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

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 proceeded 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 unecessarily 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 told her 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 so I know I’m unfairy judging here, but my first thought wasn’t “Wow, what an amazing husband!”, it was “What?! You have to wait for Valentine’s Day to get a coffee in bed? And you’re celebrating this by texting national radio? Kill me now.”

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 yet feel the need to remind us all they still like each other that makes it feel like we’re back in a school performance? Maybe, but then, 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 I’m too quick to judge; 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 and feeling like you’re in trouble if you don’t? 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 many roses I got’. And maybe, on any other day, that would be okay. Maybe your selfie in a love heart and constant PDA would be cute (though I doubt it…) but when thousands of people are doing it on one day in one go, it feels like we’re being bombarded with other peoples’ love. 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!’ or ‘Look how we celebrate our love, we’re funnier/happier/quirkier than you guys!’

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 your day, then I hope you have had a wonderful day and that you got spoiled 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 for many of us (70% according to a survey on Twitter that I now can’t find to link to) it’s a day of 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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12 comments on “Sharing the love – and why I struggle with Valentine’s Day

  1. It’s not about a day made up by hallmark. Actions speak louder than words. I’d prefer to see you love me everyday with a simple thing like washing a dish, pouring a cup of coffee for me too than s grand gesture one day a year or two. That being said I’m happy to say I’m single. Lol

  2. Elizabeth Neal

    I don’t understand Valentine’s Day much either and I don’t know anyone who does like it. However, I do sometimes wonder if there is a place for some social rituals. We have got rid of so many rituals in recent years, whether it’s marriage or superstitions or marking the passage of the year at harvest time or religious rituals or smaller ones and we just have instagramming love hearts in our coffee foam to replace them. Several people I know who have suffered bereavements have said they wish there were more formal mourning rituals in place still – ways of marking internal thoughts and status without having to spell it out all the time and maybe buying roses because you feel you ought to may not mean much on its own but it can add up to something. I’ve been with my partner 20-odd years, never been interested in getting a marriage certificate and never really done Valentine’s Day, but maybe it would have been good if we had – nothing big, just taking a small moment to mark the fact that we are a couple and not just parents. But no cuddly toys holding red satin love hearts.

    • This is very true Elizabeth, and I am sure that many people celebrate with the view of “Why not? It’s nice to be nice!” In my social circle, marriage and christenings are starting to be replaced by love and naming ceremonies. There are fewer rituals, but there are also more opportunities to be unique and creative. I wonder if we can have both?!

  3. I could have written this post myself as I feel exactly the same way. I’m glad my husband has the same view on it too. We used to give each other a card but this year we agreed to totally bypass it as if it didn’t happen because neither of are fussed for it at all. It just feels forced and contrived. And it would piss me off if my OH did something just because it’s Valentine’s when they wouldn’t think to do it another time lol.

  4. I cannot tell you how much I love you giving pizza its own box. Pizza love. The best kind of love.

  5. Barbara Holladay

    I agree with all of you!
    My late husband and I were together 8 years before I agreed to get remarried to someone and it was 14 more until he died. That was 3 years ago and my mind is still reeling.

    I didn’t notice any difference in our love between the two segments of our relationship. We used to have a lot of fun showing each other greeting cards in the store and laughing, then putting them back and going out to eat and chat. Time together was more important than spending money.

    Pizza is nice too!

  6. I feel the same way and always have. I tell my loved ones that I love and appreciate them every day. Hubby and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, not v-day. For us every day is v-day. We show each other love every day by small gestures even if it’s making a cup of tea after a disagreement! Hubby always gives our daughter a rose though on v-day so she knows she’s loved as she’s one of the shy ones in school.

    • Barbara Holladay

      That is such a wonderful thing that he does, giving your daughter a rose speaks volumes; a daddy’s relationship with his daughter is so important!

      If she does not feel secure with the first man in her life, she likely never will be really sure of the others without some hard work and years of wondering. Too many fathers ignore this critical role.

      Kudos to your hubby!

      P.S. the timing on this app has been off, it is 9:49 a.m. as I write this.

      • Barbara Holladay

        Maybe I write in Texas time and it is published in English time!???

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