Why I won't be buying my fiancée a Valentine's card
Dear God, is it that time of year again? You know, the fluffy teddy and 12 red roses time of year? The I love you so much time of year and I'm going to show you how much by taking you to an over-priced, packed restaurant and gaze dreamily into your eyes just like all those other loved-up couples?
How I hate Valentine's Day. And no, before you think I'm the male equivalent of fiction's neediest singleton, Bridget Jones, and that my loathing of February 14 stems from being alone in coupledom, let me tell you that I'm in a fantastic relationship and set to get married to the love of my life this summer.
I consider myself to be as romantic as the next man. Actually, strike that out -- I consider myself to be more romantic than the next man. It's just that the hideous commercialisation of Valentine's Day gets my hackles up. And it gets worse every year.
So, here's how I'm going to acknowledge Valentine's Day -- I won't be buying my fiancée a card, nor will I be giving her chocolates or flowers. I won't be taking her out to dinner or cracking open the champagne. In fact, I won't even wish her a happy Valentine's Day on Sunday.
Just before you think Lynn should trade me in for a new man, let me say that I'm happy to do all the above on any number of occasions throughout the year, and usually without warning. I just won't do it on Valentine's Day and if that makes me sound smug and/or pompous, so be it.
What began life as a Christian feast named after a kindly Roman priest has turned into an orgy of crassness that's relentlessly marketed for weeks in advance.
Like Christmas, Easter, St Patrick's Day and so on, its sheer commerciality leaves a rancid taste in my mouth.
Luckily for me, Lynn does not demand that I celebrate Valentine's Day in the conventional, oh-so-commercial manner.
She's not interested in us wolfing down food during a 90-minute sitting at our favourite restaurant or having to politely bat away those table-to-table flower sellers who come out of the woodwork. And she won't feel the need to buy me aftershave I don't want or an oversized card to tell me how much she loves me, because such tokens are not required.
February 14 has become a 'special' occasion thanks to the card companies, confectionery manufacturers and floristry industry, to name but the three greatest offenders.
They are so good at the persuasion game that anybody who refuses to play along is accused of being a mean-spirited Grinch without a romantic bone in their body.
"What do you mean you don't celebrate Valentine's Day," one of my female office colleagues asked, aghast. "What does Lynn think of that?"
But it's not just the card, confectionery and flower people who make a killing, just about every service sector and product seems anxious to piggyback on Valentine's Day too.
In the past week, I've noticed two different gyms promoting a special Valentine's joining fee, a glut of restaurants offering special Valentine menus and I've even received an email from an optician about laser surgery while banging on about how the closeness of a lover's eyes in relation to their nose could provide a clue to compatibility. What a steaming pile of nonsense.
I'm sorry to say that the media plays a sizeable part in whipping up anticipation for Valentine's Day with all manner of hackneyed articles from what to buy your loved one to what to wear in the bedroom. La Senza undies -- for the ladies, presumably -- are apparently very "on-trend" this year, or so I noted in an article published in January. January, for heaven's sake!
Valentine's Day is the ultimate 'Hallmark Holiday' worth a conservative $9bn per annum in the US alone -- that's a lot of roses, cuddly toys and heart-shaped tat. Nobody should be surprised to hear that it is second only to Christmas in terms of spend.
And speaking of Hallmark holidays, I might as well come out and say it -- this Grinch hates all those other special days too.
We shouldn't need Father's and Mother's Days to let our parents know what they mean to us.
And what's with the newish vogue for Grandparents Day? Or something called Divorcees Day, an occasion that could only have been dreamed up in California?
Luckily that one doesn't seem to have crossed the Atlantic yet, but no doubt it will soon muscle in on the calendar.
I could hardly think of anything more ghastly: "Smile -- your marriage failed!"
I digress. Maybe some people really do need a mass-produced card with a trite, clichéd message.
Maybe it's because they are unable to find the words themselves and isn't it very handy that specific day exists that compels them to acknowledge those around them?
How much better it would be if, on some other day of the year, you bought some beautiful stationery and wrote a heartfelt letter to the one you loved? Or bought them a potted plant rather than a bouquet of dead flowers in plastic? Or bought them designer underwear and left it under the covers on their side of the bed? Or went all out and attempted to cook the most elaborate, grand meal of your life, with candles, tablecloths and all the other trimmings?
Wouldn't those gestures be far more meaningful and romantic than following the herd on February 14?