The thin line between love and hate

So, here we are again. February 13th. The day every single person in the country takes a deep breath and steels themselves for the annual celebration in which vacuous idiots who have found like-empty-minded twats to waste their lives with act all fucking smug and self-satisfied.

I don’t want to be the lonely guy spouting off about how Valentines day is just commercial crap. But I feel the burden of responsibility does fall on me to correctly articulate that sentiment and elevate it beyond a simple bitter refrain.

Even on Valentines days when I have been in a relationship, I have been fortunate – or wise – enough to not have been seeing girls who would ever dream of paying Valentines Day any heed. It is genuinely for idiots. Idiots and corporations.

Love is such an unbelievably complicated, personal and bespoke thing that the very notion of an international day in which it must be expressed is completely antithetical to genuine intimacy. So it is with utter disdain that I regarded the legion of idiots clutching bunches of flowers and boxes of chocolates as they piled out of Sainsburys today. Not least because their romantic gestures were mainly snapped up from the ‘Better Than Half Price!’ Valentines display.

Allow me to list the corporate seasonal offers which have bombarded my conscious in the past few days;

WETHERSPOONS: Two steaks and a bottle of wine £14.99

MARKS AND SPENCERS: ‘Gourmet dine-in for two’ (choice of ready meal starters, mains, accompaniments and dessert plus a single stem rose or box of chocolates) £20

TESCO: £9 Three-course ready meal selection with chocolates

DAILY MAIL: Offers seven free DVDs of ‘romantic’ films of varying awfulness. Vouchers redeemable at Tesco or WHSmith.

To me, these are entirely useful indicators of whether you are in a worthless relationship. If your beloved makes a grand gesture of their love only once a year and it comes in one of the following forms: Taking you to a fucking WETHERSPOONS, microwaving ready meals for you or suggesting you watch a film that they have selected based on the fact it came free with the Daily fucking Mail… then you’re in a worthless relationship. I understand that this is an elitist and arrogant assessment but it’s true. You know it’s true.

The wonderful thing about gestures of love is that they are recession-proof. It is not valid to say ‘some people can’t afford to take a girl out to the Ritz and fill their house with red roses’. I know. The gauche expensive displays are as empty and turgid as the Tesco value alternative. A gesture of love should be personal. Tailored. Not bought, created. A letter, not a card. A meal cooked from scratch. A gift that means something. A thought. The thought that counts. So true. There can be no thought in taking the one you ‘love’ to a Wetherspoons for a meal deal on Valentines Day. In some cultures, the mere suggestion of taking someone to a Wetherspoons on any day would be considered highly offensive.

The second consumerism is embraced into expression, the sentiment becomes bunk. Christmas has redefined itself in this way, but that’s OK. Devout Christians might argue that it has lost all meaning and I’d agree but there is a great inherent value in a society enforcing a few days off to be spent with family and friends, trying to be happy. The roots of Valentines Day are fairly ropey (St Valentine himself having nothing to do with romance, the festival largely being a rather nice, quite modern, social construct in which lovers wrote letters to one another) but there can be no doubt that the current incarnation, a day in which men are expected to buy their lovers a box of chocolates, flowers and some form of material offering of value (real or Tesco, apparently) before taking them out for dinner and women are expected to reciprocate by gladly offering up their partner’s favoured orifice of choice, is fuelled by consumerism and a media-saturated burden of expectation.

Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about one of the few things in society that encourages warmth. i just think it degrades the true notion of love. Like everything else in this convenience obsessed culture we currently inhabit. It gives a path for people to put aside genuine thought and interaction. The supermarket display touting cheap Milk Try and Hallmark greetings cards gives a person an easy alternative to having to think about their partner’s needs and desires and a society-approved gesture to pretend they have. It’s just a shame. But fuck ’em. They’re idiots. I’m sure actual thought is anathema to the people these are all geared towards and the recipients’ standards have been suitably lowered to the degree that a cut-price box of All Gold represents genuine affection.

True, actual love bucks consumerism. It looks at it in disgust.

When I was 5 years old, we made Mothers Day cards in school. They had 3D daffodils on the front, made by wrapping yellow card around our fingers to form a bell and then stapling it to a green cardboard stalk. It was finished off with a squirt of cheap perfume and we were left to write our personal messages to our mother on the inside. I had never heard of Mothers Day before this exercise and was roundly mocked by my classmates for this. When I took it home and proudly offered it to my mum, she looked at me with a weariness as if I had given her some worms I’d found outside. “We don’t do mothers day or fathers day” she told me “if you feel like you want to show us that you love or appreciate us, you do it at that moment, not when society dictates you should.”

Damn right. Similarly, birthdays and Chanukkah were never times of commercial excess. We got small, thoughtful token gifts. The big stuff we got when we needed it, deserved it, or Mum and Dad found something they thought we’d like or would be good for us. It’s that kind of random present giving that actually means something. Means that someone was genuinely thinking of you or got excited about making a gesture.

The best person I’ve ever loved sent me letters and cards randomly. When she thought of me. She sent me postcards of paintings which reflected situations we found ourselves in and she’d explain to me why.  She gave me family objects because she wanted me to have some stewardship of her past and a link to others who had meant a lot to her. She wrote me poems and thoughts and she cooked and gave the best gift of all which is the inspiration to explore and express one’s own sentiments and feelings in one’s own unique way back.

I guess if you’ve never experienced that, a Wetherspoons steak and a Daily Mail DVD of Sliding Doors might suffice. And maybe such easily-filled needs gives those people a certain right to be smug.

Published in: on February 14, 2010 at 12:19 am  Leave a Comment  

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