Arts & EntertainmentOpinion/Commentary

A Complex Holiday

What Valentine’s Day means to a 34-year-old drag queen.

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Violet S’Arbleu (screengrab via Instagram)

For nearly six centuries now, people around the world have spent February 14 expressing their devotion or platonic affection for one another, using every method imaginable.

But why? Nobody knows who St. Valentine really was. In one story, he secretly performed weddings for lovestruck couples under cover of darkness, violating the emperor’s ban on young men getting married. In another, he was caught rescuing Christians from inhumane prison conditions, and during his own incarceration tried to woo the warden’s daughter with inventive romantic gestures.

As with all good legends, the truth isn’t nearly as important as the legacy. St. Valentine’s namesake holiday grew far beyond Christianity itself as it became an immovable secular force that now makes it impossible to get a dinner reservation anywhere in town. (On the plus side, it also leads to plenty of discount sweets on sale during the third week of the month.)

So what does Valentine’s Day mean to me, a 34-year-old drag queen? Well, I’ve never fallen in love while imprisoned, and I’m certainly not performing hasty secret marriages for lovers on the run, like the guy in Romeo and Juliet. Truth be told, that fat, winged baby with the bow and arrow misses me every year, so I’ve never actually had someone to share Valentine’s Day with.

Well, that’s not entirely true, because someone fairly important to me was born on the evening of  Valentine’s Day 2009: Violet. During a college party that night at a bar in Savannah, Georgia, I decided that this persona should no longer be called “Jacob in a Dress.” At the end of the evening, I gave her a name of her own, and this month I’m hitting my 12th anniversary of the birth of Violet S’Arbleu. 

Violet is my full-time (and I do mean full-time) job. Even with her own designated room, she has taken over the house like those plants in Jumanji. But since she also pays all the bills, I suppose she’s entitled to that. Violet is the longest-running and most demanding commitment of my life, so even though I’m single, I suppose one could say that I’ve actually been in a long-term relationship since 2009. And honestly, I couldn’t be more grateful.

Still, she’s not real. And just as no man is an island, no queen is one, either. Unfortunately, though, despite the growing number of “throuples” in our modern society, the fact that I’m sort of two people all on my own deters many gay guys from wanting to be my/our third. In a way, my unique situation does weed out the shallow and the undesirable. But on the other hand, it can get pretty lonely.

Dating has never been my forte; my first kiss wasn’t until my 17th birthday and I’ve only had two very short-term boyfriends in my entire life. And now that I’m an entertainer, being in a nocturnal job with such high community visibility limits the dating pool. Then throw in a pandemic, and a tough situation is made harder still when we’re forced to flirt from six feet away with half of our faces covered.

Don’t get me wrong: I love love. I perform a ton of love songs, replay Disney movies regularly, and cry at everything. I’m a hopeless romantic—and sometimes, just hopeless in general.

When my mother was 34, she was already in her second marriage and raising two stepchildren. And she had just given birth to me! Considering that I haven’t even been kissed since 2020, I think it’s safe to say I’m not exactly on the same life path. And even though this city keeps me plenty busy with work, every once in a while I sit back and think how nice it would be to have someone to share this with.

So every year on Valentine’s Day, I celebrate the people in love and wish them well. And even though I’m truly happy for them, I do admit that I envy them just a little bit. In fact, I’d like to give a special shout-out to all of the partners of drag artists in Houston. And to all of you entertainers who have found that special someone who is willing to share both of your lives, don’t forget that it’s a rare treat to have a partner who is undeterred by the many trappings of a drag career. Drag spouses are the real unsung heroes of our profession. Congratulations to those lucky few who have found that extra-special magic with an understanding romantic interest. We should all be so fortunate.

But then I remember: I do have someone I can celebrate the season with. Hence, when February 14 rolls around each year, I wish Violet a Happy Birthday and get ready for her gigs that week as I think to myself, “Maybe next year…”

Jacob Chaput (Violet S’Arbleu), a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, is a Houston entertainer who has received national coverage and a number of awards for his work as a drag queen. He was named Miss Gay Texas America 2017-2018 and is a two-time winner of OutSmart’s Gayest & Greatest Most Divine Drag Queen. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/RosesAreRed and on Instagram @violetwithav.

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