Why I No Longer Believe In Valentine's Day
"Valentine's Day is a holiday invented by greetings card companies. To make people feel like crap." - Joel Barish, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Let me get one thing clear before we begin - I love love. I love love more than it should be possible to love love. Try saying that when you've had a couple of drinks! It's just that I'm not so keen on Valentine's Day anymore.
A few years ago this was certainly not the case. I was obsessed with the 14th February; I would literally do a week countdown in my head and everything. My favourite film was 'Valentine's Day' starring Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner. I would eat A LOT of heart-shaped sweets; the necessary fuel for me driving people up the wall with my romantic musings. I would be righteously indignant and downright aghast when someone would spout "that cliched line" about Valentine's Day just being a commercial holiday. Yes, I was the bigger cliche - I know.
But it came with the territory. As a little girl who would watch rom coms and dream that my very first relationship would be a fairytale just like the films; Valentines Day was a big deal. (I can't however blame Walt Disney for my unrealistic expectations of love in the 21st century; I find it difficult to live vicariously through the love lives of animations). So when I began dating my first ever boyfriend and Valentine's Day rolled around, you can imagine just how I was feeling. THIS WAS IT. I was suddenly going to feel what all of those people I had watched in the films felt on Valentine's Day, and I was going to be complete.
I hadn't said anything about a gift, or made hints as to what he should get me (I may be keen, but I'm very unassuming) however my extreme enthusiasm must have given him some indication because he did buy me a gift. It came in a giftbox, and that giftbox was stamped with a very familiar looking orb. Yes, he got me a Vivienne Westwood ring and earrings. Now may be a good point to mention that I was 16 years old at the time, and no way was my boyfriend able to afford me VW. He didn't even have a job, and yet the fact that his mum had basically bought my Valentine's present for him could not take the moment away from me. It felt like a film moment, unwrapping the box and slipping that cool metal onto my finger - I was finally a Valentine.
But, the part you don't see in the films is the internal struggle that all people go through in life. You don't see the part where you want to wear another ring but know that your boyfriend will be disappointed when he sees it's not on your finger. You don't see the part where your boyfriend shouts at you because you've lost your ring and he makes you retrace all of your steps until you find it. And you don't see the part where you break up (because everyone lives Happily Ever After in the movies) and you don't know whether to keep it as a momento or flog it for a tenner on ebay. However much I'd loved that ring when it had been presented to me on Valentine's Day, in the end all it came to represent was the fact that I was his possession. It's not the same for everyone but in this situation the ring was a leash; it was a signal to everyone else that I was taken, and therefore if I took it off there would be hell to pay. At that point I understood the reason why some people never want to get married.
After that I experienced my first single Valentine's after being in a relationship. And I did the classic thing that a lot of singletons do on Valentine's Day - slagged off everyone's soppy facebook status, and then watched a slasher horror movie alone. It's not that Valentine's Day had lost its appeal, it's more that I wasn't part of the 'team' anymore so I didn't want to play the game. I wanted to HATE the game.
And then the next Valentine's Day rolled around and I'd forgotten all about that; I was back on the team and happy to leave my old teammates behind. This boyfriend bought me a fake rose and Millie's Cookie Cupcakes iced with the words 'I Love You'. We'd been dating for two months. There's something you should know about me - I am not the kind of girl who likes fake roses. In fact, after a light up ornament of the Virgin Mary and neon leggings, they are probably the tackiest thing to exist. I mean nothing says I love you like a cheap version of the real thing, which isn't that expensive in the first place, right? I may be bitter now, but in the spirit of Valentine's Day you can bet your bottom dollar that I put on a big show of being "the happiest girl in the world". Nope, I had learnt nothing about Valentine's Day from my previous experience - in that it actually means bot all in terms of the actual state of your relationship. I denied anyone else a cupcake, they were mine, and if they ate one they might have absorbed some of the love that was meant for me. That pretty much sums me up!
Another year, same boyfriend. And by this point, we had past the relationship point of 'I love you cupcakes'. We were at the part where Valentine's Day was not a thing anymore. Yes, our relationship had fast forwarded 20 years in those 365 days, and I sat there and listened whilst my boyfriend told me that he didn't care about Valentine's Day so we could go on a date another time. Oh how people change when they no longer need to impress you. And on 14th February 2014 I sat and watched all my other friends excitedly get ready for their evenings whilst my boyfriend went to play at being in the Army for the weekend. After he did the same on our anniversary, and very nearly the same again on my birthday, I called it a day.
This year I'm gearing up for my third Valentine's Day with my current fella, and during our first I made the conscious decision to try and stop forcing Valentine's Day to be a thing bigger than it really is - a victim of its own success. We hadn't been seeing each other long on the first Valentine's Day we spent together and so we didn't do anything much together to celebrate it. But I do remember him telling me that he was going to find a heart-shaped avocado and push it through my door. (A bit of context: I'm the biggest Avo fan eva). And it was with this simple remark I realised that Valentine's Day doesn't have to be about anything special, it can be the quiet and content realisation or reassurance that this person really cares about you. They don't need to make a grand romantic gesture on your behalf, they don't need to tell you that they love you a thousand times, or sprinkle rose petals in your bed, and your bath and your office. They can simply let you know that they listen when you say you like something, and that means that they care.
This year on Valentine's Day, myself and my boyfriend won't be together. I live in Newcastle and run my own business, and he lives in London and has a fulltime job. The 16 year old Charlotte would have moved mountains in order for us to be together, but the Charlotte of the here and now is happy to have a cheeky chinese when I do see him on Friday night. Oh, and exchange punny cards because that's very important in any relationship. I tell him I love him everyday, so I will tell him today but I will also tell him the next day and the next day and the next day even though Valentine's Day will be over.
I guess what I'm trying to say with this blog post is try and keep a little perspective. Valentine's Day is a holiday invented by greetings card companies, but it's your choice whether that makes you feel crap or you embrace it. It matters not. What matters is you realise that it cannot fix something that is broken. A day that is all about celebrating love cannot restore love to your relationship in the long-term. So please, don't make the mistake that I did in thinking that if my boyfriend buys an expensive gift, or a less expensive gift with a bit more thought behind it, it means that you should ignore all the other warning signs. Valentines Day, however good it is, does not guarantee you a happy ending. You'll find that happy ending somewhere, somehow, irrespective of heart-shaped candy.