The Great Valentine’s Day Con

14 Feb

“Darling, I love you so much I’m going to bust my overdraft in order to shower you with cards, overpriced flowers, and a frightfully uncomfortable meal in a restaurant neither of us like, because it is love day.”

Or at least, that’s what many couples may as well say on this most insipid of Hallmark holidays.

I have never been a fan of St Valentine’s Day and its grotesque, gratuitous displays of false adoration. Probably because as a clumsy child in an all-boys school, the chances of a love declaration were few and far between. That isn’t to say that I didn’t try of course. I have on multiple occasions bitten the bullet and penned some inappropriate comments inside a card, tucked into a rich red envelope and forwarded it to the unwitting recipient of my attention. One early crush was sent a painstakingly hand-made card, adorned with a drawn cupid on the front and the lyrics of a rather bawdy song I failed to comprehend properly on the interior. Poetry is love, right?

To this day I remain baffled by the one Valentine card I remember receiving as an awkward adolescent. I still have it in a box along with other bits and pieces from my teenage years. There was an oblique clue written underneath the stamp on the envelope, with the letters T and S. Being the silly sausage I am, I never did have the courage to find out who did send it (the embarrassment if I had guessed wrongly!), and considering how few females I actually knew then, the idea that I might have a secret admirer tickled me no end. Perhaps one day paths will cross and the secret will be let out of the bag.

While as an adult I have given and received cards and gifts, it is the obligation to participate which upsets me most. If one does indeed love, then that love should be manifest every day of the year and not just on the one day when garages sell red roses in bin liners.

Most of all I feel sorry for couples who are dating. A bit like Christmas, if it is early days in the relationship, the pressure to push the boat out and impress one’s potential partner may well be overwhelming – building up false expectations of times to follow. And for those who are in difficulties or reaching the end of their relationships, the compulsion to celebrate Valentines in spite of any personal angst, ends up upsetting and prompting partners to labour under the misapprehension that their crumbling partnership is alive and kicking.

Image source: National Library of Norway on Flickr.

Image source: National Library of Norway on Flickr.

Valentines celebrations are overflowing with trite cliché. Red roses, chocolates, candlelit dinners for two… On that last note, I don’t think there’s anything remotely romantic about dragging your sorry ass down to the local bistro or Michelin restaurant for a specially laid on meal, labelled ‘Valentines’ and ‘Exclusive’ by the greedy restaurateur who has for one night only, doubled both the capacity and cost of the venue. Sitting uncomfortably in stiff wooden seating, gazing across a flute of sparkling wine because you can’t afford the champagne, as your elbows knock into the much prettier couple at the next table.

As you sit there in silence, you witness the implosion nearby of another couple who had fallen prey to the Valentine’s pressure but cannot keep a lid on their increasing discomfort in each other’s company. As they get drunker and louder, you find your own meal spoilt, and before you know it the waiter is kicking you out because they need the table for another booking and you’ve reluctantly abandoned your cheese board.

If you are lucky enough to have a house with a big bed to go back to, chances are you’re both too pissed or too full to actually give each other the Valentine’s fuck you’d been looking forward to since New Year’s. And half-awake, conversations based on ‘aren’t you glad we aren’t like them’ soon leave you spent wondering about the possibilities you have shut off in this single world…

Or at least, that’s how I suspect things will go.

Today is Valentine’s Day and I am (un) surprisingly dateless. Which just makes me hate it all the more.

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