On Love Day, Case and Ira meet up at the garden center. He gives her a rose from his garden, which he just picked that morning.
“This?” Ira says. “This is what you think I’d like? I mean, why pick it! I can enjoy roses best on the bush. Geez.”
“Uh, I’m sorry,” Case replies. “I thought this was what people did on this day, you know…”
“Love Day,” Ira replies. “Yeah, I get it. But, you know, Case, we’re not exactly other people.”
He’s brought along another gift, which is not traditional but something he thinks she’ll really like, even though it’s only mid-quality, not top-of-the-line, and which he can’t really afford, a digital camera. She loves it.
“Oh, this brand!” she exclaims. “Yeah, it’s got this gauzy effect without any filters, even. This will be perfect for the bay view project I’m working on.”
She heads back to the garden area to begin using the camera, and Case wanders into the kitchen for a pot of tea.
“So, I see you and Ira came together,” Ulrike says. “Cheers for you!”
Case doesn’t reply.
“Ah,” says Ulrike. “Sweet days! Those early days of getting to know each other. That heady time! I wish I had something like that going on right now.”
Case just leaves it be.
“I thought I might run into you,” Aadhya says. “How’s your day going? Love Day. Fancy meeting you! Here. Today. On such a special day.”
“Nice to see you,” Case replies, “as always. I hope you’re having a pleasant day.”
Aadhya giggles, and Case can’t quite think of what might be funny.
Over the chess board, he meets Alexander Goth.
“This isn’t exactly how I imagined I’d be spending Love Day,” Alex says, “sitting here, alone, in the garden center, playing chess with some old dude, no offense.”
“None taken,” Case replies. “Did you consider E5 in the last game?”
“Hmm, no. I wasn’t really thinking about chess.”
But Case doesn’t ask what he was thinking about.
In the evening, Case harvests fresh peppers, mesclun mix and micro-greens, and puts together a spring salad. This is what spring is about, he thinks. Fresh growth! All those nutrients!
He and Ira walk back to his place together.
“People were weird today,” Case says. “Or rather, weirder than usual.”
“It’s the expectations,” Ira adds. “Everybody builds up Love Day to be this big everything.”
“I fucking hate Love Day,” Case confesses. “I hate it. It’s just like–if you’re not romantic with someone, you don’t count. You don’t matter. To belong, you have to be pursuing, or being pursued, or already caught.”
Ira laughs. “And I take it you’re not into the great pursuit?”
“I’m really not,” Case says. “I mean, what’s wrong with friendship? People make romance out to be the big all-and-everything, the ultimate goal. But it’s friendship that’s the real thing.”
And Case has a point.
The Atlantic, in October 2020, published an article by Rhiana Cohen titled, “What if Friendship, Not Marriage, Was at the Center of Life?” The article profiles individuals who place their close friendships equal to, or even above, their marriages. Cohen also mentions ways that polyamory and asexuality help us reimagine the roles that friends can play in our lives.
And let’s not forget about aromanticism. For an aro-ace, like Case, the pressure around romance can feel coercive. In “The Terrifying Power of Love–the Pressure Aromantic People Face,” Steph Farnsworth reports survey results indicating that 74.60% of aromantic people had been pressured to enter into a romantic and/or sexual relationship. Furthermore, 30.16% had experienced stalking, and over a third had experienced attempts by others to “correct” their aromanticism.
For a legacy writer, navigating this coercion provides a tension. The entire thrust of the legacy (sexual imagery notwithstanding…. or maybe withstanding….) is courtship and mating. That’s what readers expect. Who will be the spouse? Isn’t that the main plotline for each generation? And let’s not forget about the genetics! Better choose someone beautiful! Or at least not weird. Maybe this sounds mean, and I’m honestly not intending to criticize readers and writers for following this plotline and cheering for the best-looking mate. I’m influenced by that same pattern myself, as a reader and a writer, and it’s the standard story we’re fed from the toxic romanticism of the Disney Princess mythos all the way through to Sleepless in Seattle.
Romance is pervasive. You’re no one until you’re with someone.
But Case will have none of it. Writing Goofy Love, I committed myself to autonomous or whim-driven romances and sexual liaisons only for my Sims. It required patience, but each of the heirs eventually fell into heteronormative relationships leading to nine generations of the founder’s genes.
But this time, something different is in play. Case rolls generic whims to woo-hoo in a tent, but it seems more to do with having a tent on the property than with actually wanting to have sex with another Sim.
And Ira is his best friend, whom he adores and values and loves to spend time with. And why should he want or be forced into anything other than this?
Aadhya clearly wants something different, though, and she can’t quite really grasp that Case wouldn’t also want what she wants.
After Ira leaves in the evening, Aadhya swings by, just as Case is getting ready for bed.
“Come on in, Aadhya,” he says. “You’re always welcome. Care for some yogurt?”
But she passes. She just brushed her teeth.
“All right then,” he says, “I’ll be heading into my tent.”
She waits for, possibly, an invitation to join him.
But the invitation never comes. The night feels less long when she pulls a book of fairy tales from the book shelf, and she lets herself imagine she’s a pauper of a princess, dressed in donkeyskin, unrecognized by the laborers around her. She has indeed had a pleasant day.
When she finishes the book at dawn, she can’t help but smile to herself. She achieved one dream, at least: she spent Love Day night at Case’s. Next year, she’ll just have to be more specific when it comes to wording that dream.