Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Bad Romance

I'm not romantic at the best of times. Secretly I love being spoiled, treated, and feeling special, but even when I'm in a relationship I find the whole Valentine's thing a little tough to take.
In a twist, this year I'm back out in barren Singletown just in time for V Day, spending the build-up feeling pure hatred towards heart-shaped balloons, cakes, chocolates and stuffed toys, shooting daggers at happy-looking couples on escalators and just wishing it was March already. This may sound sad, but factor in a work day that consists entirely of compiling a Valentine's day supplement for a Sunday newspaper. That's right. We're talking hearts, cherubs, love stories from history and art, and my slow loss of the will to live.

When did Valentine's Day become compulsory? When my relationship broke up I thought, bad timing, but at least I can keep my head down, keep composed and avoid the whole stupid concept of a 'romantic month'. It turns out, you can't escape it - Clintons is practically bursting with grotesque teddies and cards, the chocolate shop near my office doesn't have one box or display piece that isn't heart-shaped and BLOODY GMTV are doing 'Love Week', with special segments on their presenters' real love stories. Fabulous.

Where are the businesses or TV shows run by single people? Surely the CEO and manager of every store and channel isn't glowing and loved up? This enforced romance can only mean that everywhere, suicidal shop girls are stacking the shelves with 'I love you' cards (imagine), TV researchers are angrily brainstorming lovey-dovey ideas for next week's shows and people like me are being forced to research every famous couple that could make it work. It's too much to have to endure a heart-shaped world when your own heart is bruised.

I know I should be a little more detached and appreciate that for some people, Valentine's is a lovely exciting time to spend with their partner, but the more I think about it, the more it incenses me. Valentine's day will never be satisfactory - early in the relationship it's riddled with pressures and fear over doing too much or not enough, further in there are expectations to be met and disappointment when it falls short of perfection, and in marriage it just becomes another day to accidentally forget, along with birthdays and anniversaries. It's hard enough to enjoy a perfectly serendipitous moment with someone dreamy at all, without trying to schedule that moment for one particular day a year.

I have a bad record with Valentine's day. I remember awkward high school years of wishing my crush du jour would look my way, bringing in Love Hearts to give unsubtly (but also the excitement at that first card from an inarticulate teenage boy.) When I was seventeen, I broke up with my boyfriend the day before Valentine's - a dispute over what we were going to do on the day, but really just the culmination of several terse months. Even so, it tainted the experience and taught me that things are not likely to be rosy every February 14th. During university, my single girlfriends and I had cocktails in a sort of 'screw you, we're single' spirit - but even this inevitably turned to boy talk and became a little morose. The last time I was truly spoiled was two years ago, when the relationship was just at the right stage - new enough to be exciting, not too new to make the big gestures - and I enjoyed it in the moment, roses and dinner and all.

But me and Valentine's 2010 are not going to get on at all. I can feel it coursing through me now, as if I'm limbering up for a big fight with a long-term enemy.
Options for the day itself include:

- staying in bed and refusing to concede even consciousness to the vile charade (perhaps letting V Day win a little bit there)
- hosting a vicious 'Bad Romance' party for single friends, complete with angry music, a ban on red/pink/flowers/hearts/chocolate, drinking unromantic beers and spirits and possibly watching a horror film. Or anything where the central love story is ultimately futile.
- combining the two and drinking in bed, crying like a mad person and screaming 'Liarrr!' at any love scenes that dare to cross my TV screen.
- accepting my own challenge to eat an entire jar of Nutella.
- turning up the speakers and caterwauling along to Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights. God I hope no hot men are reading this.

None of the options are particularly pretty but I just don't see how this day is going to be. I was all up for making it just another day of the week before the Hallmark gods started pissing artificial romance all over London. I'm off to stock up on the Jack Daniels and hide all the rom-coms - any suggestions for getting through Feb 14th very welcome. Bring it on.


  1. I totally know your feelings on this! I don't recall ever having a nice Valentine's day. My first boyfriend (aged 12) gave me a fake rose, which was sweet but I had spotted him in town the day before with 3 roses in his bag. Needless to say I found out soon after he had a few girls on the go! The next Valentine's Day as a non-single girl was spent in a long-distance relationship so we didn't actually celebrate on the day. I think I got a CD... The two after that with the same guy weren't spent with each other either and I remember arguing with him on our final V-Day because he was working in the same town as me but wouldn't even come to see me on his lunch break. The last one I had started well until my guy had a blazing argument with his parents which ruined the whole evening. He also had a stinking cold. This year, I'll be celebrating with my new and wonderful guy whom I hope to spend the rest of my life with. We are keeping it simple. Dinner at a steak restaurant, followed by Casablanca at the British Film Institute. We've set a spending limit on gifts. There is too much hype and pressure to make it perfect. These are two activities we both enjoy regularly (dinner and movie) so I know we'll have fun. But at the end of the day, it's a money-making Hallmark Day.
    (Just to add: When I was a single girl, I secretly hoped that a card will pop through the door from an unknown admirer. It never happened. But outwardly I just pretended it was normal day.)

  2. K and I don't actually celebrate Valentines and I haven't since I was in my teens. Besides all the vapid commercialism that's infecting every single "Day" in our calendar year from Christmas, Easter and Valentine's to Mothers', Fathers' and others, I resent being told on which day of the year I'm supposed to love my other half.

    I love K every day (more and more, in fact) and I like to think that I'm capable of demonstrating that love in everyday ways and in special ways on special occasions, whether they be birthdays, celebrations or just a random bunch of flowers for being lovely. I don't need anyone - particularly Mr Clintons, to tell me how and when to show my love for someone who means so much to me.

    So we agreed a long time ago that Valentine's day is not for us, it's for all the other muppets who want to spend too much money on pretty much anything that you can get cheaper on the 13th or 15th of February.