Why Valentine’s Day isn’t always a bed of red roses
What are you doing on Valentine's Night — anything special planned? An innocuous question you might think, but one that evoked such cynicism from married and coupled-up friends, that I almost called a halt to my blossoming romance there and then.
“Never get married,” shouted one heavily pregnant friend. Well thank goodness I haven't and, after that conversation, probably never will.
“I have to look at him every night, why would I want to go out to a restaurant to do it. And anyway, Casualty's on,” she snapped.
Another announced that yes, she would be going out with her hubby, but they'd be taking the children, too.
Eh? Are they really that scared of being alone together for a few hours that they're heading to Pizza Hut with three kids in tow?
“Well, you have to do something, don't you?” she explained. “And it's so hard to get a sitter.”
And there's the problem — the pressure to ‘do something'.
The card, the flowers, the romantic meal, the present it's almost as bad as Christmas.
The mum-to-be later called back to explain that her outburst had been caused by days of rows over what to do on Valentine's Night and hormones.
She and her husband (also a Casualty fan) would now be staying put in front of the telly and he'd promised to rub her feet all night.
“I'd rather stay in and cuddle on the sofa with a DVD and a packet of coconut snowballs,” agreed another friend.
“It's really embarrassing sitting in restaurants where all the tables are for two and everyone's trying to show off how in love they are.”
As a veteran of many disastrous Valentine's dinners, I feel her pain — an ex-partner once got into an affection competition with the couple at the next table and tried to stroke my face and spoon-feed me at the same time.
And I don't mind at all that this year, because my fledgling romance is long-distance, I'll be happily playing on a Wii and learning how to ‘Twitter' with a couple of teenagers who I'm keeping an eye on while their mum and dad go to the dogs — at Drumbo.
But I've got my soppy card and there'll probably be an email and a text as well. It's enough for me.
Thankfully, there's no danger of red and black lingerie, chocolates I really shouldn't eat, or a whisky decanter (that really happened), just words of affection and the exciting thought of a fun weekend when he's back in town.
The stress of Valentine's Day isn't lost on the media either. Earlier this week, a newspaper printed an article headlined ‘Valentines: A Survival Guide’ by author Catherine Blyth.
It contained unintentionally hilarious advice on how to cope (or ‘perform’) on V-Day.
Catherine's gems included: “Before the ‘big meal', take a walk, preferably somewhere with diverting things to look at and discuss. Stand side-by-side instead of face-to-face, you'll feel less self-conscious.”
And the brilliant: “Be unusually shy or suggestive, holding your loved one's eye longer than necessary, remembering to smile. Use vivid, visual language.”
Follow this and your partner is likely to think you're trying to start a fight or you're half-cut!
February 14 shouldn't need an instruction manual. And true love needs no big gestures or expensive presents.
It was a couple who have been together for 20 years who gave the most heart-warming reply when asked what they do on Valentine's Day.
“We go to bed early.”
Simple as that. No roses, no presents and no pressure. Bet they have a brilliant time.