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Why I Refuse To Hate On Valentine's Day

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Photographed by Eylul Aslan
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of love, right? Depending on what legend you believe or Wikipedia page you read, it’s either a day in aid of a suspicious man called Jack who left sweets outside children’s homes, or a liturgy to the Christian martyr Valentinus, who was executed for performing illegal marriages. It’s evolved into the holiday most reviled by anticapitalists, cynics and unromantic people everywhere – a day that truly divides us. Only, this year, I’m getting the feeling that more people are hating on the 14th of Feb than ever before.

Take Lena Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny – it threw out the idea of romance in order to celebrate “The Valentine’s Friendship Issue”. I mean, sure, I love my friends. I get that a day celebrating them would be, in stages: fun, drunk, and ending in bed alone with two share bags of crisps. I wish every day that Parks And Recreation was a documentary, because attending a real “Gal-entine’s Day” brunch with Amy Poehler and Aubrey Plaza is my dream. But I feel like I celebrate my friends a LOT. Like, every time I fork out hundreds of pounds for their four-day hen parties.

Then there was this week’s Time Out, my favourite thing to passive-aggressively read in the face of other commuters, which also declared their issue a romance-free zone, featuring people who’ve been really, really good friends for upwards of two years, and a column about how crap Valentine’s night is. “I think it’s the commercialisation I object to the most,” wrote Isy Suttie, listing set menus in restaurants, teddy bears holding hearts and heart-shaped napkins as the worst parts. I mean: Are they? Are they really?

My Facebook wall is filled with people claiming to “not even know” it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend

Misery has been all around; The Independent painted a bleak picture of couples who’ll “end up sitting in a second-rate restaurant, counting how many glasses of wine they can have before the risk of a hangover the next day becomes too real, because, this year, going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day means going out on a Sunday”. And VICE declared that Feb 14th was a day where “romance likers and non-romance likers are forced to have a £150 meal [...] and pretend that sappiness is OK”.

My Facebook wall is filled with people claiming to “not even know” it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend (these people are morons: if you’re typing a status about it, you know about it). My Twitter feed is dotted with “cool” couples making plans to “spend Sunday with our one true love – SUNDAY SESSIONS IN THE PUB WITH OUR MATES!” I anticipate the best friend Instagram selfies hashtagged #wifey and #trulove, probably involving face masks.

Even card shops have totally taken the romance out of Valentine’s cards, because it’s quite hard to find a card that isn’t a) Faux indifferent (“I guess you’ll do”) or b) All about sex. I cannot buy, with a straight face, a card that says “I love fucking you” then present it to my other half. I just can’t. I’m sorry. Actions speak louder than words on that one, I’m afraid. And then there are the cards you can buy for your friends... The only thing more humiliating than when your parents used to write you a Valentines day card and sign it “?” but slip it directly under your bedroom door.

I get it – Valentine’s Day can be pretty shit. Cheesy, overpriced ‘romantic’ set menus in overcrowded restaurants. I had one boyfriend who made me celebrate the weekend before or after 14 Feb, but NEVER on the day, which is sort of practical, but also a bit Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Tips. Or a bit like those companies that hold their office Christmas parties in a sombre All Bar One on January the 9th. I had another boyfriend who took me for a pizza shaped like a heart – on the right track, admittedly, but you’re losing like, an eighth of your pizza there.

It is a day of pressure, of expectation, of seeing those smug people on the bus with the massive bunches of flowers that they’re now realising are quite hard to carry home. There are the engagement announcements the next day on Facebook, indicating which men caved after their girlfriend dropped hints about engagement rings for over six months. And for single people, the day can be an unrelenting trudge through pretend-happiness for other people in couples, and then everyone tries to force you to go to the pub because “We’re single! And sooo fine! ” I know this. I was single for a LONG time, I have been on that night out – and it wasn't pretty.

The fact is though, modern life is just pretty unromantic. Is it really that bad that once a year, I want to cuddle up to my boyfriend and act like an embarrassing loved-up teenager, in the privacy of our own home? When you’ve been dating for six years, a sext reads “I put the electric blanket on for you” and the most erotic thing he can whisper in my ear is “OK, we’ll get an Uber this time”? When Netflix and chill is what happens when the boiler and central heating breaks and we have to wear three jumpers and argue about whose turn it is to call the landlord, before spooning simply for body heat?
So here it is: I fucking love Valentine’s Day. It’s an excuse for a posh dinner, a chance to actually cook food that isn’t made of pesto and pasta, and force my boyfriend to eat it sitting at the table, rather than in front of the telly – without sounding like his mum. I get to spend £9 not £5 on a bottle of wine (although, it’ll probably be whatever’s on offer because I’m not a lottery winner, alright?) For just one day, it’s a chance to spend real time together just the two of us, and for me to drink most of the bottle of Merlot, get a bit drunk and make him reminisce about the times we just… gazed into each other’s eyes... before we started Making A Murderer and its associated online research.

I don’t know why Valentine’s Day is especially hated this year – maybe it’s because everyone including my mum knows what "basic" means, and loving Valentine’s Day is the cornerstone of the basic bitch. Maybe it’s down to the fact that everyone is really cynical because life, romance and love these days, are often predicated on Happn, or Hinge. We have to choose someone on the basis of a one line description on a dating app – a Kanye West lyric that could, potentially, turn into a lifetime of council tax, shared bank accounts and arguing over who has to take the bins out.

Maybe nobody hates it at all and everyone’s just pretending so they don’t piss off their single friends.

Whatever the answer is, liking Valentine’s Day doesn’t make me smug – I’m not lining up single friends and forcing them to watch my romantic night in. I’m not telling everyone at work “I’ve got to pull an on-the-dotter today, gals, got to rush to Zizzi if we’re going to make our reservation!” *Taps watch*. I’m not going to nip out of the office at lunchtime to “get a quick wax” and wink at my colleagues so they have to picture me having obligatory Valentine’s Sex that night. We won’t be going to see a cheesy film like 50 Shades of Grey (Ok I did make him to do that last year. I’m so sorry.) And equally, my boyfriend is not hiring a sky writer to declare his love, because he’d sooner jump out of the plane without a parachute. All we are going to do is have a nice day. A bit of romance. An above average dinner.
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