Last year I spent Valentine's Day with a female friend of mine in Strada, contemplating our forlorn singledom (although we weren't too miserable) over a bowl of spaghetti and some vino, surrounded by gushing couples, couples on first dates, couples with their arms crossed and clearly not wanting to be there; but they had to be - it was Valentine's Day after all. I remember the evening like it were yesterday. We were trying to live vicariously through all the other couples, gaging the mood. The couple next door to me accused the table of Asians on their left of stealing their bottle of wine. My friend and I chinked our glasses: "to being single".
For most girls, Valentine's Day is a pretty big deal. You're either hopelessly in love and this day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the perfect paradise you (think) you live in, or perhaps the very mention of Valentine's Day makes you hysterical because you know you'll be spending it alone, like all the other lonely people out there. Although I'd just like to add that being single doesn't necessarily equate to loneliness. Being alone and being lonely are two very different states. You choose to be alone (at least, to a certain extent); you don't choose to be lonely. Which is why of course it's much better to open a bottle of bubbly with a friend of yours, get horrendously gazeboed (thanks Michael McIntyre for this gem!) and list 500 reasons why it's good to be single. Reason no. 387: you don't have to do his laundry. You get my drift.
But if this day is supposed to be about romantic gestures, then I'd like to reconsider the word 'romantic'. In Tesco (and the like) each year, there's usually a section dedicated to all things à la Love, i.e. a cardboard stand selling soppy mugs with two bears hugging and the words 'Be Mine' written on something resembling a heart-shaped candle. I mean, who in their right mind would purchase a Valentine's gift from the supermarket? It simply defies all romantic convention; the number one no-no. At least make it look like you put some effort in. Another thing that irritates me is cards with pre-written love notes and all you have to do is sign your name, or alternatively put a question mark. I just couldn't think of anything more impersonal; getting an absolute stranger who specialises in greeting card messages to tell your significant other how you feel about them. Fair enough if you have a crush on the guy in your office and you want to keep it on the down low and secretively slip it in his pigeon hole (no innuendo intended!), but if you're actually "in love" I suggest you put some bloody effort in and write something soppy. Not too soppy, mind you. I don't want to be retching over my bowl of cornflakes at 8 in the morning.
I remember when I was younger and I had a crush on a boy at school and I bought an assortment of chocolates and put them in a box I'd decorated in art class and hid them in his locker. I don't think he ever knew they were from me. I also sent another Valentine's card to a boy one year but got my friend to transcribe it as I didn't want him to recognise my handwriting. I then got someone who lived far away to post it for me because I didn't want him to recognise the postmark either. On the sly. Slightly on a tangent, but while we're on the topic of me slightly embarrassing myself in the boy department, I'd like to bring up the fact that I once bought a boy I fancied a huge Christmas card - you know those outrageously expensive ones that cost you just under a tenner and pop out and sing to you? I think I even hand-delivered it to him in the playground at school. Not one of my finer moments but coming to think of it, it does sound rather adorable. I was probably about 10 at the time. Old enough to know better.
But if a guy were really trying to win my heart on Valentine's Day?:
He'd leave a trail of love hearts (the edible ones) from my pillow to the kitchen where heart-shaped pancakes (lovingly home-made of course), maple syrup and fresh blueberries await me. A fresh bunch of sweet peas would be in the middle of the table. He'd also make me a cappuccino with a heart-shaped swirl in the foam, followed by declaring how truly irresistible and wonderful I am and becoming my slave for the day. But all jokes aside, you know what would truly touch me? Something incredibly spontaneous, unexpected and heartfelt which would make me think: God, I'm lucky to have you.