July 27th, 2009

As a newlywed, I’ve been writing a lot of thank you notes. In addition to buying official “Bonnie & Scott” stationary for the occasion, we crazy married kids also purchased books of “love” stamps, some version of which is almost always available for just such emotional occasions. When we sent out our invites back in April the USPS was peddling love stamps displaying a man in a field hugging a big red heart. This latest batch, however — sets of kings and queens, their faces turned to side, as if from playing cards — offers less quaint commentary on the nuances of love, and heartache.

Arranging the stamps in different orders and numbers, depending on how much postage your envelope needs, will produce some very different, if subtle, implications. I first noticed this when I went to mail a letter to a male friend abroad — a friend who, to make a long story short, I had thought I was entering into a three-way relationship with, and who ended up forming a much more “normal” couple with the third party involved, a woman. It hurts when one person you like picks someone else; it hurts double when two people do it at once. Still, more than a year later, I couldn’t help but smile at coincidence of having stamped his letter with a king and queen looking into each other’s eyes, and a second queen watching them, the identical look on her face somehow transformed into foolish expectation and inevitable heartache.

Having sent off my letter, faced with the pile of domestic thank yous that still awaited me (one stamp at a time doesn’t make for very interesting implications), I began to play with the possible combinations, seeing what I could get the postage to say. You can find the full photoset here, complete with titles like “objectless longing” and “quiet repugnance.” As a poly person, those that interest me most involve more than two people, and reflect with surprising elegance the complicated dynamics that develop between groups. Here, for example, are those same stamps I sent to my friend, two queens and a king, only presented in a different order. Now the second queen is turning away: hurt, yes, but proud.

Interesting too, since all kings and queens face the same direction respectively, this design will never allow for reciprocated same-sex love. In that way it poses a similar challenge as Sex Chess, a project that produced another silly/serious photoset of mine years ago. I tried to assign genders and roles to all of the pieces on a chess board, so that when two met their interactions could be represented by sexual interactions, the winner dominating the loser in a way appropriate to his/her proclivities. Needless to say, the result was more high concept than high sex appeal.

So, as you go about your letter-writing business over the next few months that these “Love: King and Queen of Hearts” stamps are available in post offices, stop to appreciate the dynamic you create before sticking your envelope in the mail box. Have you, however unconsciously, chosen traditional love? What about the oblivious and the hopeful? Or are you a dreamer?

Tags: polyamory, sex/gender imagery, thinking and over-thinking

3 Responses to “Expressing heartache with ‘Love’ stamps”

  1. shelleth Says:

    I heart this so much. Thank you for being one of the most creative & inspiring people I’ve had the good fortune to meet :]

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    You are such a sweetheart! Thank you :).

    Now if only there was a way I could present these in a more aesthetically pleasing way than with digital camera shots…

  3. Mary Says:

    I like the whole set, but the best is your “lovers and the dreamer” photo. Perfect title.

    Bummer for same-sex couples that they can’t get 2 kings facing or 2 queens.

    Indie “love” stamps: http://www.squidoo.com/lovestamps. Traffic to the page benefits Save the Children.

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