Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'Valentine's Day thrives on fear and guilt, and it worked on me again'

In The Red

One of the best things about being so utterly overwhelmed by the daunting task of raising several thousand pounds for My Save The Rhino marathon fund is that I've managed, in my absorption, to let my various other spending anxieties fade to the back of my mind.

Like Valentine's Day. Moaning about Valentine's Day is old hat, obviously (and not just because it happened six days ago). In fact, it's so old hat that I can't help but wonder if it's set for an "ironic" revival – a thought so awful it makes me feel quite dizzy with spend-fear. But let's not get distracted: the point is that Valentine's Day is rubbish and expensive, and you, I, and virtually every other sentient being knows this.

Still, this year the run-up to the Worst Holiday In The Calendar was rather smoother than most years. As I've said, I have been too busy worrying about jumble sales, book fairs and nagging friends, parents, colleagues and utter strangers to think too much about it. I planned, as per my pledge at the beginning of February, to ignore the 14th entirely.

Except, of course, that's not possible, is it? How naïve I was. You can't ignore the 14th – particularly when partnered. Even the most valiant efforts to do so are trumped by the fact that the decision is not yours to make unilaterally. Try as you may to forget the date, the prospect of your partner waving a box of chocolates and bunch of flowers is bound to remind you. And if you haven't reciprocated, you feel guilty.

Which is why, this year, the early hours of my Valentine's Day were spent frantically trying to cut chocolate brownies into heart shapes before my boyfriend woke up. Until the 13th I was immune from pre-Valentine's brainwashing. The next day I'd awoken, panicked, in the realisation that I was going to have to do something – anything – otherwise I'd look mean.

Thus followed a desperate session of careering around the shops, trying to find somewhere in East London that sells heart-shaped cookie cutters (someone MUST, surely?). Needless to say, I located none, and had to carve the brownies by hand. I got halfway, before my boyfriend woke up to find me – flour-coated, on the point of nervous breakdown, in the kitchen.

Romantic! Er, not. Pleasant though my ignorance may have been, the last-minute dash to find a heart-shaped cookie cutter was not. Lesson learned: next year, find a middle ground. Anyone for a Milk Tray? Suddenly £5 isn't looking like such a big sacrifice.

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