Belfast Telegraph

Romance is on the cards, but do we really believe in love?

By Robert McNeill

My researchers tell me that today is Valentine's Day. Well, whoop-de-doo. At least the garage is still open for flowers. Florists should get their own back and diversify into petrol.

Oh, day of days. There's a day for everything now. Tolkien Day. Ask a Stupid Question Day. Bunion Day. And what's that other one? You know, with all the PlayStations. Oh yeah: Christmas Day. They've even got a day for shroves.

But today, like all the others, is a special day. Let's cut to the chase here and divide givers of cards, choccies etc into two classes: those wooing a partner and those who've already wooed well and won (ie the married or those in a stable relationship).

Giving a Vallie card during the wooing stage is a pretty serious step. And it can really do the business. It signifies to the receiver that they are special. Their mate has spent £3.99 on a card (£4.99 if you want it to play a tune upon opening).

It's a pretty shrewd investment. You may scoff at the cheesy words inside, but they save you the bother of getting all gooey yourself. In addition, chocolates and flowers are God's gift to men who feel obliged to give but know not what.

If feeling flush, they may also bung in a meal at a fancy restaurant, though I'm of the school that believes this is taking things too far. Those already in long-term relationships will certainly eschew such extremes, unless provoked beyond reason (say, by the batting of cow eyelashes), and will consider a card sufficient as an annual coat of gooey glue with which to seal the conjugal arrangement.

But what's it all about? Well, love actually. This is how my Lidl Dictionary of English and Stuff defines that particular four-letter word: "A peculiar state in which one individual invests unrealistic hopes and expectations in another. Sex also comes into it somewhere along the line. If you're lucky."

Of the etymology, we are told: "From the Latin 'loverus': deranged, giddy, conducive to vomiting". However, there must be more to it than that. It's a subject I've often inquired about, leading to my face being smacked twice, and another regrettable incident where the police were needlessly called.

I've met experienced, mature adults who say in subdued tones that love doesn't exist. They look over their shoulders when speaking, almost as if the sentiment were seditious. But it's a free country and, unless it's about Islam, you can say what you like.

The same folk doubtful of love also deride the idea that there's a soulmate out there for everyone. I think they mean in the sense of only one person that will do. Someone assigned to you by Jehovah the Matchmaker.

With today's increasing lifespans, having several special soulmates one after another – serial monogamy – has become the norm, though observation reveals that those in decades-long relationships, like those who live in the same house for yonks, are the happiest and have something valuable.

It's how the mind works. If you tell yourself you can't be thirled to one partner all your life, you won't be. And if you tell yourself you can, you might.

But it's all good, because love is about bestowing attention on another. It takes you out of yourself. And that's always a pretty good place to be.

Belfast Telegraph

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