I know, I know. Writing an anti-Valentines Day post is about as original as telling a knock-knock joke in a pair of Uggs. I also realise that my blog title has the word ‘Cupid’ in it and that I often enthusiastically write about my relationship. You’d think I would be out on the street ringing a bell with an “I LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY” sandwich board.
But alas, Valentine’s Day is not for me. Besides the fact that it is a cynical corporate ploy, I find it wholly unnecessary. For me, it’s just another way for society to try and convince us how inadequate we are. It’s like there’s someone shouting “ROMANCE? YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!” into our ears. We are constantly surrounded with propaganda that attempts to convince us we’re not sexy enough, romantic enough, wild enough or fun enough. Valentine’s is just another way for us to feel that we need to spend a certain amount of money on grand romantic gestures to somehow quantify our relationships.
It was a few days before Valentine’s last year when an excitable colleague of mine asked me, with all the enthusiasm of a girl in the early stages of a relationship, what I was getting my boyfriend of ten years for a gift.
“A giant teddy bear, but instead of a bear’s head, I’m going to put a model of my face,” I answered her, expecting her to deduce that I was joking. She stared blankly at me. “Alice, I’m kidding. I’m not getting him anything.”
This shocked her even more than my psychotic present idea.
“You can’t get him nothing,” she complained, “it’s VALENTINE’S DAY!”
Even though I knew Alice was just a hopeless romantic and there was no malicious intent in her questioning, I felt slightly irritated.
“Alice, we’ve been together for ten years. We love each other but we don’t need to buy each other gifts to show that.” I could tell by her face that she didn’t agree with me. So I told her about our first Valentine’s Day together.
I had been just sixteen years old. Jack and I had been together for about six months. I was young and naive and I genuinely believed that if I didn’t buy Jack the most amazing gift and have the most romantic day then it would spell disaster for the future of our relationship. Jack told me that he had gotten me “something special”. You might assume that this would have delighted me, but instead it added to my apprehension. If he had gotten me something so wonderful, then how could I possibly measure up? Men are almost impossible to shop for. I traipsed around shop after shop, with several friends in tow. “How about a teddy?” they would recommend, “or a watch? Book? Jersey? Cologne?”
“No, no, no, no, NO!” I would screech manically, “it has to be PERFECT!” The problem was, I didn’t realise that last minute gifts and nails bitten to the quick hardly constitute perfect.
I can’t say I enjoyed that Valentine’s Day. I spent most of it imagining various reactions to my terrible present (I think I went with aftershave):
“Are you implying that I SMELL?!”
“This aftershave smells like the inside of a Hippo’s colon!”
My point is that that day was ruined because of the pressure I put myself under. I confessed this to Jack a few weeks later. He was surprised.
“You really thought I would break up with you if you couldn’t find me a gift? Do you really think I’m with you so that once a year I’ll get a bottle of Hugo Boss? Do you think that that’s how I know you love me? From PRESENTS?!”
“Well, when you put it like that….” I admitted, feeling sheepish.
Since that fateful first Valentine’s, we have a rule: no presents. Instead, we cook a meal together. We chat, have fun while cooking and then eat it over candlelight and reminisce on the all the years we’ve been in each other’s lives. We decided that one day in the year shouldn’t be dedicated to making each other happy; that should happen as often as possible. Sure, not everyday can be Valentine’s, but shouldn’t the supposedly selfless and romantic spirit of that day be present in a relationship more than just one day a year?
There are times when Jack and I argue of course (tomatoes ARE fruit, damn it!) but when I look back in years to come at my favourite memories with him, it won’t be those I remember. It also won’t be any grand romantic gestures. It will be the days when I came home from work and Jack had warmed my slippers by the fire and had a cup of tea waiting for me. For me, and I know for many others, it’s the little things that count.
So if you happen to be nervously perusing shops looking for that perfect Valentine’s gift, relax. Take it from me, expensive gifts don’t equal romance. In the long term, this realisation will benefit any relationship. Or destroy it, whatever.