Watching Disney movies made me ask myself from a far too early age: when am I going to meet my prince? I expected I’d be 16, like Ariel, and would wed shortly afterwards. All my Barbie dolls married at 16. I only had two Kens, an Aladdin and a Jordan from New Kids on the Block doll, complete with rattail - and about 70 Barbies, so my Barbie society was made up of a few couples with adult clone kids and lot of same-sex cohabitation. Romantic, heteronormative love seemed to make the entire world go around, and so I looked forward to it happening to me.
In the meantime, I had friendships, the kind that made my heart soar, and sometimes break. When I was younger I didn’t have vocabulary for or understanding of how love and sexuality can come in myriad forms. Even so, a series of friendships felt very much like romantic relationships. That feeling of being one another’s Person. The heady rush that accompanied falling in deep with one another. Discovering someone as you discovered more about yourself. Knowing there was someone who absolutely had your back.
I hoped that when True Love finally arrived, that it would be like my best friendships. That it would involve talking into the night, dancing into the morning and eating footlong subways on a bendy night bus. That we’d laugh until our stomachs ached. That we could just sit together quietly, without saying very much at all. That I’d feel supported and loved but would also be called out when I needed to be, and vice versa. I also hoped that romantic love would somehow be free of the parts of friendship that could really hurt. Such as when you feel that you’ve lost someone forever, or have disappointed someone whose opinions means everything. I used to perceive romantic love as a magic wand, a knight-prince in shining armour on a white horse that would fix everything and rescue me from myself.
I’ve come to see love doesn’t have to be like anything, and especially not like Disney and films in general, which continue to endorse toxic relationships and dynamics. Love is love, however you experience it or define it for yourself. Friendship is love. All relationships, including the one you have with yourself (the most important one!), are rich and multifaceted, with darkness and light. All relationships take work and require nourishment and care, and all relationships deserve to be celebrated, however you desire.
That’s why I love that Galentine’s Day, invented a decade ago by Park and Recreation’s effervescent Leslie Knope, is increasingly a thing, as a companion or antidote to the most commercialised of holidays. Valentine’s Day can often be a sore reminder of heartbreak or how you haven’t managed to achieve society’s rather prescribed ideal of what a romantic relationship should look like. I prefer Galentine’s to Valentine’s, mostly because it comes with less baggage, and is potentially more inclusive and open to interpretation.
Either way, February is likely to get you thinking about love, whatever that means to you. So If you’re looking for a way to celebrate and discover - yourself, your lovers, your friends, everything and everyone in between and beyond -- here’s some inspiration for things to do throughout the shortest and sweetest month.
LOVE & FRIENDSHIP: A GALENTINES SCREENING
To celebrate love and friendship in all its forms, That Time of the Month are screening Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship - starring iconic galpals Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny (last seen together in Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco) and based on Jane Austen’s Lady Susan. There will be a Period Positive Pop Up before the film, offering plenty of self-love inspiration and tips, and period-, body-, and sex-positive goodies by innovative brands and business. Afterwards there is a disco on a rainbow-coloured dancefloor. Hosted by podcast and poet Leena Normington. Fundraising for The Red Box Project in Newham. Donate here.
(Disclaimer: I have co-organised this event with the fabulous Emma Kosmin!)
Wednesday 13th February, 7pm (doors 5pm)
Queen of Hoxton, 1 Curtain Rd, London EC2A 3JX
£8 advance / £10 on the door
Book here, use THEUNEDIT to get half price tickets
THE BEAT: DANCE FITNESS
Louise Douglas is literally magic. She’s a member of all-female magician supergroup Chicks ‘n’ Tricks and an incredible choreographer who makes dancers of all abilities feel like they can take on the world. EVOKE is a studio that embraces accessibility, inclusivity and body positivity, and offers a real sense of community. Louise’s THE BEAT is a class that builds up to a group routine at the end - so you can shake off all the outside world and access your inner Beyonce. You can get 10 classes for £10 each, one class for £14 or sign up for membership with unlimited classes.
Every Wednesday, 7.30pm
Evoke, Unit A Rowan Apartments, N4 1FS
SH! EROTIC CLASSES
Sh! is a glorious emporium devoted to female sexuality and pleasure. Since its inception as London’s first women’s sex shop in 1992, it continues to transform the face of the sex industry for the better, championing women’s rights and busting taboos. You enter through a cosy cafe and immediately feel at home. There’s plenty of sex and sensuality, and zero sleaze, with artisanal dildos being crafted behind the scenes. Renee, shop manager and sex educator extraordinaire, offers plenty of advice and inspiration on how to bring more pleasure into your life. She particularly recommends the Zalo Queen,a beautiful vibrator with plenty of features to make it easy for those who find it difficult to orgasm find what works for them.
Browsing the shop is an event in itself, but Sh! also offers regular erotic workshops with an emphasis on playfulness and relaxation, and with bubbly and treats included. It pays to go with friends or lovers (note: most workshops are women’s only) - prices range between £25-£35 per workshop depending how many of you there are. There is also a regular Women’s Support Group (donations welcomed) in collaboration with My Body Back Project, which provides a safe space for those thinking about exploring their sexuality after trauma.
Every Wednesday, 6.30pm
Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium, 31-35 Pitfield St, Hoxton, London N1 6HB
PLAYTONE: A PLAYGROUND FOR FUN & FITNESS
Playtone offers people of all abilities the chance to skate, dance, skip, hoop and yoga to funky tunes, in a welcoming and fun setting. Co-founders Tinuke’s Orbit and Obie Pearl are disco-licious performing artists and professional instructors who have travelled the world sharing the disco fever, through friendship, love, fitness and fun. They can skate and hoop simultaneously… ! Tinuke trained with Starlight Express. Obie is one of Marawa the Amazing’s Majorettes, and holds a Guinness World Record for ‘most hoops spun simultaneously as a group’! PLAYTONE supports The Anti Diet Riot Club, and believes in finding the joy in keeping moving. Like Sh! it pays to bring friends, with special discounts (£10 for one, £16 for two!).
ARCH 29, Behind Gateway 66 Great Suffolk Street, Old Union Yard, SE1 0LR, London
Rollernation 117 Bruce Grove, London N17
HEARTBREAK HOTEL: ANTI-VALENTINE’S DAY EXTRAVAGANZA
A cabaret curated and presented by the Cocoa Butter Club, starring the sensational Sadie Sinner. A healing, heart-warming evening filled with song, comedy, burlesque and pole-dancing, and celebrating self-love. The final night of a week-long festival exploring heartbreak and creating a community for those who aren’t buying or expecting over-instagrammed roses.
Thursday 14th February, 7.30pm
Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA
ANTI-DIET RIOT CLUB: YOU’RE THE ONE
Prioritising self-pleasure as self-care, the Anti-Diet Riot Club is making Valentines Day the day to woo yourself, to find the key to your own heart rather than the heart of someone else. An evening of frank discussion with a panel on self-pleasure, self care and how acceptance can be the key to a better s*x life (plus why being alone isn't bad...but can be amazing!)
There’ll be love letters, the chance to play with Goddess Cards, mini Reiki healing by Edit, massages for the Zen Sister and 241 cocktails.
Featuring Honey Ross (The Pink Protest), Rukiat Ashawe (S*xual Health & feminist writer), Frankie Wells (Co-founder, Foundation FM & Project Pleasure) and Kelly Ford (Comedian, presenter & model), and a session with The School of Strut.
Singles, couples, thruples & beyond - all welcome.
Thursday 14th February, 6.30pm
Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU
£10 advance / £15 on the door
THE COCOA BUTTER CLUB: QUEER CABARET
A one-off Queer Cabaret showcasing and celebrating performers of colour, from neo-burlesque and poetry, to drag, hoops and voguing. A night bold enough to have you screaming ‘yaaaaas queen, smell like cocoa butter up in hurr!’
Friday 22nd February, 9pm
Omnibus Theatre, 1 Clapham Common North Side, London SW4 0QW
£13 (£11 concessions)
THE SCHOOL OF STRUT: STRUTOLOGY
Strutology is the sassiest dance in the Strutosphere! If you get to sample the School of Strut at the Anti-Diet Riot Club’s Valentines event, it will whet your appetite for a full-sized serving, which usually happens on the last Friday of the month. Headmistress Zoe McNulty will help you harness the power of strut, walk tall and feel fabulous whatever your size. You learn a routine in trainers, building up to a strut-off (heels optional), and releasing your inner diva.
NOT MY CIRCUS: LE LION ROUGE
An evening of burlesque, circus and vaudeville variety, followed by a cabaret after party. A fusion of provocative Parisian cabaret and classic East End music hall. Hosted by Joe Morose and starring Ruby Deshabille, Delores Deluxe, Jilian, Virgin Xtravaganzah and Anna the Hulagan.
Ruby is an absolute joy to see on stage. She also offers exquisite burlesque workshops designed to ramp up your confidence. Follow her on socials to find out about her next one.
Saturday 23rd February, 8pm
Leytonstone Ballroom, 640 High Road, E11 3AA
OWNING IT! PANEL/SUPPER CLUB
Ash Magazine and Drinking Out Loud have teamed up on a delicious event geared towards body positivity, confidence and owning your sex class. Hosted by Ellie Sabine-Singh, featuring Emmy Brunner (CEO and women's wellness expert ), Liv Casino (sex and wellness writer) and Lala Love (stylist and self-love influencer), with a casual dining menu provided by Pasta Slut and Kemp Kitchen.
Sunday 24th February, 2pm
Alphabet Bar, 56 Upper St London N1 0NY
£30 (£10 panel only)
LOVERS CLAY CLUB: VALENTINES SPECIAL
Ceramic artist Claire de Lune (as seen on BBC 2’s Made in Britain) offers an intimate two person clay class with tea, bubbly, great music, and an afternoon of clay building whatever your heart desires. Suitable for complete beginners to those looking to deepen their understanding of clay and ceramics. You will spend 2.5 hours creating, then pick a glaze. Claire will glaze and fire your work and it will be ready for collection within two weeks.
Flexible dates throughout February
Margate (address upon request)
£150 (for 2)
For other awesome feminist, life-affirming and empowering happenings, check out Gal-Cal.