no t, no shade

December 27, 2016 Roobs Leiser

anyone who knows me, reads my cultural reference-laden pieces, or watches my instagram stories, will know that i love rupaul. so much. drag race is that rare combination of sass, fierceness, and resonating emotion. the platform that these people are given is something the world has been in desperate need of - whether we realised it or not. it is very easy for straight, cisgendered people to forget how easy they’ve got it, and the genius of the drag race format/editing confronts us with this privilege - splicing over-the-top sickening diva moments with the vulnerability of realising what a lot of these contestants have gone through to get there. as much as we’d like to think that a wildly popular tv show has neutralised the threat that LGBTQ+ people face - especially those who are also drag queens - the heartfelt solidarity that exists on the show is one that really does matter.
so, i understand that what i’m about to say not only contradicts my obsession with the drag world, but is also just flat-out blasphemy. i have a problem with rupaul. 
or, more accurately, with one aspect. at the end of every single episode, i literally sit (usually in my bed wearing gross pyjamas and covered in snack crumbs) and joyfully respond ‘AMEN!’ as rupaul rhymes off one of her most famous catchphrases. "if you can’t love yourself how in hell you gon' love somebody else?". but while i understand completely the sentiment with which it is meant, i myself know firsthand that it is very possible to love somebody else without loving yourself and, indeed, this forms the basis of so many toxic relationships. i don’t mean just with significant others. i mean with friends, with family, with your boss, with everyone you interact with. 
what rupaul means is that you’ll never be able to exist in a healthy relationship where you can love and be loved in return, if you don’t start with loving yourself. and that i completely agree with. what it doesn’t mean, however, is that it isn’t possible for this to happen. the fact is: loving someone else is a LOT easier than loving yourself. it just is. it’s easier to put someone’s needs before your own, than it is to say ‘actually, no’. it’s easier to just ‘go with the flow’ than it is to make assertive, seemingly confrontational decisions that will benefit your own wellbeing. 
putting yourself first is not easy. loving yourself is definitely not easy. and it absolutely is not a milestone you have to reach before you love someone else. it *should* be - but it isn’t. we can pour all of ourselves into the ideal of another person without ever so much as giving ourselves a thought. we can give our all for someone who will hold our love in their hands and crumple it into a ball. we will give that love, and even when there is nothing left to give, we will start handing out the other bits of ourselves. it starts with our love, but eventually we will give our confidence, our self-assurance, our integrity, our pride, our sanity. because it is easier than choosing your own side. it’s easier than saying ‘i might lose you, but i’ll still have me and that’s enough’. 
the festive period, lovely though it may be, is notoriously bad for convincing us that we should put others first. it is why we empty our bank accounts, why we work extra shifts even though we were promised the day off, why we force ourselves to be polite to the problematic family members who are causing us actual internal pain over christmas dinner. loving yourself is not a prerequisite for loving other people. loving yourself takes time, and effort, and, most importantly, a degree of selfishness. if, that is, we perpetuate the unfair notion that consciously making yourself a priority is a selfish act. i’m not one for resolutions, but maybe 2017 can be the year of actively insisting on loving ourselves before we worry about the 'somebody else’ bit. 

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