WHAT is it about St. Valentine’s Day that makes normally sane people do crazy stuff?
Like proposing on bended knee, bankrupting themselves at the jewellers or lacing perfectly good cava with a mushy scum of strawberries, because strawberries are soo romantic?
Strawberry seeds in the teeth aren’t that romantic. I’d almost prefer to receive a taxidermied robin – a favourite gift from a young swain to his maid in Medieval times.
Call me A. Cynic but I’m off to a Muslim country where they don’t celebrate February 14th. In fact, make that the Atlas Mountains where they don’t get wifi either. And I won’t be taking a dongle. Just a good book.
Because Valentine’s Day is like Christmas and birthdays – a time of year that only serves to remind many of us that we are alone and unloved.
It’s not even in particularly good taste, considering its association with a bunch of guys who all paid the ultimate price for being alone and unloved. That’s 2 x 3rd Century Catholic martyrs and 7 x 20th century massacre victims, all with Italian connections.
And they say Italians are the romantic race …
For years, manufacturers have capitalised on the event with saccharine sentiments and heart-shaped (or strawberry-shaped) merchandise. And no one gets marginalised! They even make Valentine’s cards you can give to your parents and grandparents! (Something wrong there, surely?)
Newspaper classified columns cashed in too, enabling Devoted Dicky Wicky to declare his feelings via indecipherable coded messages to his Darling Pussy Wussy. And with good reason. In America alone last year, the average moon-struck male shelled out $168.74 on jewellery, perfume, lingerie, chocolates, flowers and mawkish messages for their significant other.
Well, I’ve given up eating chocolates, I prefer to chose my own perfume and my attitude to the whole tacky affair can be summed up by the notice you often see in obituary columns:
‘Please send no cards or flowers.’
Cards kill trees and I’ve never appreciated the gift of dead cut flowers, either. There’s nothing more irritating when you’re dolled up to go out and your beau appears on the doorstep with a bouquet. This means you have to take off your coat, search high and low for a ‘vase’ and then start hacking at stalks and messing about with tap water in your glad rags.
Nor am I impressed by the kind of man who bows to pressure from the Asian flower girls who tout their single, long-stemmed roses around town, here in Spain. If you don’t want to appear churlish by dumping it in the nearest bin you have to cart the wretched thing around with you all night – most inconvenient when also juggling a glass of vino, a canapé and a handbag.
The flowers have no scent anyway and quickly fall to pieces, aided and abetted by my cats who love roses but leave chewed-up petals and sludgy green pools of masticated stalk around the house.
Indeed, why go out at all? These days, lovebirds can stay at home and set each others hearts a-flutter on Twitter. In a way, it makes sense. There’s no necessity to shave your legs, tint your eye lashes or change out of your faded old candlewick dressing gown.
In the UK, one in five of all new relationships begin in cyberspace where it doesn’t matter whether you are male, female or versatile, overweight or over 60, have two left feet on the dance floor or smelly ones in bed. You can start a relationship without the need to dance a tango or buy anyone a drink. No bodily fluids are exchanged, size doesn’t matter and you only need a rudimentary knowledge of computers to press all the right buttons.
But beware of ‘clicking’ in any sense. There are cyber criminals out there who get their kicks from hiding nasty software behind images of puppies and cute red hearts, and who wants to wake up next morning with a virus on their laptop?
So now you know why I’m heading for the Atlas mountains (without a dongle). Although I’m slightly concerned. While researching this post, I discovered that the Muslims themselves had a passing involvement in the daft romantic rituals that go on today.
It’s all the fault of a certain William IX of Aquitaine, a troubadour/warrior who wrote a lot of soppy ‘courtly love’ poems while firing arrows at foe during the Reconquista of Moorish Al-Andalus. According to historians, this Stupid Cupid picked up the whole idea from the Muslim invaders themselves, who were also big on love poetry.
All I can say is that if some Berber shepherd approaches me with anything remotely floral when I’m up in the Atlas mountains I won’t be looking for a vase when I show him where he can put it!
Footnote: The lonely and unloved in Spain can have a much better time at Carnaval, celebrated throughout Spain this month and very big in Cádiz. If you don’t meet your soul mate there you can always place a Lonely Hearts ad in the Olive Press Classifieds.
Need tips on wording? Here are some hilarious suggestions from The Royle Family: