Yesterday was Valentine’s Day: hands up if you love Valentine’s Day.
Obviously I can’t see from here, but I’m betting that most of the hands that went up belong to women.
This is because it is women that get stuff on Valentine’s Day: the shops overflow with flowers and boxes of chocolates wrapped in sumptuous red paper with extravagant flouncy ribbons, all sold at twice the normal retail price. The availability of the romantically packaged six-pack of beer for the man in your life is much less prevalent.
No, for the man Valentine’s Day just means expense and stress.
Anyone who read my blog about my wedding should be in no doubt that I am not a man overly burdened by a tendency towards dramatic romantic gestures. And I am lucky enough to have a lovely wife who is equally unaffected by the whole trappings of Valentine’s Day. Not all women share her sensible approach to the occasion however.
And this is why I find the whole thing a little sinister. On this one day of the year, there is an expectation that men, for no apparently good reason, should show an extra-special, no-expense-spared, outpouring of love and affection for their partners.
Despite my lack of romantic inclination, I do on (very rare) occasions buy my wife flowers or chocolates. When I do so it is spontaneous and from the heart – surely this is better and more romantic than doing it because some increasingly consumerist tradition dictates that you should do so on a certain set day of the year, and society gangs up to blackmail you into compliance for fear of seeming like the most mean-spirited, unloving person in the world should you fail to do so.
And women now seem to be encouraged to expect ever more extravagant expressions of love and devotion from the men in their lives – hence the stress. Gone are the days when a simple box of chocolates or a trip to the Beefeater would suffice. And woe-betide the man who turns up with a bunch of flowers hastily purchased from a garage forecourt.
And it is not just Valentine’s Day that has become a ridiculously expensive charade. Weddings have gone off the scale in terms of cost and flamboyance. The tide may have turned because the average cost has dropped over recent years from an eye-watering high of around £21,000 in 2008 to be a mere £16,164 in 2013, but it is still ridiculous, especially when considered in light of the current economic situation – and people like me who badly skew the figures.
But yesterday I heard something that takes things to new lows of absurdity. We are all too familiar with the concept of a wedding planner these days: people hired to act as ring-leader for the whole ridiculous affair, but now there is apparently such a thing as a marriage proposal planner. I kid you not.
I mean, how hard can it be? You simply say: “will you marry me” and have a ring standing by just in case. If you are a real romantic, maybe you go down on one knee, and if you are feeling extravagant (and confident of the right answer) perhaps you splash out for a nice meal first. Okay, this has always been an area that has cost the man a lot of money and stress, but it is not something that has needed much in the way of planning.
But oh no, apparently now women are disappointed with the way in which they are proposed to. The event is, apparently, something that you should remember for the rest of your life. And of course, that means doing something flamboyant and, no doubt, expensive.
But does any of this mean that you love the person more? Of course not, it is just a form of showing off with a grand gesture .
Of course all of this has been imported from that home of the schmaltz-fest, the USA. But surely we cynical Brits should be immune to this nonsense: our stiff-upper-lips should curl in contempt at the very notion. But apparently not so.
I blame the romcom – they should be banned before it’s too late.