Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Hearts and Glowers*

It’s Valentine’s Day, which can only mean one thing - a torrent of Helen Fielding-style articles bemoaning the definitive ‘Hallmark Holiday.’ A cavalcade of clichéd tripe about how it’s all a big conspiracy to make single people feel more unwanted than Dobbin in a Burger King. They’ll piss and moan about all those cruel seasonal reminders that they’ve yet to find their special someone, and pass the blame onto the happy couples who choose the window seat, presumably so that passers-by can see them demolishing a chocolate fondant with a single dessert fork.

So to all you lonely hearts out there, bemoaning your cardless mantelpiece, let me tell you something for free. Valentine’s Day is rubbish for everyone, not just those of you who can still have a shit without needing to close the bathroom door. The fact is, it’s a cold, merciless and cynical invention, utterly bereft of the spontaneity and emotion that love is all about.

Let’s take another look at that happy couple in the restaurant. See how close they’re sitting. Well, that’s because the restaurant decided to cram a few extra tables in to take advantage of the increased cover charge. What looks like intimate body language is more likely to result in a slipped disc than any under-the-covers action. And when they’re not shifting uncomfortably in their seat, you might notice that most of their time is spent stifling yawns, refolding napkins and trying to talk about anything other than their day at work. They’re feeling the pressure as it is – they’ve been put on show in the window seat, so they’re struggling to act as if they’re enjoying themselves. Deep down, they’re worried that everyone else looks happier than they do. One of them is wondering when babysitters got so expensive, and the other one is probably working out how much money they could have saved by having the same meal at home.

Those couples who don’t fancy braving the hordes and paying over the odds for a glorified set menu, can easily replicate the same magical ambience at home. Marks & Spencer and Waitrose are both running their popular twenty quid ‘Romantic Dinner For 2’ promotions. Remember, nothing says “I would lay down my life for you” like microwaving a couple of mozzarella stuffed chicken breasts and choking back a bottle of Cava that could put the shine back on your serving spoons.

Of course, if you’re going to stay in, convention dictates that you’ll need to set the right mood. Time to clear all those unopened bills off the dining table and light some candles. Not the scented ones either – they’re far too sickly if you’re eating. Now, look at what you’re wearing. I’m afraid onesies, sweat pants and t-shirts are all out. It may just be another wet Thursday, but you need to dress up as if you’re modelling for the Sandals brochure. Oh, and you’ll need to think about the soundtrack for your evening, in order to line up the first sex you’ve had since the clocks went back. Thankfully, the record labels are on hand, helpfully repackaging the same shitty ballads in a new 40-track compilation, as if anyone in their right mind needs another copy of Minnie Fucking Ripperton’s Loving You.

Since you’ve got a whole evening to fill, music won’t be the only entertainment you’ll need to get sorted. It’s not enough to flop on the couch for a double bill of Cowboy Builders. This is Valentine’s Day, and so there’s an expectation that you’ll have to sit through some drippy romantic comedy, as Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson battle it out to see who can produce the most derisive assault on contemporary feminism. And try on shoes, ‘cos women love that shit, right? It doesn’t really matter what you watch – they’re all filled with the same tired plots, contrived scenarios and photogenic bed hair – and you just know it’ll end with her getting her man, wearing her dress and missing her period. Just as long as whatever DVD you throw on comes repackaged in a pink cardboard sleeve with a die-cut heart on the front.  

Bugger, almost forgot the card. Woe betide anyone who wakes up on Valentine’s Day and doesn’t have a hastily scribbled card, envelope still damp with morning-breath saliva, to hand to their significant other. That’s after spending twenty minutes in the card shop, trying desperately to find something that doesn’t make bile catch in the back of your throat. Try to ignore the fact that most card manufacturers show a
crushing lack of awareness about how people in relationships actually talk to each other. So swallow your pride, hand over your three quid, and try to imagine that the term ‘love machine’ might actually apply to you, rather than the battery-hungry accessory that lives in the bedside cabinet.

It’s time to face facts, people. Valentine is a hateful shitstorm. Even if you’re happily settled down, it’s a point-by-point, retail-enabled deconstruction of everything you’re doing wrong. It doesn’t matter how successful your relationship is, or how happy you are together – it’s appearances that count. Christmas might be Santa’s busiest day of the year, but come Valentine’s Day, Cupid might as well be on a booze cruise to Calais, because there’s fuck all for him to do here.

*This is a rewritten piece that was originally posted last year. I think this version is better.

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