Romance is overrated. Love songs? Passé. Rather than scour the 318 for a soul mate, this year I gave up what many find to be a seasonal search.I refuse to worry about disappointment from previous Valentine’s Days. I am not emotionally preparing for an estrogen fest with my girls as we swap Sweethearts candy, ignore balloons and wait for everyone’s roses to die.
My official valentine is unexpected. He is a wee bit skinnier than usual. The bird chest is definitely in the building. He is missing facial hair and probably needs a haircut.
He’s pure testosterone with a knack for severe trash talk. He is hyper. Impulsive. Brilliant.
His name is Kalif Hassan and he is my youngest brother.
I do have a 16 year old, 6’4 brother (Malik Shabazz), who typically leaves females awestricken and/or giggly. He’s a scholar athlete, who will receive an I.B. diploma. He has more acceptance letters than I have dreadlocks, but I have already given him his due via spoken word.
This year it’s about Kalif Hassan, the kid who is a kindred spirit with everyone from the overweight Asian kid on his basketball team to bootlegging brothas in the barbershop.
Kalif has always been my supporter. He befriended my prior Valentine. Kalif chatted amicably with the then “boyfriend” who I spent a sizable portion of my part time check on and for whom I dedicated an intense amount of concentration over the kitchen table creating a heartfelt masterpiece.
That dude snatched the cutesy bag, plucked away at tissue paper, sniffed, munched and reveled in his gifts, before handing me an unwrapped Starbucks gift card with a sheepish expression.
This year’s Valentine can’t disappoint.
My youngest brother is the family fire. He is the self appointed sexiest member of the flock and crops the rest of us out of photographs accordingly. His name is actually Arabic for “handsome prince.” Neighborhood girls shout their numbers when he plays ball at the park.
Teachers attempt to suspend or otherwise discipline him because in light of Obama many still can’t fathom the likelihood of a tall, black jock who happens to be a looker and statistically beast mode their diagnostic assessments.
He was born loyal. As a perfect looking six pound mound of raven curls and dimples, he was destined for sincerity.
He stuck by me.
When I dyed my hair yellow, wore too much eyeliner, ditched my easiest class to write poems in the theatre dressing room, grieved my grandfather’s death by challenging my mother and otherwise went postal my sophomore year of high school, he was there.
At seven and a half years my junior he often seemed my least likely ally, but was down for my causes. He gave me space to act a fool. I stomped through the house, muttered profanity and bawled until my face channeled tomato paste. I listened to Shyne, Daddy Yankee, Dipset and fancied myself pretty gangster when I snuck and checked my myspace on my dad’s computer.
In short, sometimes I was a hot mess.
And Kalif, wise beyond his years, had the most patience with me. Old soul Malik avoided me in favor of less controversial aspects of life, like neighborhood football and sandwiches.
Everyone had their grooves.
Even my beautiful blob of a baby sister cohesively added to the family. She was the green eyed, tawny love sponge- a representation of levity and wonder in the world when I felt like a leper.
I spent much of age fifteen hidden in my room.
Kalif endlessly knocked on my door, waited, allowed me to respond with guttural “whadddyaawant”s, and peeked his honest face inside as he whispered “I just want to talk.”
He slid into the room, plopped onto the paisley bedspread, crossed gray ankles and proceeded as my psychiatrist. As I ranted, he listened, responded accordingly and told me he loved me.
Then he would peace out.
I never forgot those talks. Nor did I forget how much stress his company alleviated.
So now when he needs to talk or needs to know that someone else out there adores him, minus all the sexy stuff, I’m here. That is that nature of true families, friendships, Valentines and love.