It’s the time of year when Valentine’s Day sidles up to me with her sweet smile, whispers in my ear and then vomits on my shoes before grabbing an unshaven amateur poet by the crotch, gargling a Sambuca and staggering to another club where people who are more fun than me go to have a good time.
It’s ten years (to the day!) since I last celebrated Valentine’s Day in any meaningful way (apart from the notorious Grapefruit Incident of 2007, but that’s another story). I have some talents in other areas, but my love life resembles the Bognor Birdman contest: year after year of launching myself hopefully, followed very shortly by a predictable drenching. It’s a record of under-achievement that would put the England football team to shame. And I’ve only got time to write this blog because of the following text message:
“Sorry for the late notice but i wont be able to make it tonight … deadlines … items delayed …wont be an early finish … postpone until next week? Sorry about that. Thanks.”
But I’m not here to grumble, nor to name any of the unfortunate women involved (don’t worry Angelina, our secret is safe). And the characters mentioned earlier are not based on anyone I know but are entirely the product of my deranged imagination (I, on the other hand, am entirely the product of my ex-wife’s deranged imagination).
February 14 is the one day of the year when I’m truly, blissfully, heart-leapingly happy to be single. Why? Because I’m a bit of a romantic, and today is far and away the least romantic day of the year. It’s the day when the most tender, considerate and loving of men turn into scheming liars. In their hearts, their faces and their deeds they will lie more desperately and miserably than they have ever lied before. Why? Because they have to pretend that they’re enjoying it too.
Men hate Valentine’s Day. No sooner has the pressure of Christmas been banished, with the presents bought and given and the drinks cabinet emptied, than the looming storm-cloud of February 14 darkens the horizon. Her favourite restaurant? Best ring up now, because this is the only night of the year (except Mother’s Day) when every restaurant is fully booked, and you don’t want to take her down the kebab shop or you’ll be in danger of getting skewered yourself. And if it’s a romantic weekend away, then you’re probably too late already. The best hotels in the most beautiful locations took their first bookings on February 15 last year and by mid-January there’s only the Holiday Inn in Basingstoke left*. Are the flowers big enough? Did you remember that she hates fondant centres? Should you buy a present as well? Will those earrings match? A man can’t enjoy Valentine’s Day. The best he can hope for is to survive.
Valentine’s Day explodes the myth that women are romantic and men aren’t. Men do dumb things like arrange surprise weekends away or buy chocolates when they’re not feeling guilty and their loved one isn’t feeling hungry. Men try to conquer the Antarctic and defeat tyrants, fly to the moon or cross the Channel in a bathtub. Almost always they do this to impress women (or occasionally to get away from them – I admit the argument doesn’t hold every time). If a woman wants to impress a man, all she has to do is wear a slightly redder lipstick and leave the top three buttons of her blouse undone. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to discourage that. I like to think I’m as shallow as the next man.
At its heart, romance is about letting your emotions inspire you to do stupid things on a whim. If women did that, the kids wouldn’t get fed and the laundry would start to pile up. Even if gender roles are changing and some men know how to operate a vacuum cleaner, the mindset is still there: women are fundamentally more organised than men. Romance has its place, and its place is February 14, which is why this is the one day when it is impossible to do anything romantic. When romance is organised, diarised and pigeon-holed, it loses everything that made it romantic in the first place. In short, it becomes sterile and emasculated.
So I’ll wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day. Me, I’ve got to go. My Pot Noodle is getting cold.
* At the time of writing, the Holiday Inn in Basingstoke had three double rooms available from £135 plus breakfast.