Sharing the love – and why I struggle with Valentine’s Day

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Etsy: Heart garland

I will never understand Valentine’s day. I never have.

At school I hated it because all the cool kids got cards and the rest of us felt totally unloved and embarrassed. When anonymous cards were sent, it became an opportunity for the cool kids to make fun of all the losers who weren’t ‘man enough’ to put their name to their declarations, and I just found the whole concept very weird and uncomfortable.

When I was sixteen I moved to South Africa and went to a school which embraced Valentine’s day in a truly American-high-school style. Everyone in the all-girls school gathered in the hall at lunch time whilst the headteacher held a bucket of single roses; she then preceded to call out the names of every girl who had received a rose from the boys school round the corner. What utter lunacy.

I only wish I’d been a stronger character at school. I wish I’d rebelled and spoken out about the social isolation caused by these theatrical performances. And that’s all they are, because if you love someone you will tell them in your own way. You don’t need to publicly remind the popular girls that fourteen hormonal boys have a hard-on for them, and you don’t need to remind the girls lacking confidence that no one has noticed them. (Of course, it’s likely that they were very much noticed – but probably by the boy that didn’t have the confidence to buy a rose from the school office and send it to the school round the corner.) I’ll never understand why teachers thought this was a good idea.

When I went to University, fellow students found Valentine’s day depressing. It made them miserable, and I hated that this Hallmark Holiday had such a hold over people.

Today I drove to work and listened to the radio. People (largely women) were sending in examples of the most romantic things their partners’ had done to celebrate Valentine’s day. One woman said that she was so grateful to her “amazing husband” because he had brought her a cup of coffee in bed, and said she could have a lie in for twenty minutes whilst he got the kids ready for school because, Valentine’s Day.

I’m sure there’s more to their relationship and family dynamic than the text message sent in to BBC Radio, but I couldn’t help but think it would be great if he shared that duty with her every day. But who knows, maybe he has other duties.

I channelled my v-day frustrations to R when I got home, and tried to work out what makes me so annoyed by it. Is it the constant display of all the love? Is it the public Facebook messages between couples who live together that makes it feel like we’re back in a school performance? Maybe, but that’s expected. We live in a world where we share everything all of the time, so surely displaying love is no different to publicly displaying food and friendship and parties on social media – of which, by the way, I am entirely guilty. So why shouldn’t we share love? Maybe it’s nice to give people a day to be mushy when the world feels like it’s building walls to separate us.

I think that perhaps, above everything, my difficulty with this day is that it doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel like true romance; it feels forced and contrived. A guy at work asked me to remind him to buy roses (obviously) at lunch time because, Valentine’s Day. Is that romance? Doing it because everyone else is doing it? I guess romance means different things to each of us, and if this is real to you or you just welcome an opportunity to indulge in romance then that’s absolutely fine. But it’s still a day for just you and your significant other, right? We don’t need you to stand up in front of your peers and smugly say, ‘look how in love I am’. Because, on any other day, maybe that would be okay. Maybe your selfie in a love heart and PDA would be cute, but when thousands of people are doing it on one day in one go, it feels like we’re being bombarded. It loses it’s authenticity and it feels like we’re competing. It feels like we’re saying ‘Look! My partner’s better than yours!’

We are all very different, and if I’m allowed to rant about V-day in my corner of the web you are of course welcome to bask in the glory of love hearts in yours. So if you’re madly in love and this is a day you celebrate, then I hope you have had a wonderful day and that you got spoilt rotten. If it’s not your thing, I hope you have a day just like every other day, celebrating your love in your own way no matter how understated that may be. But if you’re not madly in love and this day gets you down in any way, all I’m saying is: don’t let it. Because to many of us (70% according to a survey on Twitter that I now can’t find to link to) it’s utter nonsense.

I don’t feel like I can end this post on a completely negative vibe – I got called grumpy and cynical twice at work today! – so I’m going to mark this year’s Valentine’s day by joining the #sharingthelove hashtag which I actually find quite lovely. It’s a chance to share nine pictures from the last 12 months that show how much I love the people around me. I figure if we’re going to publicly share love on this day, let’s share all different kinds of love with lots of very lovely people. (And yes, pizza deserves a spot because pizza is love.)

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