Alice-Azania Jarvis: Valentine's Day - it's not being cheap to opt out
In The Red
Saturday 12 February 2011
So. Dare I mention it? That day. The awful one. You know the one I mean: on Monday. No – not Monday itself (though, come to think of it, that's pretty dreadful in its own right). The 14th. The 14th of February. Valentine's Day. Urgh!
And so it returns. The day after tomorrow. The day we're all meant to part with our cash to buy things of mind-bogglingly poor value. Stuffed toys. Heart-shaped hot water bottles. Badly made chocolate. Usually, I pretend not to notice, but this year I had to write something about it (in Monday's i if you're interested). So now I know, for instance, that £42.3m of greetings cards will exchange hands in one day. And that, as a nation, we'll spend £1.3bn on gifts. I don't know whether this includes those awful set-menu dinners that have become obligatory – but I suspect it doesn't. Goodness knows what that adds up to.
Who, I can't help wondering, is doing all this spending? Who is forking out that £1.3bn? Perhaps it's parents. Mum and Dad are, after all, the only people who have consistently given me cards each year. Certainly, I can't see the point otherwise. If you're in a couple – great! You can relax. Put on your tracksuit. Get fat and complacent and let your leg/arm/nostril hair grow. The last thing you should be doing is wasting your precious cash on garage flowers.
And if you're single, well then. There is, I suppose, a little bit of fun to be had in the flutter of excitement that an anonymous billet-doux can illicit. But how much more exciting would it be were that flutter not scheduled into a calendar, but produced spontaneously?
In truth, I can count the number of good (and good value) Valentine's Days I've had on one hand. In secondary school, it went without saying that they were torture. We actually – and I'm sure this is quite probably a violation of human rights legislation – had an entire assembly dedicated to Valentine's Day. Girls would be called up individually and – depending on how admired they were by the pimply body of our boys' school – handed a selection of roses. For most of us, this wasn't much fun.
Things got rather better at university, where Valentine's Day was less an occasion to give flowers than to get rollickingly drunk. And last year I managed – I think – to find that rare thing: the perfect Valentine's Day. February nirvana. Do nothing. Celebrate nothing. I think you'll find it's rather wonderful.
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