Happy Valentine's Day! Urgh. Doesn't it just make you sick? Like most people, I approach 14 February with a sense of terrible foreboding. And that's not because I'm some sad, lonely love-scrooge, but because of its sheer, undeniable, awfulness.
In fact, I don't think I've ever met anyone who actually likes the idea. Once it used to be a vaguely counter-cultural thing to say – the sort of phrase that set you apart as coolly cynical – but now it's just accepted: Valentine's, dear readers, sucks – regardless of whether you're coupled-up or not.
The worst thing, naturally, is the expense. In addition to all that awkwardness (being the only one at work with no flowers), stress (bloody Valentines cupcakes), and general miscellaneous anxiety (is it weird that the shop assistant just wished you "happy v-day?"), there's the unashamed consumerism of it all.
It's the worst of occasions, really, for that sort of thing – at least with Christmas there's an accompanying jollity and sense of community. Valentines, however, is ruthless in its intentions. Stage one: isolate them in pairs. Stage two: wine them, dine them, and make them want to spend. No, more than that, make them expect to spend.
Because expectations are exactly what Valentine's Day is all about. Just look at the ad campaigns, all playing on how disappointed your partner (or mum, depending on the year) will be when you neglect to shower him or her with roses.
Of course, it's possible just to boycott the whole thing. I've done it before, and in many ways it was more trouble than it was worth: all rather self-conscious and moralistic.
Still, I'll be doing something similar today: I'll acknowledge Valentine's existence, if only to my boyfriend (and, for tradition's sake, mum and dad). But I won't be buying anything out of the ordinary.
Last week, if you remember, I planned to spend nothing but was forced into it by the snow. This week, I'm compensating with extra miserliness.
Speaking of which, I'm STILL being harassed by Moorcroft Debt Recovery. It's covered ground; suffice to say that I've paid my water bill – I had before the first time they threatened me. Now I receive daily phone calls, with a message ordering me to call "as a matter of urgency". It sounds so severe that, even though I know they will just tell me it's an error, it still gives me the shivers. I wonder if they read this column and are simply trying their luck on the (quite plausible) assumption that one day they'll get it right. Moorcroft, if you're out there: give me a break. Please?