The days leading up to and generally surrounding Valentine’s Day are tense to say the least – especially if you are a woman who works with other women.
The air is filled with loaded questions: “So…. any plans for Valentine’s Day?” they ask, in mock disinterest. What this actually means is: “Does your partner love you more than my partner loves me?” or “Are you more desirable/generally a better all-round woman than I am?”.
We internally compare their dates and gifts to ours – adding them to an invisible sliding scale of judgement in our heads that ranges from ‘Soon to be Ex’ to ‘Actual Tom Hanks’. If you think your beloved won’t soon be comparing your efforts on the Loveathon-4000 – think again.
Every time there’s a delivery on Valentine’s Day, us women will do our best to be subtle, but we will actually resemble a collective of meerkat (or a Mob of meerkat, if you want to be all scientific about it).
Sadly, no matter how enlightened you may think you are, no matter how independent, how successful in your own right you may be, there’s nothing like Valentine’s Day to reduce you to a parody of Scarlet O’Hara. All bitchy thoughts and spoilt pouting.
When the gifts, flowers and cards do start to arrive, you’ll hear us making all the right noises. We’ll admire the flowers and tell our colleague how lucky she is, whilst the recipient – who is normally ball-busting and serious – twirls her hair and bats her eyelashes and refers to her man as ‘Ickle Petie Pants’. Meanwhile, we are all secretly seething with jealousy and planning to dump our wretched, no good men as soon as we get home, so we can instead go out with Adam Sandler who will woo us by singing a sweet, kooky song he wrote, which he’ll perform on the guitar by an open fire, accompanied by a cute-as-a-button tame walrus he’s trained to do backing vocals especially for the occasion.
And herein lies the problem. I am from a generation of women who were raised on the Rom-Com.
We were brought up to believe that if we’re not being pursued with a million original, thoughtful and unique gestures, that we’re not being loved properly. We’re not (to coin that sickly favourite) cherished.
Films like When Harry Met Sally; Love, Actually; 50 First Dates; Pretty Woman; The Notebook – they taught us that if we were pretty enough, funny enough, just vulnerable enough, thin enough… that one day it would be us stood there while a ridiculously cute man holds signs aloft with hand-written declarations of love, or runs through Time Square in the rain to propose on New Years Eve, or plants a million daffodils on our front lawn in the middle of the night because we mentioned once we liked them.
And we’re never shown what happens after The Grand Gesture. Being kissed on a fire escape by a business man with a penchant for prostitutes is my generation’s Happy Ever After.
The thing I am realising is this: romance can’t be condensed into a single day. The love you feel for another person can’t be demonstrated with a giant teddy bear or a tacky balloon. It’s in the myriad little things you do for each other every day. The way you never fail to make that person a coffee every morning, riding your bike so your beloved can drive when it’s raining, sending a little email at 11.00am, just because you thought about that person and you wanted to reach out – if only to say 🙂
I won’t deny that despite being a bit modern, a lot independent, and a bit of a tomboy – I am a sucker for the flowers and the candle light. I’m very partial to being whisked away. Being whisked away should never be underestimated.
But if I had a choice between a man – a GOOD man, who does these tiny little things for me (not as a grand gesture, but because he cares) who fumbles a bit with the romance, or a man so slick he could actually be Ryan Gosling, but who uses Valentine’s props as a sort of Catholic confessional get out of jail free card – I’d go for coffee in the morning and a nice dry drive to work. Every time.