The Emperor's New Clothes (10/02/13)

Valentine's Day, pah! Commercialised, sentimental fuss. Incurable romantic David Randall begs to differ...

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Right, gather round, men. I understand there's been some grumbling in the ranks about Valentine's Day. A lot of you have been saying that this is an entirely commercial creation of the greetings card industry and the floristry trade, and you resent being expected to buy trite cards with saccharine inscriptions, feel conned by flower sellers sticking their prices up for the day, and know that every restaurant will be full to bursting point with couples going through some pre-ordained romantic motions. Spontaneous it ain't. Furthermore, the alternative tokens of your undoubted affection, such as chocolates or a bottle of some exotic liqueur, are ruled out on account of the diet or health kick she is currently on. In short, you feel cornered.

Well, the first thing to say is that you're not wrong. All of the above is true. It is an artificial festival of American origin designed to make you lighter of pocket and laboured of heart; an event where you will feel obliged to sign up to contrived and clichéd sentiments that, in reality, have all the sincerity of a Royal Bank of Scotland insurance salesman. You are right to resist, and want to make a principled (and, incidentally, money-saving) stand.

But wait. Consider the Lilies, the Roses, Emmas, Lauras, Sarahs, and Pams; or, if you're in a civil partnership, or edging towards one, the Brians, Marcs, Terrys, and Steves. What of them? They pretend not to care, but they do. They know it's silly and sloppy, but a 14 February that passes unmarked will sting a bit. Above all, chaps, think of yourselves: the kudos that will be bought with a small trifle, the credit in the partnership bank you will accrue; the loinward impulses that may be stirred. For, as the poets were trying to say but somehow never quite pulled off, what is romance but mutual self-interest?

And partners, if you are reading this, remember that, contrary to popular myth, it cuts two ways. For us, a small tasteful card with an inscription of your own devising, a plant for garden or window-box, a chocolate orange, perhaps, and an impromptu cuddle. We, like you, don't ask for much. But we like to get something.

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