It’s that time of year when we at ZMG HQ ask four of our favourite people what Valentine’s Day means to them. As those people were busy, we decided to ask Laura @BoyEquation, Jane @HodgePodgeDays, Mark @ and Pauline @Pols80 the question instead.
I’m joking of course, because I’m so pleased, proud and honoured that Laura, Jane, Mark and Pauline have taken the time to write for us. Thanks to all of them, and please check them out on Twitter if you don’t already. They’re funny, feisty, forthright and first-rate writers and people. If they don’t make you laugh they’ll certainly make you think.
So, grab yourself a warm drink of choice, maybe a biccy, and I’ll hand over to our esteemed panel: what does Valentine’s Day mean to you?
First up, Laura:
When the lovely Anna asked me to write a post for her Valentine special, I was really honoured and so excited…
For about 30 seconds…
And then the panic set in.
You see, when I trawled back through my memories, trying to recall special Valentine’s Day celebrations, I realised there weren’t any. Nor do I have any special plans for this year either!
I can hear you gasp in horror right now – or pity. This poor lady doesn’t have any Valentine’s Day memories… Is she a poor spinster? Is she unlucky in love? Is she in an unhappy marriage?
I am glad to say all of the above are wrong. Very wrong. I have a wonderful husband and we have been happily married for 11 years. I love him so much. And I know he loves me. To the moon and back.
But here’s the thing… he is not a romantic! He is funny and loyal and caring and dependable and handsome and wonderful. But not romantic.
At this point in my writing, I felt the need to check the meaning of the word ‘romance’. I didn’t want to do him a disservice. I didn’t want to make him look bad. Because I know how much he loves me. But does that count as romance?
Mr Google defines romance as ‘a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.’ And so I am right (of course!) He is not romantic. In fact, now I read that definition, I realise I am not either.Yes, our relationship has some excitement (“oooh, the new series of Homeland starts this week”; “Albie slept through the night last night”; “Magnums were on half price in Tesco this week”) but not really the excitement I think Google meant. And definitely no mystery!
Perhaps we lack romance because we had our children quite soon after getting married, and if there is anything that can kill romance, it is children! They make mysteries impossible with their constant questioning. They make surprises impossible with their inbuilt need to reveal all. They make ‘special couple time’; impossible with the risk they may wake up and wander in your room at any time!
Or perhaps romance is just not really us. I love the idea of romantic gestures, surprise gifts (diamonds preferably!) or Michelin star meals, but most of these things involve spending lots of money, which with having children early on, we didn’t seem to ever have in abundance. I try to convince my husband that little gestures are just as special – picking me up a bar of chocolate from the garage in the way home, or offering to give me a back and shoulder massage – but who am I kidding? Us ladies want the diamonds! But seriously, supposing he did rock up with a pair of diamond earrings for me on Valentine’s Day, I would only question why he had spent so much money.
So how about this year? How about a change? How can we introduce some romance? Add some mystery? Build some excitement?
Or is it really worth the effort? Let’s be realistic… when it comes to Valentine’s Day this year, and with a new baby in our family, I think we will revert to type. Dinner together sitting up at the table (as opposed to on our laps, in front of the TV!), perhaps a nice piece of steak, cooked beautifully by my husband and a bit of late night nooky if he’s lucky!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Jane also has a pragmatic view of Valentine’s day.
What does Valentine’s Day mean to me? In short, not a lot. I’ve been with my husband since we were very young. We met when I was 16; started dating when I was 18; got engaged at 21 and by the time I was 24 we were married and mortgaged up to our eyeballs. Last year I blew the candles out on the 40th birthday cake, so we’ve been together a while. A lifetime even.
I’ve never been one for too much fuss on Valentine’s Day. Going out for a meal or buying a bunch of flowers at twice the price they’d be the following week always seemed a wasteful extravagance. So for the last 20 odd years we’ve deliberately kept things small, simple and low key. We will always exchange cards and a small, silly gift with a £5 budget, we might get a take away, or I might cook. Whatever.
Our no fuss Valentine’s Days were fine until we became parents six years ago. Since then our quietly lovely Valentine’s Days have turned into every other night we’ve ever had as a family. Which is, try and get the child to eat something, preferably involving some vegetables, bath the boy, read to, cuddle and soothe the boy to sleep. By the time all that is done, one or the other of us is climbing into bed and turning the light off.
Regrettably, these days Valentine’s Day means virtually nothing to me. I’m sure it means about the same to him. I’m not saying all the romance has gone, but we are certainly not in the first flush of love. If anything Valentine’s Day probably means there’s some additional pressure to be nice to each other, or sprinkle some faux romance and affection on our day.
I’m not sure what February 14th 2017 will bring. I know my son will come home from school with a card and a cuddle for me. We will eat a family meal together, read together and then try and get the boy into bed at a reasonable hour for a school night. I guess with everything going on in our busy family lives it would be good to make a bit of time for each other; to hold hands and watch TV, or have a cuddle and not talk about spelling tests or bin night, or the million other mundane practicalities of family life.
Valentine’s Day may not mean that much to me, but my husband and our little family mean everything. And that’s worth remembering and celebrating in our own quiet, low key way.
Low key. Sounds good. I’m of the same view actually. When you’ve got kids, sometimes a night out on some random Tuesday in February seems an extravagance you can’t afford, or be bothered with. Mark gives us his view.
Janet and I don’t do Valentines Day. At least not officially.
What we do is agree not to buy each other anything then take it in turns to break the rule, thus giving the greatest gift of any long term relationship. Guilt.
But it’s not always been this way.
For our first Valentines Day I went big. Three months in the making, big. Well, strictly speaking it was
twenty ten drunken minutes in November but still, the gift of life isn’t one to be sneezed at; unless that’s how you celebrate an orgasm in which case more power to your ball-sack.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Schoolboy error. The gift of pregnancy, three months after you met, what were you thinking? That’s setting the bar too high, too early.
Well, you’re wrong.
For a start, it wasn’t a high bar that got me into this predicament so much as a free bar, and you’re massively underestimating my powers of fertility as much as you are my lack of imagination.
Because the following year I did the same again, only this time with … gestational diabetes! Just to be clear, that’s not his name, that’d be cruel. And besides, if you need to spellcheck their name when filling in their birth certificate you might want to question your choices.
It’s also worth noting that I’m in no way advocating gifting a baby if you are struggling for ideas. A child’s for life, not just for Valentines Day, which brings me on to year three. The one where I spent the three months prior to Valentines Day sleeping on the sofa on fear of castration.
But this back-to- back spawning of children isn’t the reason we don’t celebrate Valentines Day. Nor is it some self-righteous belief that the day was created in the Marketing netherworld of Hallmark HQ. It’s not even the food poisoning you’ll inevitably get from those over-priced oysters hastily added to the ‘Lovers Menu’ of your local Hungry Horse.
Without wanting to sound all smug and grab-the-bucket-sick-inducing, we don’t need a day marked on the calendar to show our love for each other. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not the same as saying we shower each other in gifts all year, nor do we spend our weekends touring the parks of Manchester with a critically acclaimed public show of affection. It’s because for many reasons which I’ll not go into here, we’ve been to hell and back these last few years, and coming out the other side stronger is the truest testament to what we have. To give it a day feels somehow belittling of what we’ve been through and how far we’ve come.
But while Valentine’s Day isn’t for us, anyone who knows me will be surprised to discover that the occasion itself has somehow escaped my usual wide-reaching net of grumpiness. I’m actually an enthusiastic advocate of Valentines Day, especially for those too young to have been scarred by the cynicism of adulthood.
Because to be scolded by unrequited love is a rite of passage we should all have to endure. Receiving your first card that doesn’t contain your mums handwriting is a life-defining moment, too. And to see a teenager, unburdened by emotional baggage, carrying an over-sized Valentines Day card and teddy bear across the shopping precinct is something that genuinely warms the cockles of my heart.
So for all those celebrating Valentines Day, I doth my cap.
Go forth and spread the love. Go forth and have fun. Go forth and multiply, although speaking from experience, you probably should have made a start on those shenanigans back in November.
So Mark is an old romantic after all, I knew it. I can see it in his eye. But what does our final contributor, Pauline think? Don’t hold back Pols, tell us what you feel.
I love love. Love is my FAVOURITE. Seriously, I totally believe it makes the world go round, gives people wind (beneath their wings, I mean), and is a beacon of light and hope in dark times. Love is a precious commodity to be expressed liberally and joyously (unless there’s a restraining order. Take that shit seriously.) I’m a hopeless romantic and married someone who’s just as soppy, so there’s a load of nauseating amour going down in our house. If there’s anything in this world worth celebrating, it’s love. So why is Valentine’s Day just another day in my diary?
Firstly, obligation – there’s nothing less romantic than doing stuff because it’s expected of you, and buying heart-shaped shit because it’s being thrust at you from every direction in the shopping centre isn’t going to give anyone that warm fuzzy feeling. Having an official Day To Be Romantic just feels a bit forced. As the old saying goes, love is like a fart: if you have to force it, it’s probably shit.
Secondly, it’s only one day. No one is going to be impressed if you sweep them off their feet on February 14th and then revert to being as romantic as a trip to the dentist for the rest of the year. Similarly, if you love someone, don’t wait for the price of roses to rocket before you get round to telling them. Love is worthy of year-round celebration.
Also, this wouldn’t be a proper “Say no to Valentine’s” post if I didn’t drop the C-bomb… Commercialism. I’d probably be more inclined to celebrate Valentine’s if it wasn’t a multi- million pound industry. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice present. Flowers are nice too. When it comes to feeling loved, though, the free stuff is more for me
Finally, and I’m sure some of you will stifle a yawn and yell “snowflake” from the back of the room at this, Valentine’s Day tat tends to be pretty heteronormative, with a side order of gender stereotyping. High Street shops are slowly, very slowly, improving but you’re usually lucky to find a token same-sex card nestled among a thousand other cards aimed at straight couples. Handy gift guides, helpfully sent out to encourage us to buy shit to show we care, are usually split by gender and point us to pink frippery for the girls, with beer or football being the order of the day for the lads. If you’re really lucky, like me, you’ll find a helpful shop assistant to loudly advise you that “you’ve picked up the wrong fiancée card hen; it’s the ones with one ‘e’ for men.” Cheers for that. I’ll bear that in mind for the next time I’m buying a card for a bloke. Valentine’s Day is no worse than any other holiday for this lack of inclusivity, but for the love of fuck, if we’re going to have a day just to celebrate love, let’s do it properly.
So that’s four differing views, but I sense similarities between them, and Valentine’s cards are in the post to all of our writers, along with this poem;
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I’m using my hand
But thinking of you.
About our contributors;
Laura is a mum of 3 boys, a primary school teacher and author of ‘The Boy Equation’.
Jane Arschavir has been blogging as HodgePodgeDays since June 2013. She stumbled into blogging following a life-changing injury and her blog grew from there. Jane writes about a whole range of topics (hence hodge-podge), and her hobbies include getting brain freeze from eating ice pops too quickly, writer’s block and shouting at the television.
Mark is stay at home dad and writes, in my view, one of the best blogs out there, Tales of Sonny & Luca.
Pauline is a self-professed Queen of Mediocrity who does only two things well – swearing, and red lipstick. She’s a feisty Scot who enjoys gin, books, and having an opinion on everything. Occasionally she writes stuff about her opinions.
Now it’s over to you to let us know what you think of Valentine’s Day. Do you celebrate love on one day a year or are you full of the love every day? Are you single and happy, but all this talk of love and relationships on one bloody day a year makes you feel like you’re missing something? Or not? Or are you gonna drink a bottle of Pinot Grigio, watch Sleepless in Seattle and text your ex while having a posh wank, like my mate Geoff does. Every. Bloody. Year. Let us know your thoughts on all matters V Day related, and thanks again to all our writers for taking the time to put their thoughts into words for ZMG.