It is February, it is nearly Valentine’s Day and I feel the rage. I’ve just been to Waitrose in Newport. While at the till, waiting to take home my coffee, Sunday paper (both free) and a few essentials (not free) my eye caught a display of Valentine’s gifts and I felt a strange rage surge up in me. It was a passionate rage, ironically, but a rage nonetheless.
Why the rage? I hear you cry, dear reader. What can possibly be outrageous about hearts and flowers? I don’t dislike Valentine’s Day per se. I am a big fan of romance. It’s nice to spread the love now and then. The admirers from afar may need an excuse to show their love, hopeful perhaps, and if Valentine’s Day prompts that, then so be it. That can be very romantic and can end in joy (or tears perhaps). I approve. Even when love is requited, it can be nice to make the effort for a bit of romance. Romance, especially unexpected pockets of romance, is one of life’s little pleasures. We all love a bit of love.
However, despite my support for the day and what it stands for, every year I get cross at it too. I get cross at the forced nature of romance that comes along with Valentine’s Day, and I get even more cross at what ‘they’ think ‘we’ should be giving each other (our respective love interests) on this day: flowers, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, teddy bears and champagne. To me, that is not true romance. Flowers, chocolates and champagne are all nice but they are not what I consider the most romantic. As for teddy bears…
So on my scoot home I started to analyse why I felt such anger. After all, that’s quite a strong reaction and quite harsh. Why don’t I appreciate all the grand, traditional romantic gestures of the day of St. Valentine? Is it the commercial aspect of the ‘chosen’ gifts? I think that is a big part of it. However, I think the rage goes deeper and to find out, I think I need to look back.
As I scooted past the second-hand book shop, a little reluctantly, I took myself back to my teenage years. Hitting puberty, I remember the coming of St. Valentine’s Day became a time of hopefulness and, naive optimism. Once I realised that boys were desirable in some way, I so very, very badly wanted a secret admirer to send me a card, put flowers in my locker, or leave some heart-shaped chocolates on my desk. From the age of around 11 onwards, I craved this and for some reason, thought it might actually happen. Each year, I woke up on February 14th hopeful, and went to bed disappointed. Sadly, it never happened. Not once. I didn’t get anything, not even a joke card, in the seven years from the age of 11 to 18. As each subsequent February 14th arrived, however, I hoped again, against the odds. I longed for there to be just one person, even someone I wouldn’t fancy back, to be walking along the corridors of Walton High School harbouring a secret crush on me. Sadly, as far as I am aware, and if the evidence of February 14th is anything to go by, there never was such a person. How sad. Please don’t cry. It’s probably a good thing. I had other things to focus on and I was a bit of an ugly duckling at school. For 364 days of the year I accepted this duckling status and plodded on with life being geeky and arty. However, for one day a year, I became a total girl and craved that glimpse of romance. I would have been happy with heart-shaped chocolates, flowers or even, dare I say it now, a teddy bear. But it never happened. But it’s not all sad, as soon as I went to university things changed. My dream came true in the end. I got a card.
However, the memories of those seven years of pubescent disappointment still sting and I think that is the main reason why I feel such toxic rage at the profusion of red and pink, flowerly, soppy, vomity stuff in the shops at this time of year. I actually feel the urge to dive into it and have a toddler tantrum. Perhaps I should.
But perhaps I need to stop being so angry and just accept that the red and pink love does bring happiness to many, and it’s not so bad, with the exception of the teddy bears.