Although I’m an atheist, and Saint Valentine has Christian origins, I have always loved the idea and principle behind the day. I blame this on some of my idealistic and overly romantic influences as a young teenager: Cider with Rosie, Rebecca, The Blue Lagoon and many more.
Even now, with rose-tinted glasses, I don’t see the commercialism and sordid money-making aspects of our Society’s adoption of the 14th February. I like Valentine’s Day, and probably always will, and while I fully accept that one day of mutual expression of love won’t change the other 364 days in a year, it doesn’t change my intent to celebrate the day.
When I was a teenager, I saw the joy girls would exhibit when they received a Valentine’s Day card, even more when they were not in a relationship: it meant someone was thinking about them, and I always made sure I sent a card – anonymously – a couple of days before the day to at least one of the unattached young ladies that I knew. Signing the card with a question mark guaranteed my anonymity, but I know it brought a brief flush of happiness to the recipients, and that made it all worthwhile.
When I got to University, I went one step further and had a friend of mine, who travelled back home regularly to post a card from a postbox sixty miles away from the recipient. Another year, I wrote the first verse of Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You and once just a short poem. I made an effort, and in all the years I did it, I never knew of any recipient who didn’t appreciate the gesture from the mystery person, although only a tiny handful of my friends ever knew I sent the cards.
I haven’t done it for well over a decade: whatever good intentions I had, sending Valentine’s Day cards to people I had no romantic interest in was probably not a wise move. You learn things as you age and if I had thought about it at the time, I’d probably have stopped doing it.
But I knew how I felt as the inescapable reminders of the Valentine’s Day invaded our consciousness, and for a few years, some girls I knew woke up on February 14th to unexpectedly receive a card, and perhaps, it brought a smile to their face. Which was the only motivation I had. I didn’t want someone to feel like I did on that day.
But that’s in the past, and for the last ten years I have had a girlfriend, fiancée and wife to buy and plan for. Neither of us are demanding, but I will get her a box containing a proper present as well as something sexy, something very silly and a few little things that occur to my sick sense of humour.
One year there was a “single Rolo” contained within the box, another a silk rose with the label “I will love you until this fades” as well as underwear folded into the shape of a flower and tickets to the Vagina Monologues. But the material aspects are all immaterial.
My wife and I will spend the evening together, with a lovely meal and a bottle of wine, and enjoy each other’s company.
As I said, I love Valentine’s Day: not for the presents, the unedifying garish displays of offensive pink and scarlet red throughout every town centre in the land, or for expectations of anything carnal, but for the time I spend with the woman I love.
And there is no greater gift than that.