IT'S NOT ALL ROSES AND RAINBOWS ON VALENTINE'S DAY
What would make a good Valentine’s Day, if not some obligation-induced orgy of handing over unwanted presents adorned with brain-melting uplift such as “live, love, laugh”?
Each year in the lead up to Valentine’s Day, I start to fall under the weight of two competing forces. On the one hand, there is the obligation to buy something “romantic” for the sake of it, while on the other is all the ennui that comes with another round of pointless consumption so soon after the last one.
I say pointless not out of some attempt to claim the moral high ground – I can consume as avariciously as anybody else when I want to, especially if food and alcohol are involved – but more to impugn the sense of obligation that invariably comes with this particular mark in the calendar. Not least because one always ends up buying things just for the sake of it, which seems to somewhat tarnish the point about giving generously – as we’re forever encouraged to do.
Wholly indifferent to how I feel about it, London will soon be awash with masses of sickly cards decorated in pinks and scarlets and dog-eared bouquets picked up in a dash from filling stations on the way home from work. By February 15th, this torrent of tat will feel morbid and stale, like last night’s takeaway still sitting forlornly on the coffee table after a violent debauch.
What you do with that time is up to you, though in a city as alive and rumbustious as London there is plenty to choose from so long as you do not intend to sit staring into each other’s eyes all evening at some mid-market chain restaurant.
Valentine’s Day falls at a curious time of the year. It sits not quite during mid-winter, but even so, the impending spring still feels about as far away as the long hazy evenings propped up in beer gardens during the previous summer. The winter feels both longer and harder in London where less time is spent in the car and more time is spent pounding the pavement from one underground station to the next.
The second week in February is also the point at which, statistically speaking, a large number of those who enthusiastically got into fitness at the beginning of the year slip back into a more familiar routine. The guilty leverage induced by the Christmas Day orgy of turkey and chocolate and booze has, by this point, degenerated into feelings of smug complacency. You’ve got that side of your life handled, so you proclaim as you dispatch another slab of Terry’s chocolate orange into your mouth. And so, you will give the gym a miss today because you “went three times last week, so it’s fine”.
There is no obvious link between the cult of self-help – the one that pushes “7 steps to get in shape” down your throat at the dawn of the year – and the glut of lovey-dovey tat that begins to encroach on the supermarket shelves like poison ivy as soon as the mince pies and festive gammons have been sloughed off at a discount. Indeed, the gym is perhaps the antithesis of Easter, the spring festival whose signifiers compete with Valentine’s Day clutter for the eye of the thrifty post-Christmas consumer. Not because of the glut of chocolate the latter obliges us with, but because self-help – the desire to tune up your body and, at its extreme cryogenic end, to literally live for ever – is but one consequence of the collapse of the belief in life after death; or with reference to Easter, rebirth or resurrection. The desire to tune up your body is a consequence of only being a body, as it were.
There is the obligation to buy something “romantic” for the sake of it.
So what would make a good Valentine’s Day, if not some obligation-induced orgy of handing over unwanted presents adorned with brain-melting uplift such as “live, love, laugh”?
Time, perhaps – or giving someone some of your uninterrupted time. What you do with that time is up to you, though in a city as alive and rumbustious as London there is plenty to choose from so long as you do not intend to sit staring into each other’s eyes all evening at some mid-market chain restaurant.
There is nothing wrong with those places; it’s just that doing what everyone else does inevitably entails waiting around with everybody else. And loitering in sharp-elbowed queues – collective eyes glued to Twitter feeds for updates – is not quite the same as spending time together. Though as with the commercialism that tries to flog you pink ribbons and heart-shaped chocolates at the supermarket, it can sometimes be hard to separate the imitation from the genuine article, especially when we’ve become so well-versed in blurring this distinction.