It's dreadful, it's dowdy, and it doesn't rhyme

Anna Maxted says it won't be the end of the world if you don't get a Valentine card on Tuesday. But it may feel like it

The figure standing forlornly in the middle of Woolworth's greeting card section turns out to be Michael Barnet, 24, from Hastings.

One man with crew-cut hair and a leather jacket against hundreds of delicate pink syrupy sweet coochy-coo Valentine cards, an army of chocolate lollipop lips encased in heart-covered cellophane wrapping, and several generations of furry little hugging teddy bears holding itty-bitty signs saying "Kiss Me". It's all a bit much. "They're just too sentimental," he mutters miserably. "I think I'll just send flowers."

Choosing a Valentine card is a difficult business. There is a great deal of choice, but sadly most of it is pap. Amid a vast range I spy an upholstered monstrosity featuring a love scene from Watership Down and the curly-lettered message "Somebunny loves you." This is a perfect card for any one of a couple who wear matching home- knitted mittens, communicate in silly voices and address each other in public as "Wusskin pusskin bottytoots." If however, your intended buys their mittens from Kookai, casually employs words such as "contraversy" and calls you by your Christian name, such a card is not for them. They will certainly expect something a little more funky.

Michael's girlfriend is a modern gal. She will not take kindly to a photograph of two labrador puppies snoring on a bed of roses. He opens a card with a watercolour heart and a splodgey flowers design. It reads: "A Valentine for the one I love, the one who does so much to give each day that passes by a brighter touch. Your love, your faith in me, your gentle understanding all make me realise how lucky I am to have your love and you." From his expression, one suspects that Michael would rather send his lover a letter bomb. "It's dreadful, it's dowdy," he splutters. "And the last bit doesn't rhyme."

The nature of your card depends on the stage of your relationship, and the character of your loved one. Michael finally chooses a sketch of a scruffy cartoon dog with the words "You stole my heart - I hope you realise this calls for a strip search." Cheeky but cute and sincere with a low slush-factor. The idea is to communicate your desire and affection without being too flippant or over-soppy. A foot-tall card illustrated with a long-lashed bambi and the declaration: "I'm happy to be giving my loving heart to you/ And Valentine it's wonderful/ To know you love me too" is perfect in its proper place (the bin) but foolhardy if its planned recipient is a fur-phobic conservationist with a bodybuilder boyfriend who isn't you.

You may, of course, wish to cover all options. Sarah Thompson, 26, from Camden, north London, has bought her boyfriend two cards. She says: "One is a cartoon of a couple snogging on the sofa in front of the TV and the caption is something like `Her heart leapt as he said those three magic words - Sod the football.' It's more or less the truth! I wanted to get a funny one because a big part of our relationship is having a laugh together." Her other card is from the Victoria and Albert museum. "It's Victorian style with cherubs and a poem," she says. "We've been together a while and I wanted to get him something more romantic than a modern card which he'd throw away the next week."

Laura Goldman, 29, from Newcastle, has splashed out on a £1.99 advent- calendar style card for the man of her life. It pictures a droopy-eyed dog sitting under the heading "Do you love me?" and contains 24 little heart chocolates behind windows bearing unique messages like "I thought I'd get you something expensive and special," "You have the body of a supermodel," and "Let's go down the golf course." Their relationship is, Laura explains, fairly casual: "There are some conventional messages there like `I can't stop thinking about you,' but I wanted to take the mick a bit, so I don't appear too stifling. He probably won't get me anything."

The rat! Yet this brings us to the million-dollar question; what if the unthinkable happens and you don't receive a single card? What will you say when your worst enemy crows "How many cards did you get? - I got 55 and he's taking me to New York on Concorde for dinner!" How will you cope when a mighty crop of red roses is delivered to the beastly girl who sits beside you in the office? Huddled alone in front of A Question of Sport with your microwavable shepherd's pie for one, won't you choke on the knowledge that every restaurant in the country is packed with twosomes gazing lovingly over the ketchup and feeding each other oysters?

Toby Robbins, a sports reporter from Leeds, is bracing himself for the worst. His love life is somewhat complicated. Having split with his long- term girlfriend, he'd formed an easy-going liaison with one of his flatmates. He then went on a lads' ski trip where he met a delightful blonde called Tina. Being an honest chap he told his flatmate, who didn't receive the news with whoops of joy. Toby had attempted to avoid 14 February by planning another holiday but this had to be cancelled because of work commitments. "I was up for about four cards, but it suddenly looks like it's down to nought." What about Tina? "She doesn't have my address."

Being a resourceful sort, Toby has several plans to numb the pain. One: make sure he is reporting on a match that night. Two: send himself a card. Three: get his sister to send him a card. Four: stay in bed (alone) all day and thus avoid potentially wounding comments from colleagues. One has to admit that plans number 2, 3 and 4 sound tempting. Yet Toby's fifth option is the real corker. "I plan," he announces, "to be pissed off at first, and then just pissed." Topping idea: two bottles of red wine go so well with shepherd's pie.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - Commercial Training

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The business development manage...

    The Richmond Fellowship Scotland: Executive Director

    £66,192 per annum including car allowance of £5,700): The Richmond Fellowship ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Junior

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent