It’s coming. Throughout the land, couples are wrestling with a gloomy sense of impending obligation – how to pull off Valentine’s Day in a way which isn’t naff with just hearts and flowers. – Kate Greenhalgh has the last word.
Or, alternatively, how to avoid it all together. ‘What are you doing for Valentine’s?’ is a question asked in the same tone as ‘when are you having your bunions done?’ – sort of sympathetic, but with a hint of disgust and embarrassment. Who needs to sit in a cheesy joint holding hands after 30 years of marriage? Holding the stepladder steady while he clears out the gutters – that’s real love.
Plus let’s face it, we are all total snobs about it as well. It’s girls from ‘The Only Way Is Essex’, and ‘Love Island’ who enjoy Valentine’s Day, and we look down on them, don’t we? They have probably literally never visited a National Trust garden in their lives, or listened to Radio 4. No wonder they debauche themselves on February 14th with overpriced hot-house roses, garish helium balloons and pink prosecco, with handsome boyfriends who are really into them and smile adoringly at them and tell them how beautiful they are. Can you think of anything worse?
Actually, confession, I’ve never shared the widespread ambivalence about Valentine’s Day. As a spotty teenager with zero prospect of romance, the thought of getting an unexpected, anonymous card from a secret admirer was absolutely thrilling. It never happened. And then of course, if and when you finally get a boyfriend, the first thing they loftily say is that they ‘don’t do Valentines’ and you have to agree with them, with a knowing, ironic chortle, because obviously you can’t like Joy Division and The Clash but also like Valentine’s Day – what a massive intellectual contradiction. And then, if and when you finally get married, there’s your ANNIVERSARY to be creative about. Two lovey-dovey efforts in one year is OTT – what with birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas etc. Or so my then-husband would have me believe, and one couldn’t fault the logic. Sigh. (Luckily, I’m now with a dear man who has no inhibitions about Valentine’s Day. He is positively flamboyant about it. At last. Flowers! Balloons! Pink Prosecco! Hooray! Love it!)
I was chatting to some kids in their early thirties the other day, about relationships, settling down and so on. Quite a few haven’t found The One, or are thinking that’s not what they want anyway. The traditional set-ups are breaking down, as women gain their independence and men shake off the old expectations on them. The narrowness of social and emotional options of the past has been blown wide open. Praise be. But even so, in a rush, I found myself saying to them that having someone who loves you is still a big deal – best friend, partner, sibling, whoever, because when life feels lonely – as it often does – who are you going to call?
So come on, deep breaths, we can do this thing – treat February 14th as a chance to celebrate the special somebody who can stand you, warts and all. Time to give thanks, if not red roses.