Modern Love | What does Valentine’s Day even mean anyway?
By Jo Dunbar
It’s odds on that a chunk of you reading this believe today to be all for the card manufacturers, restaurant managers and purveyors of red underwear (who buys that anyway?!) but there will be some diehard romantics, too, who see nothing wrong with celebrating their relationship, buying gifts, dressing up and eating out – probably from a themed menu featuring mainly red food.
And then there’s those of us somewhere in the middle. Who consider 14 February harmless. Not drastically opposed to Valentine’s Day but neither desperate to secure a booking for a posh date night; instead happy with a box set and pizza or one of those supermarket meals deals with a free bottle of prosecco.
What we can probably all agree on is that trying to force a romantic moment out of thin air is the least romantic scenario possible. In my experience, grand Valentine’s Day gestures are for those in the first flushes of love: huge bouquets of flowers or massive boxes of chocolates. When reality bites for established couples, we are too consumed with the routine of daily life to try to embody the essence of romance across a dining table, when actually you really need to talk about car insurance and the dishwasher needs unloading.
I’m no different: my idea of a grand gesture has changed beyond recognition. Years ago, I was incensed not to be wined and dined on February 14 by my first boyfriend. Today, I’d be delighted with a simple card, and if he wanted to be really romantic, a lie-in or vacuuming my car.
Gestures don’t come bigger than a trip to Paris for Valentine’s Day. However, as several couples I know can attest to, Paris in wet, cold February with the pressure of having a super-romantic weekend in the city of love can cause friction rather than fuzzy feelings. Almighty rows on the Champs-Elysees weren’t what they signed up (or paid-up) for and a few years later, the same friends scoff at romantic breaks on February 14 and buy a £1 card instead.
Basically, we’re not wired to be romantic beings on demand. The shape of love alters through our lifetimes and the art of modern love is recognising that romance doesn’t come in a formulaic structure. When the chips are down, someone who fetches you Strepsils for your sore throat; or listens to you moan; and lends a hand when you’re in a tough spot is what counts. True partnerships are still going strong when the roses have wilted and the shop banners have been taken down.
Like Christmas or Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day can cause a sting or an eye roll.
Maybe you are gritting your teeth to get through today. Or you are just deliberating on which dress and heels to wear tonight. Perhaps you’ll be picking up that M&S dine in for £20 on the way home, or maybe you won’t even give St Valentine a passing thought.
However we choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, there’s got to be space for all of us. And tomorrow is another day.