Groan, it is almost that time of year again.
Inevitably the world is filling up with exhortations to show your love for the special person in your life by buying them flowers and chocolates, taking them out for a romantic meal or buying them lavish and expensive gifts of jewellery.
Of course these exhortations are aimed at men to lavish gifts upon their women: rarely the other way around.
The origins of Valentine’s Day seem to be shrouded in mystery. It may relate back to a number of saints by the name of Valentine. It may or may not be yet another pagan festival, Lupercalia, hijacked by the church. In any event, the first links between the saint’s day and romance don’t seem to have appeared until the fourteenth century.
Initially, the romance of Valentine’s Day was confined to young lovers sending sentimental verses. Around the turn of the nineteenth century printed cards began to appear, which inevitably became mass produced – starting, with equal inevitability, in the US. The descent into consumerism had begun.
It wasn’t until the second half of the twentieth century that card giving extended to giving gifts such as chocolates and flowers. By the 1980s the diamond industry started to get in on the act, promoting Valentine’s Day as an occasion for giving jewellery.
Now the expectation is that men will lavish gifts on their women on 14th February to show their love, and if they don’t they are not romantic.
Well, in that case I am not romantic. I do not buy chocolates or flowers on 14 February, when profiteering companies increase prices by double or more. I do not take my lovely wife out to dinner to eat over-priced food in schmaltzily decorated restaurants surrounded by people trying too hard to prove how much they are in love. And I certainly don’t splash out on diamonds just because people looking to make money are trying to guilt me into it.
But does this mean that I am not romantic? I think not.
I am not particularly romantic, but not for this reason.
Is it really romantic to buy gifts because it is expected of you? Is it romantic to succumb to peer pressure and marketing? Is it romantic that you do it through blackmail because if you don’t you know that your wife/ girlfriend/ partner will make your life hell?
I think it is romantic when you do those things without provocation or expectation. You do them just because you want to show your love.
Sadly, I don’t do that either, that is why I am not romantic.
Luckily, my wife accepts my foibles and (mostly) agrees with my views on Valentine’s Day.
Because Valentine’s Day has descended into an occasion for women to emotionally blackmail their partners, men have tried to get their own back by declaring March 14th Steak and Blowjob Day.
Surprisingly this hasn’t taken off in the same way, although it could make for an interesting advertising campaign for Beefeater restaurants…