It tends to divide people into four categories; people in relationships who delight in celebrating each other and actively book out the weekend for that very purpose, and those in relationships who staunchly deny any festivity, claiming they don’t need a ‘Hallmark holiday’ to show their partner some love. Then there’s their single counterparts, those that will lament their lack of Valentine and indulge in feeling thoroughly miserable, and those that could not care less, barely note the date and celebrate their independence.
I confess, I fall into the first group. I mean, I don’t get wholly on board or utter phrases like ‘Cupid’s arrow’, but I think any occasion to cheer up the long, dark, resolutely skint nights of February is a good thing – and if that includes buying a little thoughtful something for your partner then surely that’s just a nice thing to do, whether millions of others are doing the same or not.
Those in the determinedly anti-Valentine group do have a point; the day sets in motion a kind of bizarre ritualised affection, which is pretty hard to fight. The ritual includes flowers, chocolates, restaurants booked up to the hilt with overpriced four-course set menus and a strange expectation on new and old couples that if the day goes unmarked, it means something negative. That if love isn’t demonstrated in one or more of the above ways, it’s either a ‘heavy like’ at best, soon to fizzle out, or else a tired romance-less farce doomed to disintegrate over time.
Then there’s the frankly pretty aggressive backlash to this expectation, the ‘we’re too cool to celebrate such a mainstream holiday’ couple, who berate those sat in the overpriced restaurants being flogged a rose for a fiver. Yet despite this, single women in particular, terribly, are asked the question, ‘what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?’ with such loaded anticipation that they are often forced to construct an anti-Valentine’s plan, usually involving ‘the girls’ and ‘a night out’ and in some cases this year, ‘Christian Grey’, despite the fact that they may well want to simply let the day go past, as any other weekend might, without incident. A strange reaction, considering a large proportion of bonafide couples make a point of not marking the day at all.
So is Valentine’s Day simply an archaic reference to a time when a sonnet and a rose were enough to secure an engagement, and when women had little else to occupy their mind than finding a Valentine of their own? Perhaps, and it is difficult to update a holiday that very much celebrates romantic love first and foremost. Could the solution be to expand Valentine’s Day’s perimeters to include the many other types of love in the world? Parents and children often exchange gifts to celebrate the day – the question remains as to whether it’ll ever be considered as valid an option as the traditional romance.
In the meantime, I don’t begrudge those celebrating Valentine’s, nor pity those that don’t; but opening the door to a dozen roses on Saturday morning sure makes you smile. Fingers crossed it happens more than once a year.