Valentine”s Day is nearly upon us, bringing many columns beginning with “Valentine”s Day is nearly upon us.” Instead of whining about being single or suggesting happy couples visit the Oasis Hot Tub Gardens, wouldn”t it be better to get to the heart of the matter? What”s it all about, really? That”s what we”re talking about this week: sex, desire, kissing and vaginas.

Paul Wong

First off, raise your hand if you haven”t been watching the new bonus season of HBO”s “Sex and the City.” Now slap yourself on the ass. Shame on you! Yes, Carrie”s still neurotic, selfish and dresses like Bjrk on crack, but we still love her. P.S. Her new hair is the hotness.

And, yes, she”s still dealing with her relationships the way other people might burn pancakes. Charred beyond edibility, rarely perfect, varied and ultimately disposable. From bittersweet chocolate-chip sprinkled Big to the sickeningly wholesome, apple-cinnamon Aidan, she can”t make relationship decisions for her life, but, like all classic martyrs, at least she looks good suffering.

Of course, everyone attaches themselves to one character over the other. Even gay men can see themselves as a woman: perpetually unmarried, single, independent and funny. My friend Jonathan, in his chaotic love-exploits, claims to be a self-styled Carrie. Jason, a tall wispy blonde, claims to be a freewheeling Samantha. Of course, he”s a slut, so there”s not much to argue with there.

Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, like “The Golden Girls,” are women that can be related to. Surveys of general audiences and gay men alike show that Blanche is everyone”s favorite from the wrinkly quartet. As my friend Katie declared after a sociological survey, “Everyone loves the slut.”

But luckily, the characters are more than just stand-ins for other people”s desire. They”re not just gay men disguised as women they”re women who gay men, single women, my roommates and my mother might relate to.

During the era of “Golden Girls,” some people (geriatrics, dykes, fags alike) might have needed them as representations of themselves. Was it just gay men writing their lives out with these women? Was the Depends crowd happy to see their lives broadcast nationwide? Were lesbians everywhere being represented by the stoic, sexy Dorothy? Yes, yes and hell fucking yeah.

Today we might hope that everyone”s getting some kind of representation without disguise. It”s good that for every “Sex and the City” (that everyone can relate to), there”s a “Queer As Folk,” or Margaret Cho concert. Because it”s great to see your culture, your lives and your desires portrayed without disguise: straight, gay, black, white, Jewish or Asian.

That”s why February”s Queer Visibility Weeks are so exciting. It”s two weeks of events celebrating not only the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, but of people living their lives without disguise. Among the celebrations are a Kiss-In, a Club Fab dance and the LGBT Magazine G-SPOT.

I also get excited in February about “The Vagina Monologues,” performed across the nation at many colleges on February 14. Funny, touching and sexy, it makes for a great date. The last time I saw it was with my boyfriend, the aforementioned Jonathan, the ber-whore Jason, and his friend, Leslie. It was fucking hilarious.

In one segment, a woman dreams of having dinner with Burt Reynolds when, upon being kissed, she floods the restaurant with water from her vagina, her date up to his waist and sends famous dinner guests swimming to safety.

Knowing the monologues are based off of hundreds of interviews with real women makes the stories more poignant and frightening. A monologue about brutal rape makes me turn my head into my boyfriend”s shoulder at the terrible imagery, and he holds me as I cry. I look over to check on Jason next to me. He has one leg pulled up on the seat as if to shield himself, and there are just streams and streams of water coming out of his eyes. I reach out and grab his knee and then hold his hand while he quietly sobs.

Jonathan couldn”t make it without crying either. But Leslie, the only woman among the five of us, sat stone-dry eyed through the show. I thought for a moment that for a woman to not be touched, she must be as cold hearted as her cheeks were dry. Was she an emotionless Samantha without the open legs I wondered?

But then I realized that, as a woman, she was probably all too familiar with the contents of the show and had felt rape, molestation and brutality in her life: Next-door, in her backyard and perhaps on her friends” bodies. And that”s why she didn”t cry: Because she”d probably already had to.

Whatever you”re doing this Valentine”s Day, be it crying, laughing or enjoying the Rainforests of the Borneo Room at the spa, have fun, and be safe. Everyone has something to learn from free expression, kissing in public and living your life without fear, without hate and with a little more sex.

Japiya Burns can be reached at japiyab@umich.edu.

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