In my experience, Valentine’s Day, far from being the most romantic day of the year, has always been tricky to negotiate.
From the moment I became a teenager, Valentine’s Day immediately became a calendar date of enormous significance. The anticipation and let’s face it pure, unadulterated fear that I would be overlooked by the Valentine’s Day postman, took on monumental proportions.
I suffered from that affliction typically reserved for teenagers – awkward shyness. If there had been a vote on the pupil(s) most likely to nab a cool boyfriend, I wouldn’t have even made it onto the list. If anyone did take a liking to me, they would have to be pretty direct for me to notice. I would dread the arrival of Valentine’s Day and wince at the thought of a whole day spent in the shadow of my friend Debbie and her hoard of Valentine’s Day cards and cuddly bears.
My teenage years occurred at a time when the post arrived at a set time of day and unfortunately for me, the postal delivery service in our village was way too efficient and pretty much guaranteed a delivery before I left for school in a morning. Accordingly, there was no get-out clause. If I didn’t receive a card, I could not simply blame the post (pity today’s teenagers who presumably send e-cards, which are instantaneous, affording the unloved no excuses). The best my boy-repellent peers and I could hope for was a heavy snowfall, which might slow the postman down and provide us with some semblance of an excuse.
As it turned out, I need not have worried so, as I received two Valentine’s Day cards for all but one of my years at secondary school. This was no mean feat given the lack of boyfriend material in my year (being awkward and shy does not make one less fussy). I only ever identified one of the senders. The other remains a mystery to this day.
Even at the start of my career, my Valentine’s woes still did not disappear altogether. Office politics promote competitiveness and this would extend to Valentine’s Day celebrations. Everyone was at pains to upstage their colleagues with the most adventurous weekend break, the most lavish gift or dinner at the best restaurant.
My then boyfriend and I decided to buck this trend. We would bemoan the fact that Valentine’s Day was nothing more than a commercial exercise and we would laugh behind closed doors at the suckers who spent a day’s salary on the obligatory and unimaginative bunch of roses. However, as much as it pained me to be romantic just because it said so on my calendar, I still had expectations for Valentine’s Day and luckily my boyfriend did well to see through my mock disdain. He would mark the occasion with an impressive home cooked meal and a bottle of fizz. We would also exchange cards, although they were invariably home made and a little leftfield.
Eventually we became husband and wife and after a few more years of dropping out of the Valentine’s Day circus, I became pregnant and it somehow became fitting that our son was born on Valentine’s Day. What better gift than a healthy baby boy?
So now, when our social life has been somewhat curtailed, is at the mercy of the availability of babysitters and Valentine’s Day happens to be centred around the birthday celebrations of one soon-to-be 7 year-old, we are even less likely to make a big splash about Valentine’s Day. Add to the mix our son’s propensity to stay awake later than most, which is a true passion killer (it’s all there in my book, Diary of a Sleep Deprived Mum), we might just about manage a swift glass of something sparkling before our heads hit the pillow.
Yet none of this bothers me. We have a happy and healthy son and for me it’s my husband’s smaller romantic gestures I appreciate, like remembering to chill my wine on a Friday evening, for bringing me a cup of coffee when I need it most, for the handmade Christmas card I received, inscribed with a message and opened by a metal clasp (how clever?!) and for his ability to rustle up a mouth watering meal when I would stake my life on there being nothing in the fridge.
However and whenever you celebrate your love for someone, enjoy!