did not even consider telling me,
He sacrificed my wishes without even asking me.
Today, here I stand, unrecognizable to myself.

He gave me wings but didn’t let me fly,
He gave me clouds but didn’t let me shower,
He gave me patience like a flower yet never let me blossom.

Shall I write my own destiny with my charcoal-black kajal?
Or shall I destroy the pages of time with long tentacles of misfortune,
where I don’t exist but decisions about me are made by others.
Or shall I paint the sky in my future with the amber of my flesh  
Such that even the sky is dwarfed by my conviction.

Notes on Loving Intensely (and Not Giving a F* About It) by Gabrielle Ravet

My perception of love has always been conflictual. 

I’ve never been in a relationship, I’ve let down unrequited feelings a lot, but I know that I want to experience the mesmerizing warmth that wraps me whenever I fall in love again and again, no matter if it’s not shared. 

I thought I was angry about the feeling of falling in love, but I’m angry at the sociological ideals that were carried for centuries about how women should, and especially should NOT behave romantically. 

Popular culture taught us from our youngest age that we were going to be perceived through a male gaze, that would be the main source of our romantical validation. Displaying our girly sensitive side was not welcome in that narrative. Not only do we have to adapt to several beauty standards from an early age, but we also have to remember to be hard to get, to chase, to date, and basically transform ourselves to not appear as passionate as we might be. 

I never felt like staying quiet when my heart was overflowing with romantic appreciation, attraction (not always love) for the men of my likings. I was so confused, because not many people around me seemed to be as intense as I was. They succeeded in following these dating rules society imposed on us, got in many relationships, while telling me to quiet down to get the person I liked when I couldn’t, and it sucked. 

I wrote an article about finding happiness in being single, because I was so hurt I had to find grounding and happiness to appreciate how intense and loving I am, when the people I fell in love with didn’t. 

Today, feminists rightly try to overthrow our patriarchal, romantic education, but when some women constantly incite others to ‘dump them’, ‘focus on yourself and yourself only’, they forget that we are all humans after all, and love is at the centre of our lives, socially and romantically. We are social beings that need others to survive, and it is fine to sometimes accept that you can also crave affection. It is as fine to find empowerment in a relationship than it is to find empowerment in being alone. From one opposite to another, ideal to another, all these rules are what might stop us from fully letting ourselves love someone else, and it is terribly sad to me. 

It is normal to find both pain and happiness in it, and it is also normal to not have answers about why you feel this way. I spent so much time trying to find answers as to why I fantasized and fell very fast for some people for no particular reason, but today, I decided to forget about what society tells me, to appreciate how much I actually enjoy feeling butterflies in my stomach when I see someone I like. 

Never stop reinventing your own definition of the L word by letting yourself fall in love again, and again, and again, without being afraid of being a passionate human being. Love has no reason, and I decided to not be scared by the magic of its unpredictability.

Rudy J

As a black woman, the pressure about love has always been something really central in my life.

I’ve been raised in multi-cultural spaces when I was younger, but as I was growing up my environment became more and more white centric.

I often was the only black girl in the room and most of the time, I felt like I was stealing the show, but never for the good reasons. 

That being said, I’ve always wanted to be loved, no matter how, no matter by whom, but I wanted to be loved. And I knew that being this eager for love is toxic but it was a need that I’ve been trying to fulfill, forever. 

So I started spiraling over how to satisfy white boys, what could possibly be wrong about me that had always impeached me to be loved and appreciated by them. Was it my black features, my brown skin or my nappy hair?

It was never about my inner personality, but always about my features. 

Insanely violent and brutal thoughts, of course.

Because I was trying to be beautiful for one certain type of men and blaming my ethnicity just because I have been rejected by the people I was trying to fit in with. I’m trying to recover and to heal from this violence I’ve been inflicting myself for years now. 

Love is a synonym of pressure for me, and I am still working on how to transform it into something fun and safe to experience but it is not easy. 

At all. 

But I am trying, because I know it is worth it and I firmly believe in the fact that the best is yet to come. 

Even for black women.

You Call Me Wife by A. M. E. Smith

You call me wife as if
it makes my body different,
but the act of marriage
makes the word mean bound.
Or not bound, but the feeling of
a universe wrapped around
our matching finger, knowing
that endless means you.
I don’t want to be married,
I only want to defy time and limitation –
To say “this one” over and over,
like a golden Mobius strip, over and over.
A seconds hand on a clock, over and over.
To have comfort in constancy, to hear it echo
across a wide, dark sky.

Samantha Martin

More people today than ever before are in control of their reproductive destinies (although our work on this front is far from done). Many people are free to delay procreation or choose not to have children at all. Still, when I look around me– at age 34, childless by choice and never married– I am glaringly in the minority among my same-age friends, family members, and colleagues. Most people still choose to marry and have children, and many still center their lives around these norms. 

What blend of internalized expectations, free will, and gender role fulfillment impacts an individual’s choice to procreate? Is it true that people who choose not to reproduce are selfish and lazy? Why, in this era of overpopulation, climate change, and too many abandoned children, do some of us still shame and demonize people for bucking reproductive norms?

My choice not to have children was an act of love. Deeply unselfish love, I believe. I consider myself a mother who is loving her children in the best way she knows how– which happens to be by not having them.

Arriving and being at peace with my decision wasn’t easy. I had to dig deep into my own urges and desires, conscious and subconscious, and try to decipher what was truly mine and what was an internalized expectation, something not mine at all. I’m still not convinced the two can be entirely separated. But my story has turned out happily: I am partnered with an older person who does not need to have a child with me. I’m have had the privilege of realizing my own ideals of love, motherhood, and partnership.

But in a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to write about it; I’d be just another woman living her life.

Engagement Party by Stephanie Neuerburg

in a sea of satin, silk, and inexpensive lace
the dress in the cedar box is finally revealed
after years of tugging at the lid
our thirty fingers covered with glitter
two diamonds glinting in the christmas eve light
turning our birth order
on its edge

later that night while driving
my sister says something to me
and the thing she says to me is so nasty
so ugly so abominable
but i just lean back in my chair
and think
this is what happens to people when they’re in love

when my mother was my age
she had a house and a fancy dress and a man who routinely kissed her
she had seen countless babies birthed
and she had watched her own baby die
and now she is unpicking the stitching on the shining lace
still worried about money

all the people whispering behind me in the pews
reassure me – at least they are whispering!
at least, even today,
i am still the center of attention

i wonder how many animals i would get
if this were happening in another century
i dream a parade of pigs and sheep and goats and cows
trailing taffeta through a mud puddle
it all sounds so simple and so transactional and so far from heartbreak
the way they tell me it is supposed to be

i ask a man i used to love if i should have done something different
and i don’t receive and answer until i am sitting in logan square with a
stranger as we decide, mutually, to never see each other again

i feel hopeful, but not optimistic
i know one day i will exchange an animal’s heart for mine
before pulling my own dress out of a cedar box
to show my children

Love isn’t proof of anything by Clare Diston

Quite a lot of the time, and usually us without realising it, we offer up love as proof of something. For example:

If I am loved, it proves that I am loveable.

If I am in love, it proves that I am capable of the greatest depths of human feeling.

If I fall in love after a break-up, it proves that I am over the heartbreak.

If I rebel against love, it proves that I am living a wild, renegade life.

Most of the time it isn’t clear who this proof is being offered up to – family, friends, an ex, the world, ourselves – but it is certainly being offered up, like a drawing made by a child who simply wants somebody to be proud of it.

This isn’t a surprise; so much of life is a frenzied attempt to prove that we deserve to exist. But I think many of the troubles we encounter in love happen because we have tied the love to something else – we have used it to prove something about ourselves, and so to go the other way (to stop or to start loving) would mean having to rethink who we are. Perhaps we can be loveable without a lover? Feel deeply for many reasons and not just one? Allow ourselves to be wild, renegade and in love?

This is hard, extremely hard, but maybe the ultimate triumph of love is to be able to say, and mean, only this: I love you because I love you.

(Or maybe, with that flourish of a line, I am trying to prove that I am transcendent, that I have reached a higher truth, that I am not just as baffled and awed by love as every other person with a heart.)

For the Love of Loneliness by Grace Piotrowski

I lounge in my underwear and my dishes remain dirty
silence embraces me with a kiss at the door on my way to work and at
night, I cuddle with the hum of the cars outside to keep me company I eat
food straight out of the pan
there’s a box in the corner I never unpacked
my hair sits in the shower drain
my laundry lays scattered across the floor

there are only two towels in the closet
pepper spray next to the from door
a vibrator on my coffee table

and I find my own sink when it’s leaking
and I change the lightbulb when it goes out
and I’ve cried alone
and I’ve laughed alone
and I love the solitude
the way she never judges
never stares
never leaves

The Idea of Love by Sarah Mills

The idea of love they sell to me when I am small, in gumball hair ties and a My First Makeup Set by my side, is carried on birdwings and song and dressed in sparkling ballgowns. It is immediate and infinite. Cinderella is saved from the horrors of home by an anonymous prince. 

The idea of love they sell to me when I ‘become a woman’ at age 11, first red stains on my underwear, is a boy who pulls my hair and snaps My First Bra strap and calls it a prank. They tell me with knowing eyes and an adult smile I don’t yet understand, ‘It’s because he likes you.’ Only a few more years, and they will teach me what an erection is and how to put a condom on a banana and that I will bleed every month until I am about 50, but that I already know. I will begin to want lingerie.

The idea of love they sell to me when I am ‘barely legal’ is between the folds of a glossy magazine that teaches me how to sext and that he will likely cum quickly and I not at all that first, painful time. I have only learned how to bleed and how to please. They show me movies about the idea of love, and I learn that it is frantic, desperate, wide-eyed, blistering. 

The idea of love they sold to me looked so much like pain so that when a man hit me the first time and then held me afterward, I remembered the holding more than the hit, though it smarted, red and raised like a jellyfish sting, and I thought, ‘So this is love,’ like a song I used to listen to as a little girl.

Compatibility Concerns by Lauren Powell

So, you start dating a guy. Its casual. He’s nice. Actually he’s really nice. Sweet. Charming. He listens. Makes you laugh. You like him. Okay, you really like him. 

Soon enough you start talking about the big things. The things that really matter to you. The things you think should matter to the person you may end up sharing a significant chunk of your life with. And are anyway (oops) already sharing your bed with. The box-ticker that he is, you’ve already kind of assumed you’re on the same page. But, conscientious as ever, you feel compelled to do the due diligence.  

And so you start initiating conversations, subtly, of course, about the big things. Political leanings. Social values. Feminism. Discussions go relatively smoothly; you aren’t fully aligned but share an open-mindedness that fosters consideration, understanding, and a knack for metaphorically standing in another person’s shoes.

Then it hits. 

“A feminist? No babe, I’m not one of those. Lol.”

Lol? Lol? This is not a laughing matter. Babe. 

What happens now??

You talk it out. You interrogate. You question, and honestly try to understand. But of course, you can’t. Because what good reason can he possibly have to disregard this word. This movement. This inherent belief of yours.

He thinks equality already exists. He sees women in leadership and nods with acceptance. The work is done. We no longer need to worry. You explain to him why that is not the case. How that will never be the case in our lifetime. He doesn’t agree.

But still he gives you butterflies. Makes you smile. By some strange turn of events makes you feel like no man has made you feel before. 

And so the reckoning continues: can I call myself a feminist, if my chosen romantic partner does not? 

Dizzy and Drowning by Roseanny Fahey

You never want to be that girl. The Mary Sue. The Bella Swan. The girl who cries into her pillow, waiting for her prince to come home. It’s never even a prince, is it? It’s a vampire. A dime a dozen boy with daddy issues, commitment issues, take your pick at the buffet. 

Boys fall into that role, but girls are warned never to be like her. That wasn’t me. That would never be me. Statements that teenage-feminist-me believed with her whole heart. 

She never cried when boys broke up with her. They always came back anyway. Then I met him. Then he kissed me. Then he left. So, to calm the flame in my chest, I dove into the sea. 

Except the sea was a whirlpool, and when I wasn’t sinking, he was saving me. And when he wasn’t saving me, he was throwing me to the sharks. 

A year passed. A year of false friendship and faceless dates. Playing pretend until we fell together again. A game of push and pull that I both loved and hated to play. I walked away. 

And oh, was I proud. Walking away from Heathcliff the fuckboy. Where was my goddamn medal? Maybe bronze would make me feel better because nothing could help me move on. Not the talking and drinking and dating. Not the bitching and processing and writing. Nothing made a damn bit of difference. 

For twelve months, I refused to be that girl. For six, I despised myself for being her. And only after a year and a half, have I accepted that when you’re in a whirlpool, all you can do is wait until you reach the bottom. Because it’s a slow swim up to the shore. 

Illustrations by: Juli Jásdi (cover photos), Boglárka Varga, Dorottya Juhász, Lili Tóth, Juli Jásdi, Nóri Csendes.