It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and everywhere is full of adverts for what couples are supposed to be buying for each other, or more accurately, what men are supposed to be buying for their girlfriends/wives. There’s nothing like 14th Feb to promote the idea that women should expect men to spend money on them, and the more he spends the more he loves her – or the higher her self-esteem, the more she should demand. Women’s magazines at this time of year seem to portray women as shrill harpies who will (and should) dump a man, or at least give him a really hard time, if he doesn’t send 12 red roses, chocolates and a teddy holding a massive padded card with glitter on it to the office and follow it up by presenting her with diamond earrings in the most expensive restaurant in town.
It really makes me quite cross.
Quite apart from anything else, Valentine’s Day is – or was – supposed to be about people who are not in a relationship declaring their interest in another single person. Cards are – or were – supposed to be anonymous. They were about letting you know that somebody fancied you, giving you a clue as to the identity of the sender without being too overt. They were about mystery and excitement and the possibility of new beginnings, not about the opportunity for gloating because your boyfriend sent a “better” card than your colleagues got.
For established couples, I don’t think there’s anything romantic about cards/gifts/other traditional gestures just because it’s 14th February. Romance, for me, is about personal things, the little things that are meaningful within your own relationship, not 12 overpriced red roses because Interflora say that’s what you should give/expect to get on this date.
My boyfriend, who is awesome and wonderful in so many ways, has made it very clear he will never send me flowers. It’s just not something that he does. In some ways, that disappoints me a bit. I love flowers. I buy them for myself, but from someone else is even better. I’d rather have the non-killing-African-children type, as a rule, in the same way I’d rather have fairtrade chocolate, but I wouldn’t be churlish about any others. I wouldn’t recommend red roses though, at this time of year – the price goes up to ridiculous numbers, so if you’re willing to spend £50 on 12 red roses, I’d rather you spent the £50 on more of other flowers. (Not lilies though, for me, I’m allergic and the smell gives me the boak). The thing about flowers is they’re beautiful, they (should) smell nice, they’re impractical and temporary – they’re a luxury. Whether it’s a 50p bunch of daffs, or something one of the expensive and stunning hand-tied bouquets from one of the fancy florists, I’d be equally happy. (Sweetpeas are my favourite, but I also like good carnations that actually smell of carnations, all colours of roses, particularly the yellow ones with orangey-red edges, and white ones) and all the spring flowers). So to be told that he would never do something that would give me a lot of pleasure because it’s not just something that he does – well, that is a teeny bit disappointing.
But then I remember that he will help me sort my bike out when I ask him to without complaint. He’s helped me sort my computer out without complaint, and without being a dick about it either. He brings me a glass of juice in bed in the mornings on the days I don’t have to get up for work. If I’m cooking and realise I’m out of a vital ingredient, he will nip to the shop for me without complaint and sometimes he will bring Mars Bar icecreams back as a surprise. One day last year when my hip was sore and I wasn’t walking very well and the weather was absolutely shit and I really fancied some smokey bacon crisps, he went to 4 different shops to find some for me. All of those things are worth more to me than all the Interflora roses in the world. Someone who treats me with love and respect and kindness and thoughtfulness every day of the year is so much more romantic and so much more important than a poxy teddy and a padded glittery card out of a sense of “it’s February 14th so I have to do this.” And that’s why I’ve said to him every year since we’ve been together that I don’t feel a need to “do” Valentine’s Day.