See the cripple dance | Idealist pessimism & cynical romance

As a lover of unconventional relationships, my vision of the Lovers has been expanding over the years.

Pixie’s Tarot shows the white, cis, non-disabled bodies of a presumably straight couple, exposed, blonde hair flowing, hands gently reaching toward one another. The Lovers card is ruled by the element of Air, signifying a focus on communication, thoughtfulness, intelligence, and idealism. Despite my Libra Sun and Gemini rising, it’s never been my favourite card. Something about the traditional imagery has always irked me. There’ve been times when the Lovers comes up in readings of mine, and I felt disappointed.

One of the ways I’ve coped with trauma was unintentionally becoming averse to touch, affection, and intimacy. There were times when I couldn’t even hug or hold hands. How trauma recovery affects the ways I experience touch and intimacy is something I’ve addressed in “Strength as Intimacy, Intimacy as Strength”. As I re-read it half a year later, I see that I was also writing about learning how to claim my body as my own while disabled, lonely, and gender-fucked. I was learning how to care for myself, and how to share space with other bodies as I did so. The only forms of touch I could accept were paid transactions.

Sometimes I feel like an idealistic pessimist or a cynical romantic.

Yeah, I dream of love and beauty, justice and trust. I dream of becoming one of those artists whose weird relationships and friendships are written about in biographies and historical records, studied and analyzed, something others are fascinated by and even aspire toward. I love reading about writers and artists who’ve fallen in love and collaborated with one another. I dream of revolutionary lovers who destroy patriarchy and capitalism together, and I think of a lyric from “Cupid Carries A Gun” by Marilyn Manson: “One hand on the trigger, the other hand in mine.” That’s my kind of love song.

In the Everyday Witch Tarot, the Lovers appear to be making a pact. When I look at it, I think of pinky-swears, high-fives, and secret-handshakes. They hide in the shadows of tall trees at night, cloaked in black capes with tiny red flowers blooming at their feet. Their expressions are hidden. In front of them, their cats sit closer to the fire, forming a heart with their tails.

The Lovers can appear as a reference to lust, sex and manic crushes, as well as romantic relationships, reciprocal exchanges and interactions between people who are bonded to one another through understanding and mutual care; a connection that cannot quite be communicated in words; a sense of affinity and kinship. It often refers to a romantic relationship, but it doesn’t have to. I often think of it as friendship too – the kind of friendship that forms through shared adoration and awe, like that shown between, for example, Anne Shirley and Diana Barry in Anne of Green Gables; or, of course, a shared sense of dissatisfaction and ambivalence about the constraints of societal institutions, like the sarcastic bonding that happens between Daria and Jane on Daria.

Of the pact portrayed in The Everyday Witch’s iteration of the Lovers, I think of Thelma and Louise, dying to protect one another from harm; Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, enacting revenge on a sexually abusive family, becoming famous as they embark on a road trip murder spree, and eventually inciting a prison riot and killing the guards; and Andreas Baader and Gundrun Ensslin of the Red Army Faction, fleeing West Germany after being convicted and sentenced for arson bombing a department store as protest against indifference to genocide and war, being smuggled back home after visiting left-wing communities throughout France, Switzerland, and Italy – later, Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhof, a co-founder of the RAF, would collaborate on an escape plan to break Andreas Baader out of prison after he was arrested during a traffic stop.

As I write this, I’m staying in a cabin with a friend of mine, on the edge of a village with a population of 1,800. There’s electricity but no wifi or running water, and the place is silent and still.

We’ve been sharing a bed with her two dogs, each of whom weigh almost half our own body weight, and their bodies keep us warm at night, the sensation of their bellies expanding and contracting with their deep dog breaths and almost-snores lulling us into sleep. Each morning, we share coffee together, go out onto the back porch to check the weather, then get dressed and wander through the village. Shoplifting at the local thrift store has become a shared ritual (lingerie and cardigans for me, cassettes for her), as well as staring back at high school kids who sense that we’re the weirdos around here, and then writing at a desk hidden in a back corner of a very small library.

She and I used to pass one another on the street of our old town as teenagers, and we felt intrigued, but it took us a few years to find the guts to talk to one another. We both dressed in black with purple hair, and we still do. Eventually, we bonded through our mutual love of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Craft. We had drunk, messy adventures together before sobering up, and remained in touch via snail mail while living in different provinces.

One night, shortly after she moved back to the area, she texted me to tell me she thinks we’re soulmates.

Our shared adventure in an isolated, abandoned, and maybe-haunted cabin is the first time we’ve been able to see each other for four years, and we’ve shifted right back into the comfort, vulnerability, and familiarity of the friendship we’ve shared from legal drinking age into our early-30s, watching bad VHSs at night, holding photoshoots during the day, and creating a stone wall for her garden together.

In the Next World Tarot, a disabled queer holds their lavender cane as their naked self emerges from the mirror they’re standing in front of, affectionately caressing their neck and handing them a bunch of spoons – a nod to Spoon Theory, a metaphor often used to describe living with chronic illness and/or disability. Self-love and self-care are an obvious interpretation of this card, and I’m grateful to have a re-imagining of The Lover that doesn’t focus on the formation of a couple. It’s more complicated than that, though.

One thing this card makes me think of is the deceptive notion that one must learn to love themself before they can be loved by someone else. That has never been true for me.

Each time I’ve fallen in love, I’ve learned how to love myself more, how to love myself in different ways, and how to become curious about what others see within me and love about me. It’s helped me create a more expansive picture of myself, one where I continue to become more complex, and I learn (hopefully) that I can change, that I can disagree, that I can grow, without being ditched.

I think one reason I felt disappointed by the classic iteration of the Lovers was because I could tell that the figures weren’t always reaching toward one another – sometimes they were pulling away. They may have held hands for the last time or experienced their final embrace. I never wanted to admit that’s what I was seeing in the card, because I didn’t want to admit when I was seeing that happen in my own life.

Cristy Road’s version of the Lovers reminds me of times I’ve looked in the mirror and admired my own reflection, times I’ve held onto my cane and felt more like me. It reminds me of particular items of clothing I wear that feel like security blankets, and everything I’ve done and am yet to do to feel more at home in own body. The empty coat rack in the background makes me think of the freedom in not feeling like I have to conceal any part of myself, whether it’s my body, my past, my feelings, whatever.

It shows a lack of self-consciousness or apology, an invitation to self-acceptance and embodied love.

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  1. Amerasuu says:

    This is my favourite column on little red tarot I really appreciate the effort you put into it I read this as I was walking my dog and I’m using voice typing to write this comment as I am yet to master typing with pain in one hand and the phone in the other Kane not pain walking stick I obviously mean walking stick thank you Google typing

  2. Oliver says:

    ahhhh you have written a definition of romantic love that makes sense to me! I have been looking all over for one! thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    I know little about the Cristy C Road tarot and now I am so intrigued to know more

  3. Rose says:

    In Marseilles tradition, this card means “choice” and it has very little to do with love, nor with any form of romantic relationship. That wouldn’t come for a few hundred years, when marriages started to be made with emotion in mind rather than for business. As a result, The Lovers traditionally sees relationship as more of a business transaction. You can choose to do good business, or you can choose to not be in the business at all (in which case you went to the Church, because that’s how renaissance catholicism worked).

    So it’s always been a bit confusing for me to see this card about romantic love, particularly as an ace who is a bit sketchy on the details between platonic and romantic loves. Instead, I usually see this card as being more about choosing, and choice, and chosen family. You can choose who you surround yourself with, and you can choose to seek out loving and supportive people. But you don’t need to be in a romantic relationship with them to have them in your life! But that’s also just how I read TdM in a radical way.

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