No, I am not going mad, and yes I am fully aware that Valentine’s day is not scheduled any time in the next couple of weeks. However, much to my supreme annoyance and massive inconvenience, I am already being bombarded with cheesy window displays, mushy adverts, racks of soppy cards and numerous emails promising to ‘help you please your woman this Valentine nite’ (sic).
Yesterday I was on a mission to procure a suitable birthday card and had to fight my way through a sea of red and pink froth in order to find the much-reduced-in-size birthday section (heaven forfend that anyone would actually wish to bestow something as mundane as a birthday greeting during this most romantic of seasons). Who actually takes three weeks to choose a Valentine’s card? Maybe they are there solely for all those long-distance lovers with strict postal dates to adhere to… And the current choice is bordering on the ridiculous: to my son, to my neighbour, to my teacher, to the postman, to my favourite cat. One word: Why? I actually mistakenly assumed that the red haze was endless racks of cut-price Xmas cards (hopefully as a result of people coming to their senses, refusing to waste endless paper, time and hard-earned cash – a first class stamp now costs 62p, sixty two whole pee – and giving a small donation to charity instead of funding Hallmark). Alas no, it was only an early onslaught of Valentine vulgarity.
I simply do not understand why people buy into the contrived sense of romance that surrounds this day. Could there really be anything less romantic (or original) than being proposed to on the 14th of February? Clearly the only advantage is that fact that you (and the gazillions of other
lemmings people who got engaged on the same day) are less likely to forget that particular anniversary; let’s face it, this is one date that the country’s card shops will never allow to slip past unnoticed.*
I don’t merely avoid Valentine card purchases, I also refuse to dine out on Valentine’s day. There are many reasons for this:
1. Stupid Valentine’s menus. I do not wish to pay a premium to peruse a pink menu or to gorge on gushy-sounding gastronomic delights (‘a trio of heart-shaped chocolate truffles decorated with pink rose petals and edible candy crystals’ – perfect to share!’ = Boke). Anything arranged in a heart shape on a plate (or in life generally) should be banned. I do have an ironic pink-plasticky heart-shaped sandwich cutter at home, but that is a whole other revenge-based story (a ‘stop complaining about the contents of your sandwiches or tomorrow lunchtime you will be humiliated in front of your colleagues…’ type story).
2. It is an indisputable fact that at least one song by Celine Dion will feature on the evening’s playlist. Even worse, there may be special Valentine’s ‘entertainment’ which will involve real live musicians bothering the restaurant’s diners as they attempt to enjoy a meal in all-too-close proximity to competing couples. Think a tacky holiday resort extravaganza, but at home (and absorbed in the cost of your over-priced meal). Is there anything more awkward than having a violin bow thrust in your face as you try to dislodge a rogue rose petal from between your teeth?
3. In much the manner that people who don’t know how to use pubs properly descend on them in December, and people who are unfamiliar with gym etiquette sweat all over the treadmills in January, those individuals – sorry, I mean couples – who don’t have a clue how to behave in a restaurant come out in their swarms in February. Ask anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant: we hate this time of year. Nobody wants to read out the Valentine specials 12 times whilst a couple gazes adoringly (and quite frankly, rudely) into one another’s eyes. No chef wants a carefully constructed dessert desecrated in order to conceal that garish engagement ring. The only silver (or red, if you like) lining is the hope that this could finally be the year you will witness a failed public proposal!
4. Pressure. There’s simply too much pressure to have a good (romantic) time. I’m much more likely to embark on an argument. My friend and I did used to play a game called ‘spot the arguing couple’ on this particular night. Hours of free entertainment.
5. I might accidentally overhear someone refer to their partner as ‘my other half’, or ‘my better half’. Clearly this is a hazard at any time of year but it is more likely to happen on Valentine’s day due to the disproportionately high number of cringeworthy couples polluting the air. If you feel that you are only half a person and that you need a partner to COMPLETE you, then quite frankly it is all of our best interests that you remain single forever as there would therefore be less chance of you procreating and filling the world with likeminded half-people.
Luckily, the BF feels the same as me (he hasn’t really got a choice in the matter) and tolerates my romance-free ways. Alas, in years gone by, boyfriends were not quite so accommodating. During my formative years, an ex gave me a personally-iced heart-shaped biscuit, a vile figurine of a teddy holding a heart (the brand Forever Friends rings a bell…) and some tacky red plastic handcuffs. I can feel my face going the exact same colour as I type. To be fair, he worked in a bakery although I’m not sure if this renders the biscuit gesture more or less tolerable… Either way, I was left feeling distinctly nauseated before I’d even bitten through the luridly-iced exterior.
To grudgingly give him his dues, the current BF has become pretty adept at negotiating the various relationship minefields that are all part and parcel of co-habiting with a hardened cynic. He is fully aware that the presentation of a bunch of flowers is most likely to be met with a suspicious stare and a demand that he explain what he’s apologising for. My sister once went on a date with a wet-boy who arrived at her work the following day eagerly brandishing a bunch of blooms. She resolved there and then that she would never see him again. We’re cut from the same cloth, Wee Sis and I. Alas, the BF has been known to use this genetic hatred of all things mushy to his distinct advantage and our arguments generally end with the threat that if I’m not willing to compromise then this time he really will send me the dreaded Balloon In A Box.
How utterly hideous is this? Picture the scene… A parcel arrives at your desk and you automatically assume it is a fun gift from Amazon – like this most excellent surprise I received through the post recently:
But alas no. On the dreadful day (perhaps the V day…) you rapidly rip off the sellotape only for a helium monstrosity to appear and rise smugly to the ceiling where it will remain resolutely out of reach and where it will float forevermore above your desk, pink foil glinting in the halogen light, much to the immense amusement of the entire office. I open parcels very carefully these days….
The only acceptable Valentine’s gift I ever received was a complete surprise (proof that surprises can very occasionally be acceptable). It was a bottle of pink fizz and a large box of chocolates sent from the aunt of my friend’s husband’s friend (bear with me…) who I had done a favour for months previously. She kindly reciprocated with my tasty chocs and pink fizz (fizz being one thing that I am more than happy to be gratuitously pink). A friend and I happily downed the bottle then went out to play another game of our own devising (10 points for spotting a bunch of wilting roses, 20 if you manage to walk through the middle of a hand-holding couple, 50 for an engagement). Loser buys the beer.
I’d better finish here so that I have adequate time to work on my Valentine’s ‘jokes’. You’d be surprised how many variations there are of the quite frankly hilarious ‘I got so many cards today that I couldn’t get my door open’ anecdote. I also want to experiment with mashed potato and pink food colouring.
Disclaimer: I may rant some more on this subject before the 14th….
* I wish to point out at this point that the word ‘anniversary’ originates from two Latin words, those being annus (year) and versus (turning). Together they made the word anniversarius (returning yearly). YEARLY. YEAR. Not week, or month or even 6 months. THEREFORE, IT IS AN IMPOSSIBILITY TO HAVE A 6 MONTH ANNIVERSARY. And breathe.