I am a hopeless romantic. Really. Under this cynical, twisted, borderline-misanthropic, Bernard-Black-lite facade, there beats a heart as mushy as melting cheesecake. I am absolutely powerless in the face of a romantic gesture, no matter how big or small. I love seeing old couples walking along hand-in-hand*; I think airports are romantic places, because of all the lovers’ reunions potentially happening in them, and I find it hard to stay dry-eyed at weddings.
But I really, really couldn’t give half a damn about Valentine’s Day.
*PDAs from young couples are unnecessary, however – on the train the other evening, The Best-Dressed Couple Ever were literally entwined around each other, all the way from London Bridge to Crawley. Eww. And don’t even get me started on sixth-formers who think they’re in love. Until you’ve spent a day bringing them tea and toast while listening to them hack up bits of lung, in the grip of a filthy, snotty cold, it’s probably not love. Until you’ve heard them chuck up badly-made Pina Coladas and then nursed them through the ensuing hangover, it’s probably not love.
It’s not as if I once had a bad Valentine’s experience; I don’t need to go to a support group (Valentine Victims Anonymous, slogan: “one rose petal at a time”), I just absolutely and emphatically could not care less if I tried about February 14th.
And I’m allowed to say this, because I’m not single and bitter. (Just bitter.)
Fortunately, this wasn’t really an issue for me until I was nineteen (at which point I found myself a nice Chemistry student from Birmingham and my mother breathed a “phew, she’s not a lesbian” sigh of relief. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a lesbian, it’s just my mother reads the Daily Mail on a regular basis, and well, y’know…). One day in early February 2010, the aforementioned Chemistry student bounded into my room and sighed, “The dreaded day’s coming up. What do you want?” as if I were dragging the words out of him with rusty pliers. I was momentarily confused – “The dreaded day? My birthday’s not for another six weeks. Oh, Valentine’s Day. Oh, riiiight. Well, no. Nothing. Couldn’t give a shit.” He too looked confused, then relieved, then positively thrilled. He may have stammered something along the lines of “but, but you’re a woman“, so I had to elaborate thus.
The thing is, it’s bollocks. I think I’ve made that much quite clear. People like to say “oh, it’s just a Hallmark holiday”, but it does have quite a long history – according to Wikipedia, at least. My main problem with V-Day is that if you’re in a relationship, you should be doing nice, romantic things for each other anyway. Not all the time – you need to bitch and bicker sometimes, keep them on their toes – but essentially that’s the point of being in a relationship in the first place. The difference between that and a friends-with-benefits arrangement tends to be the romantic element. The “I’ll cook you your favourite dinner” evenings. The “I got us gig tickets because I thought you might like them” times. The “yeah I’ll come and see that weird indie film with you” times. But you shouldn’t need a designated day for that. There’s nothing special about calendar-scheduled romance. My line on Valentine’s Day used to be “if you’re in a relationship, it’s pressure to do something special, and if you’re single, it makes you feel like you shouldn’t be”. Now, I take that back, because the sensible people, of both the single and coupled variety, know that it can be ignored altogether.
Don’t get me wrong, if someone did take a notion to rock up to my house on Thursday holding a massive bunch of tulips, I’d hardly be churlish enough to turn them away. But that has more to do with the fact that I’ve never been bought/sent/randomly presented with a bunch of flowers in all my 23-ish years. That’s not even a veiled hint; a) flowers are such an easy, obvious choice when a man is trying to find something Valentiney for his lady, and b) I’d rather be given flowers on a day that’s not specifically earmarked “BE ROMANTIC OR ELSE”.
The most romantic moments tend to be the ones you don’t see coming – for instance, you might find yourself on a bridge with someone, looking at a spectacular view and realising that suddenly a few things are making an awful lot of sense.Which I hope goes some way to hint at why there’s a picture of Clifton Suspension Bridge at the beginning of the post. I’m saying no more.
A cautionary tale, by one of the best songwriters there has ever been.
And this band are my current guilty pleasure, and this song of theirs has been getting me through a lot of early mornings.