11 February, 2014 / General

Valentine’s day… do you bother? Or not?


When I was a teenager, Valentine’s day was a massive deal. Everyone – the girls at least – obsessed over cards: who to send them to and what cryptic/witty message to write inside. I spent weeks planning on how to get Smeggy’s (for that was his nickname) card to him without him knowing it was from me, and settled on the genius idea of throwing it in through the boys’ gym changing room window. Ha! That’d fox him. ‘It was Gibby-et,’ one of his mates informed him. ‘I saw her running away.’ (Gibby-et was my nickname; ‘Smeggy and Gibby-et’. Kind of evocative of Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, don’t you think?).

Anyway, Valentine’s day was always a crashing disappointment. This feeling was heightened by the popular girls flaunting their massive padded satin cards, usually depicting teddies, with sick-making messages like, ‘I wuv you’ on the front. And Smeggy hadn’t even looked at me. No, I wasn’t bitter – much.

Now we’re all grown up and no one cares about Valentine’s day any more.

As it falls the week after my husband Jimmy’s and our twin sons’ birthdays, I’m all out of inspiration and cash. Still, we somehow manage to do something, and it feels important that a modicum of effort is made. No need for an outlandish bouquet, or dinner in a restaurant stuffed with couples and a special Valentine menu, which usually isn’t very nice. Just something small, personal and thought-about, to mark the day.

It’s not to ‘feel loved’ because, if you are loved, chances are you have a pretty good idea anyway. And if you’re not, then a card hastily snatched in Asda isn’t going to make you feel any better. No, I think it’s because to not exchange something, however tiny, feels utterly bleak. It’s a bit like using moisturiser: no big deal in itself, but on the day you don’t bother, you feel all dry and crepey and wrong.

One year, Jimmy and I did opt out of the whole February 14 shenanigans…

Our kids were small, we were knackered and broke and for some reason, one of us said, ‘Let’s not bother with it this year.’ And the other one said, ‘Yeah. I’ve never cared for it anyway. It’ll be a relief to stop.’ After all, who needs a designated day on which to express their love? We were doing that all the time – in reminding each other to drag the wheelie bin out and getting angry about dropped towels and pants. Yeah, there was plenty of romance in our lives.

The day came – cardless, joyless. Something was definitely missing. Jimmy and I are generally ‘presenty’ types – we tend to buy each other a whole heap of things for Christmas and birthdays. I don’t hold with the thing of, ‘We don’t buy presents for each other because there’s nothing we need.’

Since when were gifts about need? In our house, we urgently need a decent non-stick frying pan, but I don’t want to be presented with one with a bow around its handle. We also need a loo that flushes efficiently, instead of gushing water until someone remembers to give the flusher a special jiggle. We need something to be done with our roof because, however much we pretend it’s not there, the damp stain on our bedroom ceiling is refusing to go away. But none of these items – pan, toilet, roof – fall into acceptable gift category.

So what do we want?

Well, Valentine’s day is a bit cheesy, so there’s probably no point in fighting it. A home-made cake with a heart wonkily piped on it, or funny drawing with a joke only a partner will get – these kind of gifts can give your day a lift. They make you smile. They’re probably the trigger for giving your partner a kiss, which can all too often fall by the wayside when your lives are all about family and work. I once asked a friend if she still kissed her husband. ‘Ugh, no!’ she exclaimed. ‘That would be weird.

That year we opted out of Valentine’s day, Jimmy asked me, as we climbed into bed, ‘So, did you feel okay about us not giving each other cards?’

‘Yeah, fine,’ I barked. All we all know what that means.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *