Rowan Pelling: Roses, scent, a de Beers ring, dinner at The Ivy - that should do it, darling

At last, I no longer need pretend that Valentine's Day doesn't matter
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The Independent Online

One of the brilliant things about marriage, from a woman's perspective, is no longer having to pretend you despise all the vulgar consumerist trappings of Valentine's Day. Once you've bagged your man, you don't have to feign indifference to roses, scent, lobster, champagne, Tiffany pendants, dinner at The Ivy, gondolier trips in Venice, Persian kittens on red satin cushions and mechanical nightingales whose liquid warble is a miracle of the craftsman's skill.

You can abandon that low-maintenance, girl-next-door routine and explain that ever since you saw that de Beers advertisement in the cinema where a male shadow presents a female shadow with a diamond the size of the Ritz, as an off-screen orchestra reaches an orgasmic, string-heavy crescendo, you've been wanting to say, "Gimme an eternity ring, then."

Is it just me, or wasn't that ad to adult females what the Teletubbies are to toddlers, creating a sinister and overwhelming urge to rush up and hug the screen? Although in adult males' eyes the ad just left them wondering, "What the hell's an eternity ring?" To which you said, "A breathtaking token of eternal love?" To which they said, "Well, what the hell's an engagement ring, then?"

One of the brilliant things about marriage, from a man's perspective, is no longer having to pretend you have a nanosecond's-worth of interest in all the vulgar consumerist trappings of Valentine's Day. There's a disappointing tendency for husbands to say, "I married you, what more do you want?" (An appropriate response to this is: "I squeezed your baby through my front bottom while howling like a wolf, kiss my ass and gimme an eternity ring.")

The average domestic male's attitude towards gifts leaves much to be desired. I bumped into a married male friend just before Christmas as we were both buying last-minute presents. "That for your wife?" I asked, checking out his basket. "Oh no, we don't give each other presents," he said. "Never?" I asked. "Well," he said, "not unless I saw something perfect, and then I would give it to her the same day." "Ah yes," I said, "I see." Because we all know this one, don't we? The greatest male-generated myth of all time: that they don't buy Valentine, birthday or anniversary presents because they're such spontaneous, Byronic souls that on any wet Wednesday they bounce home with an orchid, some Jo Malone scent and a cream satin bias-cut evening frock that you can wear to a tea-dance at the Waldorf.

Of course, there are men who buck the trend. Like male penguins, they constantly drop shiny pebbles in front of their partners and make other women wonder whether a spot of gene therapy with Dr Jekyll could activate a similar impulse in their own defective spouses. Take my dear friends Ros and Anthony, partners of some 17 years' standing. On the odd occasion I've dropped by their house around 6pm I've found Ant engaged in mixing his beloved a cocktail to await her return from work and making blinis with salmon or caviar. He's forever sweeping Ros off for weekends on the Continent, will confidently choose her a frock, and is the only man I've ever known to scour eBay for vintage jewellery. It's just not natural - especially in a man who's also handy with a plane and lathe.

Once I bumped into Ros on a train to London and, as we chatted, a little billet doux fluttered from her Filofax. "Oh, that's from Ant," she said, "he's always leaving me little notes in my pockets or diaries." That night I said to my husband, "Don't you think it's lovely that Ant leaves Ros little notes in her diary?" "Mm," he said. "Why don't you leave me little notes?" I said. "I do," he said, "And you ignore them. There's been a Post-it on the front door for a fortnight telling you to phone the Inland Revenue."

Nevertheless, I know from experience that it's possible to train a man to be a little more romantic. I find that persistent and very vocal yearning for a weekend in Paris may eventually be met with lunch at the Old Fire Engine House in Ely. You may find it useful to remind your man that the female brain is wired to reward the giving of presents with sex, or why do Peter Stringfellow and the penguins get so lucky? Or simply buy your own Valentine's card and hand your partner a pen and a stamp. In a world where there's only one Anthony, demand the moon and be happy with a few specks of stardust.