The Milk Tray Man, the Diet Coke advert, The Princess Bride. The romantic hero is always cast in a dramatic, attention-grabbing light. Either this reflects the fact that women are hard-wired for it, or that we’re being sold a vision of romance that we’ll spend a lifetime chasing after. Consequently we cast our unsuspecting partners in the role of romantic lead and then become disillusioned if reality doesn’t deliver the fantasy. We’re then at risk of throwing away the good for not being good enough.
In my younger days, I was the recipient of some dubious Valentines offerings, including a pitiful bunch of reduced-priced carnations from a garage forecourt. Slightly more thoughtful was a CD posted through my door with ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me”. Unfortunately the thought was not enough to rekindle the relationship. The shoe just didn’t fit and no gesture, romantic or otherwise was going to change that.
Given my patchy experience of Valentines gifts, I found it somewhat grating during the same era, when I saw others collect their expensive and reassuringly-showy roses from the reception desk at work (sometimes with a balloon or teddy bear in tow). Whilst I would have liked something (I wasn’t immune to the pernicious desire to keep up with the others), even I could see that the balloon / teddy was a step to far. It was just a bit weird. These were women, not three year olds.
That V-day was topped-off by being wedged between bunches of enormous plumes on the tube home, when my nose was quite literally rubbed in the external markers of others’ supposed value. A case of sour grapes left me wondering what the motivation for sending flowers to an office was. If they were just for the receiver, why were they so ostentatiously sent? Yes, it’s lovely to surprise someone, but at that highly self-conscious age, it seemed to be about something more than that. After all, in an open-plan office, an audience would be guaranteed.
Whatever the motivation, the experience was certainly good training-ground for what was to become ‘the-great-engagement-ring-display’, which is to young 20-something city workers what tails are to peacocks. Diamonds may be “a girl’s best friend”, but my cynicism had me wondering whether the ring symbolised a life together, or the future husband’s (supposed) net worth?
More interesting was the preference for size over quality. Someone pointed out to me that since no one can tell a diamond’s purity with the naked eye, it doesn’t really matter. On the face of it, that may be true, but then the analogy creeps in. Often others’ won’t know about the quality of a person, or a relationship – but you will. Surely that’s what counts?
India knight hit the nail on the head when she recently said “Any pair of idiots can have a nice time while the sun shines. Romance is about what happens when it rains”, and that “a real grown-up romance is built from 1,000 daily acts of kindness”.
Valentine’s certainly takes on a different focus and sentiment once you have kids. They make cards for their parents in a lovely unselfconscious way in all their misspelled glory. Whilst I’m not into the showy-stuff, nor am I one to shun the sentiment. Dismissing the whole thing as a commercial enterprise is a puritanical step too far.
Whilst I agree ‘love’ isn’t just annual event, I’ll still be looking forward to a home-made heart and a thought that counts. I’ll take those above any rose.