As a teen (nerdy, Robert Smith haircut, Gothic clothing), I firmly believed that the world was divided into two types of people: those who loved Valentine’s day and those who hated it.
Given my limited chances of nabbing a date at the time (compounded by the fact I attended a Catholic girls’ school), I decidedly hated everything about the occasion: the tacky cards, the disgusting combination of red, pink and lace paraphernalia in shop windows, those horrible long-stemmed roses (better when natural, worse when made of plastic or containing artificial lighting or music).
I therefore decided to rebel; sure, my inspiration was some infantile character from Family Ties, whose idea to celebrate ‘I love you day’ arbitrarily, made all the sense in the world. I cut out hearts, wrote notes to family members, and announced that day as a special day. Mum loved it; the memory still makes me cringe to this day.
I was mushier than I thought, and I, too, enjoyed celebrating love… the only problem is, that was the first and last ‘I love you’ event to take place at home. The following year, it was back to scathing criticism of Valentine’s: a kitsch day for unimaginative sops.
The whole horrible, materialistic excuse for a celebration somehow conjured up images of bad suits, red bow ties, and Spandau Ballet playing in the background. Get it together, guys, there are better ways to let your lady love know you are into her…
Time passes for all of us, however, and obtaining a job at essential meant I was no longer permitted to wear smeared lipstick and stovepipes, and the spikey hair was deemed a no-no. My hate-hate relationship with Valentine’s reared its ugly head once again when I started dating my husband.
We had been going out for almost a year, and when February, 2004 rolled round the corner, I wondered if I would get something special. I hated heart-shaped boxes and bonbons, but if he didn’t get me anything, then I would definitely throw a tantrum.
Any decent boyfriend would purchase at least a small item to make his girlfriend feel special and to let her know he was grateful for her, right? My 70-year-old Dad never failed to buy Mum a huge bunch of flowers, always accompanied by a sickeningly sweet card (ok, it is cute).
February, 2004: my gift was one to be remembered. It was a long-stemmed plastic rose, with a screw-on bulb containing perfume. Ew! The Gothic inside me screeched, but I thanked him and hoped for fresh flowers next year.
Every year since then, I have always looked forward to the tacky array of presents – cherry liqueur-filled chocolates (Ew!), more long-stemmed roses, you get the picture. I haven’t ever been too keen on those presents, but the day they stop coming, I will probably feel hugely disappointed.
It is difficult to refute the obvious: Valentine’s Day is still worthy of celebration because most of us are simply too busy and consumed by our obligations to celebrate love for what it is – the most precious thing we have in our lives.
The problem many people have with this day is the imposition of odd, meaningless aesthetics… the cheapness, and superficiality of it all. Ultimately, Valentine’s Day should be a personal manifestation of what we feel; an experience instead of a physical gift.
One of the my all-time favourite books on love, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, highlights one important fact: the way we express love and understand it, varies depending on which ‘love language’ we prefer. The five languages are: gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch.
Each of us tends to prefer one or more of these languages, while our loved ones may have other preferences. Problems can arise when we manifest our way of loving in a language that is incompatible with theirs. The book encourages couples to identify and talk about the specific things our partners can do to make us feel truly loved and appreciated, and vice-cersa.
The ultimate question therefore is: How can you make Valentine’s meaningful for your partner this year? Are they always asking you to spend more time with them? Is there a special set of earrings they have been eyeing for months now?
Would they like nothing more than a night by the fireplace cuddling and watching your favourite series while tucking into a box of cherry liqueur-filled chocolates? Their idea of paradise may be your idea of hell (I did say cherry liqueur), but for just one night a year, everyone deserves to experience it.
Words Marisa Cutillas